Macedon, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

In January 1950, Barnardo's opened its Macedon home at 349-351 Shore Road, Whitehouse, Newtownabbey. It was a mixed home, accommodating children between the ages of 16 and 18 years. It also acted as an Ever Open Door hostel following the closure of Barnardo's Kilkeel home. In its early years, it had a feeder home known as the Manor House at Ballycastle, Co. Antrim.

Macedon was a large Victorian house with large ground in which Barnardo's erected two purpose-designed cottages. The house and the cottages each housed ten children, providing a total of thirty places. Though originally intended as a single-six home, it was decided to make Macedon mixed and so allow it to accommodate family groups. Over the years of its existence, Macedon evolved from being a 'traditional' children's home to became an establishment catering for children from very disturbed and difficult backgrounds, who might otherwise have been placed in a Training School. During its existence, Macedon offered long, medium and very short-stay placements, although in the later years they were mostly long-term in nature.

By the early-1970s, plans were being made for a new home to replace Macedon which by that time was housing up to 52 children. Initially, it was proposed to erect a new building at Ballyhanwood at Dundonald on the outskirts of East Belfast, which would also accommodate around 50 children. However, it was decided that such a large home would no longer be appropriate. Instead, the charity evolved plans for what became known as the Sharonmore Project, also based in Newtownabbey.

Macedon finally closed in 1981. The property no longer exists and part of Hazelbank Park now covers the site.

In 2004, a lengthy trial took place of two Macedon staff members, Margaret Hewitt and George Anderson, for a series of sexual abuse offences at the home between 1987 and 1981. They were found guilty of 70 assaults on eight children which included two rapes of teenage girls and forcing a brother and sister into sexual acts. Hewitt was sentenced to eleven years in prison and Anderson to 14 years. A key prosecution witness subsequently stated that he had lied in his evidence and the Court of Appeal quashed all the convictions. Prior to the original trial, Barnardo's had settled claims for compensation by nine individuals who had alleged abused by the paid, with amounts ranging between £15,000 and £25,000.

In 2014, Macedon was one of thirteen institutions examined by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI). The Inquiry concluded that there had been a number of instances of systemic failure by Barnardo's relating to the home. These included their employment and supervision of Margaret Hewitt who was accepted to have frightened children by telling them ghost stories, chasing them in the dark and pretending she had the evil eye. She was also accepted to have engaged in the inappropriate bathing of male children who were of an age when they should have been left completely to bath themselves. The management at Macedon had also allowed the development of an inappropriately close relationship was developing between a staff member and a teenage girl resident in the home.

Records

Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.

Bibliography

  • Barnardo, Syrie Louise, and Marchant, James Memoirs of the Late Dr Barnardo (Hodder & Stoughton, 1907)
  • Batt, J.H. Dr. Barnardo: The Foster-Father of "Nobody's Children" (S.W. Partridge, 1904)
  • Bready, J. Wesley Doctor Barnardo (Allen & Unwin, 1930)
  • Rose, June For the Sake of the Children: Inside Dr. Barnardo's: 120 years of caring for children (Hodder & Stoughton, 1987)
  • Wagner, Gillian Barnardo (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1979)