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An Act of Madness

Short story writer Martin Towey in collaboration with photographer Suella Holland launch An Act of Madness — a book and photographic exhibition which highlights life in psychiatric hospitals in early 20th Century Ireland.

40 pages.
ISBN: 9781913108076

€10.00 plus P&P
(€3 Ireland / €5 Rest of World)


An Act of Madness is a piece of historical fiction focussing on one woman’s story but which echoes that of thousands of Irish people stigmatised, maltreated and largely forgotten by 20th Century Irish society. Psychiatric institutions throughout Ireland admitted large numbers of people deemed outcasts by society at the time. Those marginalised included people with intellectual or physical disabilities, psychological or psychiatric illness, or those who were considered eccentric, standing out in society as differing from ‘the norm’.

The central character in this story is Bridget, a 37 year old pregnant mother of nine children who dreams of something more for her life. Physically and psychologically exhausted by the demands made upon her, she questions her role and life’s journey. She wishes simply to stop, to breathe, to think. Unwilling and unable to conform to societal expectations and its authoritarian institutions, her strength of character and singular thinking are met with drastic repercussions. The impact on the individual, those left behind and to follow, speak of a dark chapter in Irish society from which we are only now emerging into the light.

Sample Pages

About the Authors

Martin Towey

Martin Towey from Navan, Co. Meath has an interest in writing historical fiction. Through his writing he tends to highlight subjects close to his heart.

Often the subject matter relates to social injustices experienced in our shared past. He believes only though the acknowledgment of past injustices can we really move forward into a more transparent, healthy Irish society.

An Act of Madness is based upon the life of the author’s great-grandmother, Bridget Towey (1877-1939).

Suella Holland

Suella Holland is a photographic artist who has exhibited extensively. Her most recent solo exhibition ‘Welcome to Graceland’, captures the essence of Elvis fan, Patsy Boylan’s, obsession with the ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and his mad-cap collection of memorabilia.

Suella is a member of Visual Artists Ireland, Meath Arts Group and Bailieborough Creative Hub.


‘A beautifully written, excellently illustrated heart-rending little book. Great work Martin and Suella. So very sad how flippantly and carelessly peoples’ lives were altered. 

Not a medically trained person here, 10 babies in 14 years for a young woman in a largely detached society at the time would be a flashing light cry for help, not incarceration to me.

Great job both of you. Thank you!’

Paul Donnan, USA

‘ Having just read the book entitled “An Act of Madness” by Martin Towey, I felt compelled to share the link to the book purchase site with you all. This story is centered around a lady called Bridget, who after having 9 children one after the other, was committed to Ballinasloe Asylum until her death many years later. 

The stunning imagery in the book was provided by Suella Holland and helps to really bring this sad human story to life. Many women nowadays suffer from Post Partum Depression and are treated kindly by their local GP, it wasn’t always the case and sadly, Bridget was a victim of how the world worked back then. She was exhausted, drained of all will and because of that was deemed to be insane. What a sad place it was for women  I found the story to be so touching and real that I just had to share it with you!

‘ A wonderful and thought provoking event. The story and images evoke thoughts and feelings, not just about the dark past of our mental health provision, but about our role today in supporting those who suffer with mental health issues. Thank you to Suella and Martin for your creativity and vision in bringing this story to life. ‘ Maria Jordan O'Reilly, after the launch night