The house of tears: Secret tapes of woman who spent years at controversial Irish home for unmarried mothers reveals there WAS an unmarked mass grave for up to 800 children
Some 796 children died at a single Irish care home between 1925 and 1961
It was feared children's bodies were buried in a mass grave at the site
A worker at the home in Galway made a taped interview before her death
That interview confirms the existence of a mass grave at the site in Tuam
By Alison O'reilly For The Irish Mail On Sunday
27 December 2015
A shocking recording from a woman who worked in an Irish home for unmarried mothers where almost 800 children died confirms there is an unmarked grave on the grounds of the infamous institution.
Julia Devaney entered St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway when she was nine years old and spent 36 years there until it closed in 1961. She worked as a domestic servant for the Bon Secours nuns.
Mrs Devaney gave a stark account of the home in a recorded interview with a former employer who ran a shop in Tuam some time in the 1980s. However, the tapes only resurfaced earlier this year.
From the 1920s, unmarried pregnant women in Ireland were routinely sent to institutions to have their babies, many of whom were sent to America for adoption.
Local historian Catherine Corless, who researched the names of the 796 children who died in the home from 1925 to 1961, has spent a number of months transcribing Ms Devaney’s interview.
Today, the Irish Mail on Sunday can reveal how Mrs Devaney said that children would ‘die like flies’ in the home. Mrs Devaney said: ‘Scores of children died under a year and whooping cough was epidemic. Sure they had a little graveyard of their own up there. It’s still there, it’s walled in now....
The MoS has published extensive extracts from her interview that reveal she believed the children were ‘never cared for’. Ms Devaney, who never had any children of her own, constantly refers to the orphans in the home and how it was apparent to her that they meant nothing to the nuns.
She said it was a ‘horrid place’, which was ‘cold, sad and loveless’: ‘It was not like a home, they’d be better off with a drunken father at home. It was an awful lonely old hole. Not natural, unnatural.
‘The children had a language all their own, they didn’t talk right at all, nobody to teach them, nobody to care. When the children came home from school they got their dinner and then their hair was fine-combed for nits and fleas....
The Magdalene Laundries
The Magdalene Laundries were institutions, generally run by Catholic religious organisations that operated for more than 200 years from the 18th century to the late 20th Century. In Ireland the first was founded in Dublin in 1765 and the last closed in 1996. They were established to house unmarried mothers. An estimated 30,000 women were confined in these institutions in Ireland.
Julia describes them – along with mental institutions – as the ultimate punishment for women in the homes.
‘None of the mothers would kick up, because if they did, then they knew they would be put into the Magdalene, they’d be punished. It’s a place you wouldn’t want to make too much talk about your child, it’s a place you’d want to be very careful of what you’d say or you would pay for it. … If children came back from being fostered out, and if they were a bit slow, they would be sent into the Magdalene Laundry as well....