Skeletons of 800 babies, infants believed to be buried at Bon Secours Sisters site
A woman with a dark secret has revealed why the skeletons of about 800 infants and children are believed to be in a disused septic tank.
The site in Tuam 32km north of Galway City, Ireland, is located at what was The Home, a home for unmarried mothers,
run by the Bon Secours Sisters — a Roman Catholic religious order of nuns that today operates in US, Ireland, Peru,
France, and Great Britain — from the 1920s until the 1960s, Irish Mail on Sunday reported.
Catherine Corless, a local historian and genealogist, was researching The Home where she discovered
death records for 796 children, ranging from infants to children up to the age of nine who had no recorded burial.
She recalled as a child herself being segregated from the young children from The Home.
“They were always segregated to the side of regular classrooms,” Corless told IrishCentral. “By doing this
the nuns telegraphed the message that they were different and that we should keep away from them.
“They didn’t suggest we be nice to them. In fact if you acted up in class some nuns would threaten
to seat you next to the Home Babies. That was the message we got in our young years.”
Corless remembered watching an older friend wrap a tiny stone inside a bright candy wrapper and
present it as a gift to one of them.
“When the child opened it she saw she’d been fooled,” Corless said. “Of course I copied her later and I tried
to play the joke on another little Home girl. I thought it was funny at the time.”
Years later Corless realised that the children she taunted had nobody.
“Years after I asked myself what did I do to that poor little girl that never saw a sweet? That has stuck with me
all my life. A part of me wants to make up to them.”
The causes of death listed for the babies and infants included “malnutrition, measles, convulsions,
tuberculosis, gastroenteritis and pneumonia.” Not every child had a cause of death recorded.
“I have the full list and it’s going up on a plaque for the site, which we’re fundraising for at the moment.
We want it to be bronze so that it weathers better. We want to do it in honour of the children who were left
there forgotten for all those years. It’s a scandal.”
Corless believes that nothing was said or done to expose the truth because people believed illegitimate children didn’t matter.
“That’s what really hurts and moved me to do something,” she said.
The death rate at The Home is likely to be twice the national average at the time.
“I have the full list and it’s going up on a plaque for the site, which we’re fundraising for
at the moment. We want it to be bronze so that it weathers better. We want to do it in honour of the children
who were left there forgotten for all those years. It’s a scandal.”
Co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance, Susan Lohan, told the Irish Examiner that calls for a memorial for
the dead is not enough and there should be an inquiry.
“These were state-funded homes. Anybody who suggests the nuns were doing their best ... they were not doing their best.
They tendered for this business (and) wanted this business.
“They got a headage payment for every mother and child in their so-called care, which was greater at
the time than the average industrial wage.”
The Home was closed in the 1960 and two boys playing discovered partially broken concrete slabs
covering a hollow — a disused septic tank — “filled to the brim with bones”.
A housing estate was then built where The Home was and a local couple tended to the plot of dead babies
and infants for 35 years, trimming the grass and planting flowers.
A police investigation has been launched into missing death certificates at The Home.