Children’s Home in western Ireland was supposed to be a destination for unmarried mothers, but instead the giant stone building became something of a house of horrors.
The home was run by the Bon Secours nuns and operated between 1925 and 1961, serving as a destination for “fallen women” and their “illegitimate” children. The women were forced to pay a penance of indentured servitude for their sin of having children out of wedlock.
The Children’s Home has since been closed and destroyed, with a housing development and playground now standing in its place, but newly released evidence has uncovered a horrific secret of the home.
The bodies of 800 children were found inside a septic tank system, forgotten for decades with no coffins or gravestones to mark their final resting place.
“The bones are still there,” local historian Catherine Corless, who discovered the mass grave, told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “The children who died in the Home, this was them.”
The mass grave is now being investigated by police, and it has not been announced just how the 800 children died.
Corless suggested that the children may have fallen victim to a society that did not accept unwed mothers.
“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.”
Corless did not outright suggest that the 800 bodies found at Children’s Home were victims of murder, but that many died due to the terrible conditions within the home. She told the Irish Mail that many children died of malnutrition and neglect, while others fell victim to the rampant measles, TB, and pneumonia in the Children’s Home.
One report claims that children died at Children’s Home at a rate of two a month, with another report suggesting that 300 children died between 1943 and 1946 — a rate of one a week.
A photo of some of the children at “the Home” in 1924 (Connaught Tribune, 21st June 1924) pic.twitter.com/foGFqAKJ8m
— Limerick1914 (@Limerick1914) May 27, 2014
Children actually born in the home suffered a particularly disturbing fate, Corless noted. These children, known to locals as Home Babies, were segregated in classrooms and singled out for abuse by nuns.
“I remember some of them in class in the Mercy Convent in Tuam – they were treated marginally better than the traveler children,” one local told Irish Central. “They were known locally as the ‘Home Babies.’ For the most part the children were usually gone by school age – either adopted or dead.”
The Bon Secours sisters said they no longer had information about Children’s Home or the 800 dead bodies found there.