How Recovery Came to Ireland
On 26th March 1971, the first Recovery meeting in Ireland was held in Fairview, Dublin city. From this initial meeting led by the late Gerry Burgess, assisted by his wife Mary (and one other member) grew the organisation that today consists of 22 groups around Ireland..
This is the story of the beginnings of Recovery in Ireland, told by Gerry in his own words.
"In September 1970, one of my four daughters Anne aged 12 years, came home from Fairview Primary School one afternoon looking very dismal and announced to myself and my wife Mary, that her teacher Miss McCarthy (later to become Mrs. Marie Darcy) was out sick again. My wife Mary learned from the school Principal that Miss McCarthy was a patient in St. Patrick's Psychiatric Hospital here in Dublin. A few days later my wife asked me to go and visit Marie and talk with her to see if I could give her some hope, and also some insight into the nature of her illness, as I myself had been suffering for some fifteen years up to this point in my life and had to be hospitalised with depression and anxiety and had attended over 20 professionals, GP's, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, hypnotists, and priest counsellors, seeking a reason and a cure for my illness.
I had also read and studied over 400 books on psychiatry, psychoanalysis, psychology, depression, nervousness, and religion. So after some persuasion by my wife Mary, I finally agreed to go and visit Marie in Hospital
During the course of my second visit, Marie confided in me, that she was having some religious hallucinations, so I thought that perhaps she needed some spiritual help and I went to visit the Catholic chaplain attached to the hospital to ask him to visit and, talk with Marie, but he replied that he did not want to interfere with what the doctors were doing. I was pretty mad as I walked the distance to the bus stop. By the time I had reached the stop, which is opposite a well known Dublin Franciscan Church named Adam and Eve's, I had cooled down and decided to go into the church to say a prayer for the priest as I felt that he did not understand. While coming out of the church I noticed that the repository and bookstore were still open (this was 7.30 in the evening) and as books played a big part in my search, I went in to see if I could pick up some books of interest.
As I looked around at the books on display I noticed five booklets on the rack, the title of the booklet was 'Recovery Inc. an Answer to Nervous Problems' by Fr. John J. Higgins and published by Ligurian Publications, U.S.A. I bought one of the booklets and read it on the way home in the bus. The address of Recovery H.Q. was on the back page and I was so interested that I wrote my first letter to Chicago at 10.30 p.m. that same evening. About six weeks later I received a letter thanking me for my interest with three pamphlets enclosed. I read in one of the pamphlets that a book was available called Mental Health Through Will Training so within a few days I had sent a bank draft to H.Q. in Chicago for the book.
Meanwhile Marie was discharged from the hospital, and during a conversation I was having with her, she asked me if I would talk with a friend of hers named Angela Bracken, who was an art teacher suffering with nervous problems. Shortly before I met Angela, the book Mental Health Through Will Training arrived by post from Chicago. I told Angela about the book when she arrived at my home a few days later. So every Wednesday night for about two months Angela and I read and discussed the book in the front parlour of my home. About the third week in March 1971 I suggested to Angela that we might find a location and start a Recovery meeting. After some searching we were offered a room in the Legion of Mary house in Fairview. So the first Recovery meeting in Ireland was held in Cana House, Melrose Ave, Fairview on the 26 March 1971. Those present at the meeting were myself, Angela, and my wife Mary, who came along to join in on the discussion and to make some refreshments for us after the meeting.
We attended every Friday night for about six months before the fourth person Bobby arrived. This was the beginning of Recovery in Ireland.