Peig McManus: ‘The country was in a vice-like grip… everything was a sin’

The author of I Will Be Good reflects on a life lived boldly even in the face of challenges

Listen | 50:27

Growing up in 1940s Ireland, Dubliner Peig McManus experienced first-hand the Catholic Church’s control on society. “The country was in a vice-like grip… everything was a sin,” she says.

As a young girl, McManus was repeatedly told, ‘have respect for yourself’, an order that carried multiple meanings. “I thought if you had a sexual feeling, that meant not having respect for yourself,” she explains.

The 84-year-old was speaking on the latest episode of The Irish Times Women’s Podcast about her new memoir ‘I Will Be Good’. A story that reflects on a life lived boldly even in the face of challenges.

But if having indecent thoughts was strictly forbidden, becoming pregnant while unmarried at the age of 21 was the ultimate sin, as Peig soon found out.


In the early 1960s, her daughter Marie was born in Glasgow in a mother and baby home. She was later given up for adoption, after McManus was told not to bring her daughter home to Ireland, for fear of bringing shame on the family.

“I just feel that parents at the time were put in an impossible position… people were called bastards, they were illegitimate,” she says.

In this conversation with Róisín Ingle, McManus shares the details of her reunion with Marie, more than 30 years after her adoption. She also discusses life growing up in the last of Dublin’s tenements, finding her purpose outside of the home and how she finally discovered peace and healing through her work as a counsellor (and a late in life discovery of the ukulele).

You can listen back to this episode in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan is an audio producer at The Irish Times