Today the Irish Times has published a reader’s letter that has further undercut the story. Finbar McCormick, a professor of geography at Queen’s University Belfast, sharply admonished the media for describing the children’s last resting place as a septic tank. He added: “The structure as described is much more likely to be a shaft burial vault, a common method of burial used in the recent past and still used today in many part of Europe.
“In the 19th century, deep brick-lined shafts were constructed and covered with a large slab which often doubled as a flatly laid headstone. These were common in 19th-century urban cemeteries…..Such tombs are still used extensively in Mediterranean countries. I recently saw such structures being constructed in a churchyard in Croatia. The shaft was made of concrete blocks, plastered internally and roofed with large concrete slabs.
“Many maternity hospitals in Ireland had a communal burial place for stillborn children or those who died soon after birth. These were sometimes in a nearby graveyard but more often in a special area within the grounds of the hospital.”The Bon Secours sisters have been scapegoated. To quote Aleteia:
For anyone familiar with Ireland (I was brought up there in the 1950s and 1960s), the story of nuns consciously throwing babies into a septic tank never made much sense. Although many aforesaid nuns might have been holier-than-thou harridans, they were nothing if not God-fearing and therefore unlikely to treat human remains with the sort of outright blasphemy implied in the septic tank story. (Read more.)
Catherine Corless published a summary of her research on the Facebook page Mother/Baby Home Research. “The Bon Secours Sisters,” she writes, “were a nursing congregation who had come from Dublin to take charge of the hospital wing of Glenamaddy Workhouse.” After Ireland won its freedom, all the Workhouses were closed, but Galway County decided to open a Mother/Baby Home at the site of the Tuam Workhouse. “The Home building itself was [then] in a good structural state but needed quite a bit of repair.” The building and land belonged to the Galway County Council (GCC) which was “responsible for repairs and Maintenance.”It seems that there are mass graves all over Ireland of children and adults, due to famine and disease.To quote:
The GCC contracted with the Sisters of Bon Secours to provide shelter to unmarried mothers and their children for a weekly fee of 10 shillings (half a pound Irish) for the “maintenance and clothing of inmates” (Connacht Tribune, 1928), as well as the salaries of doctors. Mothers who could pay £100 for the delivery services, could leave after giving birth. Others had to agree to stay there for a year, working to reimburse these costs by “filling domestic duties, cooking, cleaning, minding the babies and children and tending to the gardens.”
The archives reveal differing opinions on how well the home operated. A Mayo Health Board report in 1935 declared, “Tuam is one of the best managed institutions I have seen in the country.” A newspaper story reporting on an inspection in 1949 stated that inspectors found “everything in very good order and congratulated the sisters on the excellent conditions.” (Read more.)
Within Northern Ireland marginalised infant and adult burial in unmarked graves is an issue which has impacted over time on the different religious and cultural traditions of our collective community. The research I have conducted over the past six years has highlighted this issue and the plight of those buried in this way, but the nature of the research raises other questions and concerns; ultimately that of protection within the legal system for these burial grounds both within council cemeteries and more urgently within private cemeteries, i.e. those attached to a religious establishments including institutional burial grounds, workhouse cemeteries, poor ground and what has been regarded in the past as industrial schools. Added to these is the similar plight of archaeological sites known as Cilliní (pl) or 'Children's Graveyards'. These small furtive burial grounds are scattered across the landscape of Ireland and within a temporal context represent a cultural tradition which was deeply rooted in the psyche of Irish Christians; the problem of how to bury those infants who died without the sacrament of baptism. (Read more.)And it seems there were high infant mortality rates in the Protestant Mother and Baby homes as well. People must realize that Ireland was a third world country in the first part of the twentieth century. The medications and resources which we now have were not available, at least not to the poor.