Keeping the spirit of our founder Ellen Smyly alive by following the tradition of providing children with a warm, caring home in which to heal, is at the heart of what has been done at Smyly’s for over 170 years.

Born in the early 1800s Ellen Smyly began her important work at the age of only 17. Appalled at the abject poverty of a large number of children in Dublin she began feeding the children on the streets thus starting her long and selfless mission to help young people in need.

Our capital’s prosperity had taken a nosedive following the Act of Union. The former homes of the aristocrats who had relocated to London, became rundown, overcrowded tenements. Later in the mid-1800s with an influx of people fleeing the country’s famine-stricken areas, Dublin was rife with disease and hardship. The city, unable to cope with its burgeoning population, combined with a lack of sanitation and poor housing resulted in wretched children, often destitute and abandoned, scavenging in the streets with high numbers of fatalities from neglect and starvation.

Having worked for many years in temporary locations, Ellen Smyly opened her first permanent home for children on Townsend Street in 1852 and as numbers rapidly grew it was shortly followed by other homes, offering children hot meals and a basic education. Her first purpose-built facility was opened in the early 1870s thus Mrs Smyly’s Homes and Schools was officially founded. When she died in 1901 Ellen Smyly had seven Homes and four Schools in her name serving up to 1,600 children.

Her legacy endures today in the care provided to children at Glensilva and Racefield.