Bodies of 800 Babies, Long-Dead, Found in Septic Tank at Former Irish Home for Unwed Mothers

In the Washington Post:

In a town in western Ireland, where castle ruins pepper green landscapes, there’s a six-foot stone wall that once surrounded a place called the Home. Between 1925 and 1961, thousands of “fallen women” and their “illegitimate” children passed through the Home, run by the Bon Secours nuns in Tuam.

Many of the women, after paying a penance of indentured servitude for their out-of-wedlock pregnancy, left the Home for work and lives in other parts of Ireland and beyond. Some of their children were not so fortunate.

More than five decades after the Home was closed and destroyed — where a housing development and children’s playground now stands — what happened to nearly 800 of those abandoned children has now emerged: Their bodies were piled into a massive septic tank sitting in the back of the structure and forgotten, with neither gravestones nor coffins.

“The bones are still there,” local historian Catherine Corless, who uncovered the origins of the mass grave in a batch of never-before-released documents, told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “The children who died in the Home, this was them.”

The grim findings, which are being investigated by police, provide a glimpse into a particularly dark time for unmarried pregnant women in Ireland, where societal and religious mores stigmatized them. Without means to support themselves, women by the hundreds wound up at the Home. “When daughters became pregnant, they were ostracized completely,” Corless said. “Families would be afraid of neighbors finding out, because to get pregnant out of marriage was the worst thing on Earth. It was the worst crime a woman could commit, even though a lot of the time it had been because of a rape.”

According to documents Corless provided the Irish Mail on Sunday, malnutrition and neglect killed many of the children, while others died of measles, convulsions, TB, gastroenteritis and pneumonia. Infant mortality at the Home was staggeringly high. “If you look at the records, babies were dying two a week, but I’m still trying to figure out how they could [put the bodies in a septic tank],” Corless said. “Couldn’t they have afforded baby coffins?”

Rest here.


7 thoughts on “Bodies of 800 Babies, Long-Dead, Found in Septic Tank at Former Irish Home for Unwed Mothers

  1. Surely these “said Irish sisters” of the Bon Secours (Good Help), should be very closely investigated! But, let’s not have a witch hunt either! Btw the Sisters of the Bon Secours, created in Paris in 1824 are still large and active.

    1. Sad indeed, but we don’t know all the circumstances either, were the Sisters overwhelmed with little help and money from the Vatican? Did they have enough doctors also? Certainly no excuses! But yes, lets hope the RCC gives these babies Christian burial NOW! And examines this whole situation and history!

      1. I agree. We don’t know the whole story. I was actually thinking how sad it can be that society can be so unforgiving, unrelenting, and unhelpful– that so many mothers would be ostracized, especially when it takes more than one person to make a baby. Dear Lord, I place all of the souls of those involved in your merciful and loving hands. God bless…

  2. Btw, this is getting better in-depth study, and it appears (as we should have remembered) that “Conservative Catholic teaching at the time denied children of unmarried parents baptism and therefore burial in consecrated lands.” Again, not an excuse, but at least the historical perspective, and it appears the local Catholic laity have been up-keeping the place where the babies and children are buried. But again, such a dark spot on the time, and situation!

    1. And btw, some have tried to make this an Irish story, rather than a Catholic one. But in reality the two are intertwined! Its that old, old story about sin, evil and humanity! And it is still with us today in this fallen world! Note, today how WE (fallen humanity) have changed the sexual ethics, at least in this world. But not before the Throne of God!

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