The death of a child is a terrible thing, and that feeling is escalated when you uncover something as gruesome as this. A mass grave containing the remains of more than 800 children was uncovered at a former Catholic orphanage in Ireland.
The inquiry was launched after local historian Catherine Corless said there was evidence of an unmarked graveyard at the home, where records showed almost 800 children died between 1925 and 1961. However, there was only a burial record for one single child.
Excavations at the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway, have uncovered an underground structure divided into 20 chambers containing “significant quantities of human remains”, the judge-led mother and baby homes commission said.
DNA analysis showed that the ages of the deceased ranged from 35 weeks to three years old. The dead had mostly been buried in the 1950’s. The Tuam home closed in 1961.
A second structure discovered during excavations appeared to be a decommissioned septic tank which had been filled with rubble and debris and then covered with topsoil.
The Bon Secours sisters, the religious order of nuns who ran the home, said they had no comment to make about the investigation.
This discovery confirms decades of suspicions that the vast majority of children who died at the home were interred on the site in unmarked graves.
“Everything pointed to this area being a mass grave,” Catherine Corless, local historian previously told the Guardian. She recalled how boys playing in the field had reported seeing a pile of bones in a hidden underground chamber there in the mid-1970s.
Corless requested Galway county council’s records on the home from 1925 to 1961. She was refused. However, she was given documents from the 1970’s, including an official map of the present-day estate the council built on the site.
“They obviously didn’t see the importance,” said Corless. “There is an area across the map marked ‘burial ground’,” she says. “First, the houses were built, around that area. Finally, a playground was built on part of the burial ground itself.”
Hopefully, all the children will be identified and their families will be notified.