Memorial for 788 babies buried in Tuam orphanage

Tuam babies graveyard.
Members of the committee involved in the restoration of the graveyard which was attached to the old mothers and babies home in Tuam. From left: Arthur McDonagh, Maura Ryan, David Collins, John Lowe, Martin Ford, Caroline Canney, Catherine Corless, Teresa Kelly, Padraig and Ellen Dooley. Photo: Johnny Ryan Photography.

Research has shown that there are 788 children, from newborns to eight year olds, buried in a graveyard that was attached to an old orphanage in Tuam.

And a group of interested individuals have now established the names of each of the children, what age they were when they died and the causes of their deaths. In is now their intention to erect a memorial in their honour and this will contain the names of each of the 788 children.

The mother and baby home in Tuam, which was operated by the Bon Secours nuns from 1925 to 1961, mainly accommodated single pregnant women who gave birth and left the children in the orphanage.

The children brought up in the orphanage were referred to at the time as ‘the home babies’ as a determined effort is now being made to honour their memory. It was called St. Mary’s but was generally known locally as The Home which was located on the Dublin Road and on which there are now houses.

However, the cemetery still remains and following intensive research, it was discovered that it is the final resting place of hundreds of children.

David Collins, who is part of the committee responsible for restoring the graveyard and providing a memorial plaque, told Tuam Town Council that the names of all the children had been obtained by Catherine Corless, another member of the committee.

He said that remedial works had been carried out in the graveyard and a plaque would be erected. He said that it was hoped that some funding would be provided by Tuam Town Council. Mr. Collins said that it was hoped that the graveyard and memorial would be a place where people would visit on a regular basis and added that he would welcome donations from people of the town. Catherine Corless said that there would be a booklet published detailing the history of the home and it was hoped that this would be placed in the local library.

She said that when the home closed in 1961, a lot of the children were moved to Castlepollard and other industrial schools. She said that many of the children were buried in one corner of the little graveyard. Ms. Corless also complimented the Dooley family who live in the area for maintaining the graveyard over the years.

She said that the children had been buried nameless for more than half a century. Initially it was though that the graveyard was a burial ground for famine victims but Ms. Corless undertook research which confirmed that newborns to eight year olds were buried there from the home.

Cllr. Eamonn Kitt said that it was a very worthwhile initiative and it would “right the wrong” when it came to remembering these children. He complimented the work involved in tracing the names of all of the children buried there.