Evelyn Wainwright



Evelyn Wainwright




Evelyn was born in the 1940s. Her parents were living in England prior to her birth. Father worked for Ford in Dagenham. Evelyn only met her father a handful of times. After her parent’s relationship ended Evelyn’s mother and her older brother Barry moved to the corporation estate of O’Growney Crescent in Ballyphehane. At the age of 3 Evelyn contracted polio. Two years were spent in Cappagh Hospital in Finglas Co. Dublin.
Evelyn brings us through her live, from schooling Turners Cross which she made lifelong friendships but also had her first instance of isolation. Not following on to secondary education Evelyn got a job in the Textile industry, first at Mel Industries then in the Sunbeam.
Evelyn talks about her life getting married and having a family in her early 20s, the realities of living with polio and raising children. She talks about her involvement in groups such as Disabled Driver Ireland and Polio Survivors Ireland.
Evelyn also describes her mother character in a time when single mother s might have been looked down upon. She mentions an aunt the also had polio.
Evelyn also touches on how disability access while it has improved from the days of her youth has not really been thought through with any real concern for those with disabilities.


29 June 2022




Cork Folklore Project


Cork Folklore Project








83m 08s


Togher, Cork

Time Summary

0.00.00 - 0.05.55

Introduction and background

Born on Douglas St/Nicolas Hill. One brother 11 months older, Mother from Roches Buildings Richmond hill and father from Douglas St.

Contracted Polio while in Youghal on a trip at 3 years of age. First brought to fever hospital Cork, then 2 years in Cappagh hospital Baldoyle.

Evelyn has no memory pf contacting the disease or her time in the hospital

Evelyn very attached to her mother, thinks maybe to do with being away for so long.

Father not on the scene after her birth, only met him twice in her life. He worked in Ford in Dagenham.  Sent wire/money every 2 weeks to his mother.

Evelyn’s mother reared them hand to mouth. Had cleaning jobs, referred to as “Hurely”.

0.05.55- 0.10.51

First memory of Polio

St Finbarr’s hospital, Surgeon O’Connell said couldn’t operate till her bones had grown. Waited 5 years for first operation, was operated on during 1956 polio epidemic.

Hated going to the Orthopaedic hospital. Describes the wards. Death not on her mind at that stage.

No real memory of the 1956 epidemic. Her mother said that is it didn’t happen then the Orthopaedic would not have been used for polio suffers and Evelyn would have had to go to Dublin for operations. Mother didn’t like St Finbarr’s “Had a name” although they did have to visit every 6 months.

2 callipers from when she was 5. Couldn’t walk without them.

Wasn’t treated differently at home, had chores etc

0.10.51- 0.14:15


Christ the King Turners Cross

No wheelchairs, went to school in a Go-kart, wheels often fell off. Local girl volunteered to assist Evelyn going to school, still great friends.

Felt very isolated due to not being allowed to play in yard, attend concerts in school or do cooking.

Couldn’t read till after she left school.

Head nun very good to Evelyn (Mother Rose)

0.14:15 - 0.17.32


Applied in newspaper draw to go to Lourdes in 1958. Early pick up from North Cathedral, Aeroplane.

Mixed well with stranger.

They weren’t allowed to mix with other only those they travelled with. Doesn’t know why

[Paused recording 16m 25s]

Not allowed go to torchlight procession. Felt excluded. Mother had thought her not to get bogged down by exclusion of jeering

0.22.35 - 0.27.25


 No secondary school. Was meant to go to school in cork polio new school in Montenotte but it never materialised in time. But was given tutoring by a nun in Maria Assumpta in Ballyphehane

At 14 went to Mel industries. South terrace made gloves. Some days she couldn’t get to work with broken callipers, they would give her work from home. Worked there for 2 years then moved to the Sunbeam. Was in the invisible mending department. Got the 3 buses from Ballyphehane to Blackpool than had to walk all the way to the other side of the sunbeam campus. Good money, good condition, well treated. Good comradery.

0.27.25 - 0.32.31

Her neighbourhood and her brother Barry

Neighbours would all help out. If mother was working, they would bread butter and sugar. Mother even delivered a baby. Mother was called upon for lots of things.

Brother would go on the lang (skipped school). Was given option to get job or go to the one-day-a-week. Got a job in bakery on Blarney st. Mother worked in Thompson’s of Thompson’s bakery house; Sam Thompson even made Evelyn’s wedding cake.

Brother went into mechanical work. O’Shea’s builders on South Mall. Tells story of him putting greasy clothes on chair and madness ensued.

0.32.31- 0.33.05

Employment Cont.

Sunbeam for 4 years. 5 uncles worked there too but they would never meet there.

0.33.05- 0.36.03

Evelyn’s Aunt with polio

Tells of an Aunt Maureen (fathers sister) who contracted polio as a teenager and moved to England shortly afterwards. Never had an operation had a raised shoe about 15 inches different. Marries with 3 children.

Evelyn’s Mother

Evelyn’s paternal grandmother and Evelyn’s mothers’ relationship

Single mother in the late 1940s/1950s.

Not looked down upon or treated different

0.36.03- 0.38.25

Specialist shoes etc

Used to buy special shoes in Saxone, not made to order. But had to be altered to fit calliper.

0.38.25 - 0.40.33


Positive relationship. There was name calling especially on crutches, didn’t affect her.

Catherine always by her side. Stayed in classroom with Evelyn. Mary from her estate would also helped out. volunteered

0.40.33 - 0.48.17


Married at 21. Tells story of meeting husband on a social gathering. How getting connected with the Legion of Mary expanded her social group and led to more excursions.  Gougane Barra trip with this group led to her meeting husband Terry through a friend who had bumped into him in Tralee.

Terry returned to Liverpool, they kept up correspondence for months. Terry visits for Christmas, Evelyn visits for Easter, Married in the August in Ballyphehane. Moved to Liverpool that day. Too soon.

Evelyn’s mother visited in October and stayed for 7 months until they all moved back to Ireland.

0.48.17 - 0.53.05

Husband Terry and her Children

Worked in scrap, then John A. Wood, then a bin collector. Worked 3 jobs at one stage. Shared paper sales job with Evelyn’s mother. Terry was great father. He would prepare all nappies and bottles before he went to work.

First child Michelle born in 1968 England. Apartment not suitable for Evelyn to rear child. Michelle never left her side. Another child “wild”

No mishaps or falls when children were young.

0.53.05 - 0.55.23

Operations and mobility

Evelyn explains her mobility after her operations. Tells story of difficulty manoeuvring hill. 4 operations in the orthopaedic first at 9 last at 16

Difficulty visiting grandparents

0.55.23- 0.58.19

Maternal Grandparents

Lived on Richmond hill,

Grandfathers job was to lift the Brian Boru bridge. Strict man, no fun when he was home. Lovely man and supportive. Boiled mutton dinner every Sunday. Evelyn was in her teens when they died, 8 years apart.

Grandmother bought her Bush radio.


0.58.19- 1.07.34

Evelyn’s Health.

21 years after last operation was next time she went to a doctor. Gynaecological issue. Contracted Pneumonia the next week, very bad, cardiac arrest, 10 days in hospital.

Second daughter sick as a child. Years of uncertainty. Evelyn worked out it was a sugar allergy. She is over 6ft tall and no longer allergic to sugar.

Her experience with polio was not as bad as others. No polio syndrome.

Evelyn tells on incident where she broke her femur in Galway 1999. Doctor who operated did not know reason for her legs being different lengths and corrected them. This led to Evelyn having serious issues later.

Evelyn explains that she has to use 2 walking stick, that she has driven a car since the 1970s, and is only using a motorised wheelchair for 2 years and only on doors.

Had 2 more falls in the last 8 years. Broken ankles and kneecap. Now terrified of falling. So got the wheelchair, not HSE supported. Takes the strain of the everyday.

1.07.34 – 1.15.21

Disability Services etc.

Cork Polio general aftercare, Disabled Drivers Ireland.

Evelyn tells of getting one driving lesson and being on her own after that. Has driven since the early 1970s. then was driving instructor for disabled drivers Ireland, was given a vehicle to teach other how to drive.

Through AGM with disabled driver’s, she heard of new group for polio survivors, attended first meeting later became a director of the group for 10 years. Still very involved in organising event.

Evelyn teel of using Vienna Woods hotel for monthly meetings but they had to stop using the hotel due to a new entrance that was built with steps and no disabled access. “Now we are barred form there”. Evelyn expresses her anger at such a backward step.

Evelyn describes how many strides have been taken to help give access to those with disability. But is angered at the change to disabled parking in Cork city which effectively means that she can no longer visit there. Describes how difficult it is.

Has to always check ahead if a restaurant or hotel is accessible. Long drives also a problem due to lack of facilities.

1.15.22 – 1.16.35

Other Polio cases in Ballyphehane

Mention Marie O’Mahoney form Pearse Road, Met a couple of times in hospital.

1.16.35 – 1.17.35


Major part of her life. Rosery most nights as a child, Starts her day with mass. Hasn’t passed it on to her children.

1.17.35 – 1.20.20

Relationship with Aunts.

Not much pf relationship with her Aunt Maureen who had polio, met her when she visited. More of a relationship with her aunt Rita, Rita was more like a sister only 7 years apart. Very close all their lives, Rita only died a few years ago. Still close to Rita’s family.

1.20.20 – 1.23.08

Final Thoughts

Doesn’t like the condescending element people can give off. Literal patting on the head etc.

Doesn’t let the negative bother her. Some disabled people demand not ask which leads to bitterness.

Her mother raised her better

[Interview Ends]


Cork Folklore Project, “Evelyn Wainwright,” accessed July 17, 2024, https://corkfolklore.org/archivecatalolgue/document/502.