How big would a “Septic Tank” have to be to hold the bodies of 800 dead children?
Was the water tank in the graveyard rather than the graves being in the water tank?
Was the water tank a septic tank?
Have any excavations been carried out yet to determine how many bodies are in the (known) graveyard and their age?
Did severe overcrowding at the home have any effect on mortality rates?
Were these children buried in a different area to anyone else who died at the home? If so where? If not how were they buried differently?
Was this a hidden graveyard or did everyone in the locality know about it?
If there was a crime committed why were all the deaths properly recorded?
There have been industrial schools and homes in Ireland where abuse has been recorded by the people who stayed there. Has anyone reported that they witnessed abuse at this home?
Some bones were discovered in the graveyard 20 years ago, was foul play ever suggested at that time or at any time in the intervening period?
Just asking like, before you get too carried away with sensationalist headlines!
A local health board inspection report from April 1944 recorded 271 children and 61 single mothers in residence, a total of 333 in a building that had a capacity for 243. The report described the children as
“fragile” with “flesh hanging loosely on limbs.”
The report noted that 31 children in the “sun room and balcony” were “poor, emaciated and not thriving.” The effects of long term neglect and malnutrition were observed repeatedly.
Another official report appears to claim that 300 children died between 1943 and 1946, which would mean two deaths a week in the isolated institution.
Records indicate that the former Tuam workhouse’s septic tank was converted specifically to serve as the body disposal site for the orphanage.
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As regards abuse in Industrial Schools: The abuses were witnessed and recorded by the Religious Orders, State Inspectors in their reports, the Chief Medical Inspector and victims/survivors. Along with that politicians did on occasion make a stand against the abusers. Also an Irish-born American priest did rail against the Industrial Schools while on a visit to Ireland. He was denounced by the Hierarchy and in the Houses of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) and basically run out of Ireland – his name was Father Flanagan who founded Boystown in the United States
Indeed times were hard. Especially in Tuam at the time as can be seen from the Galway County Archives of 1935:
“Overcrowding was an almost constant problem in the Hospital, which by the late 1920s could accommodate 210 patients. In February 1935 the ‘Matron reported that the Institution is very much overcrowded. There are 20 patients lying on stretchers on the floor’ (GC6/14, 20 February, 1935, p12).
Again in 1938 she reported that there were 283 patients in the medical and surgical departments and only 216 beds, ‘…that patients who have not beds are usually put in with other patients or put on stretchers or mattresses on the floor; that this is very hard on the patients and also on the staff’. As a result the Board ordered that all non-urgent cases or those unlikely to benefit from Hospital treatment be discharged and that the ‘…attention of the Local Government Department be directed to the urgent necessity of arranging for the erection of the new Central Hospital as soon as possible” (GC6/17, 21 May 1935, p13).
Unfortunately the mother’s and children at the Bon Secours hospital couldn’t be sent anywhere as they had been banned from entering the main hospital by the Board of Health:
“In May 1926 the Committee submitted a recommendation to the Board of Health that it ‘…arrange for the establishment of a Maternity ward in the County Home for unmarried mothers, as the admission of this class of patients to the Maternity Department of the Central Hospital tends to prevent respectable patients from seeking admission thereto” (GC6/5, 12 May 1926, p2).
“In 1937 the Board passed a resolution ordering that ‘Unmarried mothers are not, in future, to be admitted” (GC6/16, 20 March 1937, p20).
It’s reported that the nuns objected to the establishemnt of a hospital for unmarried mothers at their establishment. Could this be because they didn’t have the facilities to cope?
“PROPOSED ESTABLISHMENT OF HOSPITAL IN TUAM It was decided to ask the Bon Secour Sisters in Tuam to re-consider their views regarding the establishment of a Hospital in Tuam for unmarried mothers” (11 May, p10).
Diphtheria, influenza and other infectious diseases were afflicting the area too which hasn’t been accounted for in your report:
“Diphtheria outbreaks in General Hospital ‘…Returns showing that from the 1st January 1933, to date, twenty-four patients suffering from diphtheria were transferred from the General Hospital to the Fever Hospital, and in addition sixty-give as suspected carriers were also transferred…” (9 March, p8).
I have not read of any report that states that the septic was adapated for burial. Perhaps you could enlighten me on that aspect.
All in all this era needs specific academic research that cannot be carriied by some dumb-ass journalist selling lurid headlines in the Irish Daily Mail. The very least that the dead and those that looked after them and cared for them deserve is the truth. Those that didn’t – their families, the absent fathers, the uncaring religious deserve the righteous anger of the public.
Catherine Corless has being doing this work in Tuam for the past 10 years.
Locals have known about this since 1975, when two boys broke apart a concrete slab and discovered a tomb filled with small skeletons. The remains, interred in a concrete septic tank, were initially thought to be from the Great Famine era of the 1840s.
A parish priest said prayers and the site was sealed once more, the number of bodies below unknown, their names forgotten.
Little more was thought about the grave until about 10 years ago when a historian, Catherine Corless, began investigating children’s deaths at the home.
J Swan your questions indicate the level of sickness in our society. 800 babies are dead in plot of land unmarked through intent or accident, through disease or malnutrition , certainly not because they were properly cared for. Your first question is how big is the tank? Was there water in it? What sort of an insensitive iomadán are you ?
Irishguy, it is not and never has been a crime not to mark a grave. There are thousands of unmarked graves throughout Ireland – all recorded as in the case of Tuam but unmarked. No crime has been committed and no investigation is underway to search for the guilty. For various reasons – mostly due to the poverty of those left behind – graves remain unmarked. In the case of the Tuam home the women and children there were disowned and booted out of their homes and the only place where they could find a roof to cover their heads was the local workhouse or convent. When they died they had no relatives that gave two hoots about their grave so it went unmarked. Any and all money that the nuns had should in all cases have gone to feed and look after the living, not spent marking the graves of those who are no longer living. I hope you agree with that, if you don’t then you need to assess your priorities as they are severely misplaced.
The Irish Government often sent the women and their children to these homes. We know from several reputable sources that not enough money was given by the Government to these homes to run them properly so rations were meagre. We also know that malnutrition was present at this home, we don’t know whether the malnutrition started at the home or developed under the circumstances or whether the women and children had already arrived malnourished. The likelihood is that many of these women and children were already suffering malnutrition when they arrived at the home; their circumstances hardly meant that they were in any position to look after themselves properly beforehand. We also know that the death rate at this home was no greater than that amongst the healthy families of the surrounding district and that disease was rife at particular periods. We also know that malnutrition is not the same as starvation. A body can be fed and still be malnourished.
We still see malnourished and starving children on the streets of our Irish cities today. There have been regular news reports of children found scavenging in waste bins seeking food to fill their empty bellies.
This is Ireland in 2014 not 1930 and none of the children in this “age of enlightenment” are found hungry in any Church run Institutions – no rather they are from poor or feckless families or have run away from Government run Institutions. In fifty years from now someone will document these stories and ask what you and I did about it? Those children who were starving, pumping their frail bodies with drugs and prostituting themselves to fuel their drug craze! What on earth were they thinking of in 2014 that they allowed such things to go on – more worried about mortgages than starving children?
Catherine Corless has now gone on record to state that she never said that “800 babies were dumped in a septic tank”. That’s important as most of the stories surrounding this issue have been misleading and downright scandalous. The local people of Tuam are also angry at suggestions that this grave yard was “sealed and forgotten”. They regularly tend the grave yard and have erected a shrine in one corner and a plaque clearly stating that it is a grave yard near the entrance gate, all of this happened before any wine fuelled journalist turned up to record the “carnage of yesteryear”.
The strap line to this blog above is both misleading and plain wrong. I mentioned this in my first post and pointed out the absurdities of the reports. I never asked if the “tank was full of water” either but then again why let the truth get in the way of a good story?