Email Login
Home About Destined Media Projects Contact
Back To Menu
Dympna Markey
I was an easy target


Dympna Markey, who was born in 1950, never knew her family. She spent much of her life in institutions, first at Nazareth House as a baby where she grew up, then Muckamore Abbey in Antrim and then in Stradreagh, before moving to sheltered accommodation at Ardavan House on the Northland Road. She has worked as a helper in the catering industry, most recently at Cafe Rosa on Bishop Street and Blooms Cafe in the Verbal Arts Centre.


“When I was a child I didn’t like school because of some people taunting me. I think they were jealous of me. I had difficulty with speech when I was young. I talk too quickly. I went and got help in Antrim, and learned how to speak slowly. I found out I had a learning disability at that time.

“I can’t really read. And I get annoyed sometimes when there are words I can’t say. And I’m not very good with numbers. But I am getting help in Destined. It’s my own fault because I was carrying on in school.”

Dympna’s guardians were the Derry impresario Don O’Doherty and his wife Mary McLaughlin, and they were very good to her. Unfortunately, Dympna’s memories of the nuns who were in charge at Nazareth House are less pleasant.

“Mary and Don wanted to take me out for weekends but the nuns said no. So they said they would take me overnight, and the nuns wouldn’t allow it. Some of them were very spiteful.

“Another time, Mary and Don were supposed to come up and see me in Antrim, but something happened and they couldn’t come. It upset me. I was waiting, and they never came. It wasn’t their fault, but I was in a very bad way about it. It’s all in the past though. I got over it.”

Dympna was frequently in bother at school but also felt she was an easy target for people to blame when things went wrong.

“I didn’t like school I was always in trouble and faced to a wall. That’s why I went to Antrim. Once, someone broke a window by throwing stones at it, and I got blamed for it. I didn’t do it though. I was sometimes bullied cause of disability, not really bad. I didn’t like it. It happened to some of my other friends as well.

“I wasn’t lonely in Antrim I had some friends; Robert, Mary and Nina. We enjoyed singing and playing bowls. Lesley was very good to me too.  My learning disability never worried me. Antrim was all right after I met Nina. We had parties. Nina would stand up for me if I got my hair pulled.”

The nuns at Muckamore would occasionally allow the girls out of their quarters. And Dympna had a number of friendships with local boys.

“I used to go with a fella in Antrim. He wasn’t nice – in fact he was horrible, drank like a fish. We nearly got engaged but I turned him down. God help the poor girl he married. Mary and Don heard about it and weren’t happy with it. I was caught and got caned by the nuns.

“There were some good nuns, though. Sister Aidan, who was from Belfast, was very good to me.”


After Muckamore, Dympna was transferred into residential care at Stradreagh, where she lived for “many years”. She didn’t feel she was given any choice about the move at all.

“I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t know I was going there. They didn’t tell me. They said I was going somewhere nice. Some of people there were not very nice and got me into trouble.”

Dympna, however, was always quick to stand up for herself. And she got into trouble for spraying a fellow resident with air freshener because he was picking on her.

“I didn’t mean to do it and I shouldn’t have done it. I learned my lesson. I should have walked away.”

Dympna worked for a while in the Good Shepherd laundry with the nuns, a job she hated. But then, through her friend Jim Doherty, “a very good person”, she got a job in the canteen at Altnagelvin.

“In Stradreagh, I worked in the patient canteen on Saturday and Sunday, and the staff canteen during the week. Then I went to work with Jim.  I liked working with Jim, but I left once Jim left. After that, I was working in another cafe, but I left because of the young ones - not Lisa she was my good friend.

“I would like to work in a canteen or a hotel. A restaurant would be a good place to make friends.”

Dympna was glad to move out of Stradreagh to Ardavan, which gives her a lot more independence. She is a little worried about retiring from her job next year as she will miss the company. But she intends to stay in touch with all her work colleagues.

She has a wide range of hobbies, from singing to listening to music – Elvis is a particular favourite, to bowling, to table-tennis. She also loves watching the soaps, films and documentaries about animals.

Dympna is comforted by the fact that, when she does retire, Destined will help keep her schedule full.

“I have lots of friends now in Ardavan and in Destined. I like Destined because you get to go out. Dermot [O’Hara] is a really good person and a good laugh. Support for people with learning disabilities is great now - I’m as happy as Larry.

“I like Roisin [Destined director]. She was a good laugh on the holidays. I missed Roisin last year. We all went to Blackpool. Bernadette and me went to the wrong hotel but they found us. I liked Blackpool. Frank Carson lives there now. He’s an eejit. He knew me as a youngster - I like him.”