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Nuala Flynn on remembering survivor Peter Tyrrell

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Nuala Flynn talks to Irish in Britain about survivor Peter Tyrrell and why remembering his life, and death, is so important.

Peter Tyrrell was born in Galway in 1916 and he died in April 1967 after setting himself on fire on Hampstead Heath in north London.

Nuala Flynn is a therapist, herself second generation Irish, who has supported survivors from Ireland in her work. She came across Peter’s story in her research into some of the institutions in Ireland in which people suffered abuse. She says that he may have been the first survivor to “break the silence” and “speak out and make a difference” about what he and so many others suffered in St Joseph’s Industrial School, Letterfrack.

Nuala has written about his life and achievements, she wanted to get beyond the shock of his testimony to the “real story of this man, he was such a unique person”. He himself wrote about his experiences. His notebooks were found years after his death and published as a book, Founded on Fear edited by Diarmuid Whelanin in 2006.

Nuala has organised a vigil in April (details below) at the spot where Peter died to remember him and all survivors. She pointed out that “It also coincides with the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Ryan and Murphy Reports and he is actually in the Ryan Report in testimony given in the 1950s.” The Ryan Report was the first national enquiry in the world into institutional child abuse.

Nuala said, “He was inspiring, he really tried. He got himself into a position where he could have an influence. I hope the vigil will give people a chance to come together, to think and reflect and feel part of a community. There is still work to be done about getting the truth out about many different institutions. People are still campaigning and this community event is both to tell his story, to remember him, but it is also a way to remember everybody. Hopefully it can bring some sort of healing.”

Nuala is also raising money to bring poet and survivor Connie Roberts over from New York to attend the vigil and read her poem Letterfrack Man which pays tribute to Peter, you can contribute here.


Friday 26 April

7 pm — Gathering and Vigil on Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath. On sacred ground where Peter Tyrrell died. A silent candlelit walk from Parliament Hill via St Albans Road to Highgate Civic Hall of 20 mins.

Parliament Hill is a ten minute walk from Hampstead Heath or Gospel Oak Overground Station. It is a small but fairly steep hill in Hampstead Heath. There is a good path, but if the part of the vigil is not suitable for you, you can join the memorial at 8pm in Highgate Library and Civic Hall.

Vigil to remember Peter Tyrrell in Hampstead and Highgate

8pm — The Memorial at Highgate Civic and Cultural Centre Croftdown Rd, Highgate, London NW5 1HB

This is a free event open to anyone who would like to honour and Peter Tyrrell and mark the 10th anniversary of the Ryan Report. But please do book here.

Read more on Peter Tyrrell by Nuala Flynn here.