\"Limerick

Limerick historian uncovers a damning trail of news reports on the Tuam Children’s Home, including this 1924 photo of children at the earlier Glenamaddy Home. Photo by: Connacht Tribune

Neglect and death of 800 kids in Galway happened in plain sight

\"Limerick

Limerick historian uncovers a damning trail of news reports on the Tuam Children’s Home, including this 1924 photo of children at the earlier Glenamaddy Home. Photo by: Connacht Tribune

The 796 infants and children buried in an unmarked mass grave in the septic tank behind St. Mary’s Mother and Baby home in Tuam, Co. Galway made headlines around the world after their shocking story broke last week.

But this is not the first time the Home and the ‘Home babies,’ as locals call them, have been in the news.

Following early reports on the research of Tuam historian Catherine Corless, who brought the story to light, Liam Hogan, a Limerick-based historian and librarian, began uncovering a trail of damning news clips dating from before the Home’s founding in 1925 to after its closure in 1961.

The articles show that the Home was very much a matter of both public and governmental knowledge. And the way in which they discuss the Home’s occupants (or “inmates” as they are more often referred to) makes clear the totally normalized disdain with which all the “illegitimate children” and “fallen women” were held.

The Tuam Children’s Home, it turns out, is a scandal that emerged from an even earlier scandal – The Glenamaddy Children’s Home, less than 20 miles away.

A June 1, 1924 article from the Connacht Tribune speaks of the ‘dire conditions’ at the Glenamaddy Home, a former workhouse that began housing orphans and unwed mothers in 1921, under the supervision of the Bon Secours nuns.

“Tragedy in its most poignant form lies concealed beneath the childish gurgles of these tiny toddlers,” the article reads. “There are 130 in the house. These include 87 children from infants in arms to little boys and girls of nine, and 26 mothers.”

The writer praises the “wonderful, motherly nuns, who know every child by name” for the “marvels” they have achieved given the home’s poor conditions, which include gloomy rooms, walls “reek with damp” in winter and a total lack of any permanent bathing facilities. Blame for these conditions is placed upon local authorities for their failure to do anything beyond sending inspectors to take note of the issues.

“There are certain features about the children’s home in Glenamaddy that need not be touched upon,” it continues. “Sufficient has been said to show that it is vital for the interests of child welfare in the country that certain classes of entrants should be kept apart and be afforded the opportunity of separate treatment.”

The infant mortality rate, it notes, is higher than it should be. “A few of the older children died from whooping cough, but the death rate amongst the infants has been higher than it ought to have been because of the difficulties of rearing motherless babies.”

Ultimately, the article commends a plan to transfer the Home’s occupants to the site of another former workhouse in Tuam, which originally opened in 1846 to house the Famine poor. The hope is that “a place might be found for one of the most noble, charitable and important works in the social life and welfare of County Galway.”

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