The parish priest came for Delia Mulryan one dark winter’s night in 1944, in a little west of Ireland parish. Delia was seven-months pregnant, the baby was created out of wedlock, and the clergyman was hell bent on running the devil out of town.
As her son Peter Mulryan, then in the womb, now 73, relates it the parish priest was furious and spitting blood. ”The woman is bringing scandal to our community” he warned her father. “She must be removed.”
The power of the church was such that her father did not raise a protest. The priest wanted her gone now, immediately she would not be allowed to stain the good name of the parish.
Her departure couldn't even wait for daybreak.
It was a time before many automobiles in rural Ireland and dirt roads. There was an old-fashioned bicycle with a crossbar on it. It would be how she would be transported.
Seven months pregnant, Delia was seated side saddle on the crossbar and taken in the dark of a winter's night 20 miles to the mother and baby home, then in Loughrea, in Galway. One can only imagine the pain and suffering the heavily pregnant young woman went through on that bumpy bike ride.
Soon after, Peter and his mother were sent to Tuam, banished from their home village forever. His mother never recovered and became institutionalized, later spending 35 years slaving in a Magdalene Laundry. She was one of an estimated 35,000 young mothers who had children out of wedlock who were shamed, despised and kept from “decent” society.
Years later, Peter found out his mother had a second child, a daughter Marian, thanks to the research by Tuam historian Catherine Corless. Marian was marked down as having died from from convulsions at the age of nine months. Sadly, no body or grave was ever found.
Peter told Ireland's “Late Late Show” on Friday night that he wants to know where his sister is before he dies. “Where is she now,” he asks, “Is she dead or was she like many, adopted in America.”
Delia and Peter Mulryan’s story is by no means unusual.
Peter Mulryan was among many who experienced ill treatment and neglect by being fostered out after his first communion to local families who treated Tuam children very badly in many cases.They used them as farm laborers though they were not even in their teens.
"We were nobody. We received no respect at all," said Mulryan, who told Reuters that for much of his life he was so acutely aware of his low status that he kept his head bowed and never spoke of his origins.
Asked what he wanted now, towards the end of his own life, Mulryan said: "We had to bow to priests and bishops, but we never got respect back. So few have lifted the phone and apologized to me. It's the least they might do. Speak from the heart, from the altar, about what was done to the likes of us.”
Peter doubts there will be many takers.