The Lost Children of Tuam

In a long piece for the New York Times today titled “The Lost Children of Tuam,” Dan Barry recounts the story of the Mother and Baby Home of Tuam, Ireland. During the first half of the last century, it was where women were sent who bore children out of wedlock. The mothers were generally sent home after a year, but the children stayed, most often in appalling conditions that caused hundreds upon hundreds of unnecessary deaths. And when those children died, they were considered too shameful to be buried with decent folk in the local graveyard. Several years ago, Tuam native Catherine Corless unearthed the true story of the Tuam home after years of painstaking research:

Acting on instinct, she purchased a random sample from the government of 200 death certificates for children who had died at the home. Then, sitting at the Tuam cemetery’s edge in the van of its caretaker, she checked those death certificates against all the burials recorded by hand in two oversize books. Only two children from the home had been buried in the town graveyard.

….In December 2012, Catherine’s essay, titled “The Home,” appeared in the historical journal of Tuam. After providing a general history of the facility, it laid out the results of her research, including the missing burial records and the disused septic tank where two boys had stumbled upon some bones….Her daring essay implicitly raised a provocative question: Had Catholic nuns, working in service of the state, buried the bodies of hundreds of children in the septic system?

I was in Tuam last week. During my last day in Ireland, I rented a car and made a whirlwind tour of the various towns and villages where my Irish ancestors were born. My great-great-grandfather, William Moran, was born in Tuam, and I visited to see if there was any visible trace of the Morans left. Perhaps a Moran’s Grocery or a Moran’s Tavern. But there was nothing that I could see. So I took some pictures and left.

But there were indeed Morans there. Of the 796 children tossed into the septic system because they were born illegitimate, five were Morans:

1930
Patrick Moran 4 months

1933
Bridgid Moran 15 months

1940
Martin Moran 7 weeks

1943
Nora Moran 7 months

1944
Mary P Moran 9 days

But they have a nice cathedral there.