800 Dead Kids, Irish Catholic Bashing and the Truth



Catholic bashing has become the national sport of Ireland.  Blaming the Brits for every ill that has ever afflicted Ireland has become passé, and in the former land of saints and scholars the Church is the whipping boy du jour.  This of course suits the politicians who lead Ireland, eager to transform it into a carbon copy of every other European state with divorce, contraception and abortion ever available and with atheism as the de facto state religion.  Irish leftism, always of the most infantile variety, has eagerly joined in, along with academia and entertainment.  The attitude of the Church in Ireland has been, by and large, “Please sir, may I have another!” with most priests and prelates seeming to desire to become a Catholic Lite Church that will not utter a word troubling to their new lords and mistresses, the chattering classes in government and out.

Realizing this, I turned a jaundiced eye to endless stories about nuns supposedly casting the bodies of  some 800 children into a septic tank at a home for unwed mothers in Tuam, County Galway, between 1925-1961.

Go here to Salon to see a prime example of the Catholic bashing way the story was played.

Besides the anti-Catholic hysteria, the thing that struck me about the stories was the sheer ignorance displayed:  ignorance of the death rate of children in Ireland in pre-antibiotic days, ignorance that homes for unwed mothers run by religious orders were often used for caring for kids with mortal illnesses, ignorance as to the difficulties involved in  using a septic tank to hold even a small number of bodies, let alone 800.

Well, the truth is starting to come out.  Ironically it is from the local historian Catherine Corless, who was cited in all the stories for bringing this to light, but apparently wasn’t listened to very carefully by a media eager to hear what they wished to hear:

What has upset, confused and dismayed her in recent days is the speculative nature of much of the reporting around the story, particularly about what happened to the children after they died. “I never used that word ‘dumped’,” she says again, with distress. “I just wanted those children to be remembered and for their names to go up on a plaque. That was why I did this project, and now it has taken [on] a life of its own.”

In 2012 Corless published an article entitled “The Home” in the annual Journal of the Old Tuam Society. By then she had discovered that the 796 children had died while at St Mary’s, although she did not yet have all of their death certificates.

She also discovered that there were no burial records for the children and that they had not been interred in any of the local public cemeteries. In her article she concludes that many of the children were buried in an unofficial graveyard at the rear of the former home. This small grassy space has been attended for decades by local people, who have planted roses and other flowers there, and put up a grotto in one corner.

Go here  to the Irish Times to read the rest. Go here to The Telegraph for more facts that do not fit the preferred anti-Catholic media narrative of this story.  What becomes clear from the story is that there is no way that 800 bodies could have been placed in a septic tank, and that what likely happened to the children who died at the home for unwed mothers, who all had death certificates by the way, is that they were buried in an informal grave yard either behind the home or near it, such informal grave yards existing all across Ireland for the, often unwanted, children of the poor.

Let us be quite blunt shall we?  It is the Church, and only the Church, and other Christian churches, who tend to care two cents for helpless people without money like unwed mothers and their kids.  The nuns who ran the home for unwed mothers from 1925-1961 were dealing with a situation that the population at large and the State wished to ignore.  The nuns saved all they were able and gave kind care to those they could not save and buried them when their families turned their backs with cold indifference.  Now we live in more enlightened times.  Abortion is used to cull the ranks of the poor, and, along with contraception, keeps their ranks down.  Welfare checks are used to allow society to turn away with a “clean” conscience, at least until the welfare checks no longer can be summoned out of increasingly thin air.  The nuns who ran the home are no longer needed for the moment, so their memories can be damned by knaves and fools not fit to untie their shoe laces.

Update:  Carolyn Farrow has done yeoman’s work on this story.  Go here to read her posts.

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  1. Kipling, “If”:
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

    My people camne here before the CIvil War.

    Coincidence: My sister and I were discussing how Elizabethan England, immediately prior to the first Virginia colonization (1609?), tried to use Ireland as a colony. That set off wars led by The Fitzgeralds of Munster and Red Hugh O’Neal (the Red Hand) and the O’Dnnells (O’Donnell Abou!) of Ulster. The wars ended in utter defeat at Kinsale (the Saxons say an Irishman betrayed the plan for a bottle of booze), and the infamous “Flight of the Earls.” So, around 1600, through mass murders, rapine, and exile Ireland was bereft of many of its elites.

    Then, for centuries, especially at the time of the Famine, many of the best-and-brightest Irish emigrated to America, Australia (many forced), Canada, etc.

    It is no wonder Irish dolts outnumber . . .

  2. The AP story on this insisted the babies had been ‘denied baptism’. What Glenn Reynolds says applies here: the layers of editors and fact checkers amount to squat.

  3. Here is a quote from the Caroline Farrow blog: “Other interesting facts to have emerged are that the Mother Superior was a member of the NSPCC and that the ratepayers repeatedly talked about the unacceptable cost of the ‘misfortunates’. ‘I want the public to know what the illegitimate children are costing the ratepayers of Galway’ said one report in 1938.”

    Here again we see the same issue as we did in the native schools in Canada: the Church now has to pay for the sins of the state.

  4. T Shaw

    An important element in the Ulster Plantations was King James VI & I’s desire to deal with the Scottish Border families.

    Until the union of the Crowns in 1603 with James’s accession, these had been allowed to levy mails and duties in the Border Counties of Berwick, Roxburgh and Dumfries as recompense for protecting the lieges against “the thieves and broken men of England.” His Majesty decided, now that their services were no longer required, to reward them for their past loyalty with grants of land in County Fermanagh.

    Even today, names like, Armstrong, Beattie, Bell, Elliot, Heron, Hume, Rutledge, and Turnbull can be found all over the North of Ireland

    Neil Armstrong, by-the-by was descended from the Armstrongs of Langholm. Ballads are still sung of William Armstrong of Kinmont or Kinmont Willie. It is said that his wife once let him know she was in need of housekeeping by sending a covered dish to the table. When he raised the cover, he found it contained his spurs.

  5. Donald, you’ve confirmed my suspicions about this story. My first thought was that back then child mortality rates were higher than today, with many children dying before adulthood. They likely found a graveyard and spun a sinister story around it. Being an insurance dude, I love actuarial tables. Several Irish mortality tables can be found here: https://web.actuaries.ie/sites/default/files/event/2011/08/111010%20Irish%20Mortality%20Trends%20in%2020th%20Century.pdf

    On page 9 there is a table for male mortality. If you add the infant rate and the 1-14 year old rate, it is an astounding 25% in 1901, and still at 20% in 1926. This is huge. When you look at the many years that these places were in operation, and the number of people they served, it would be surprising if you did NOT find this number of people buried there.

    I’ve seen other articles that try to extend the supposed conspiracy even further. But the same issues exist. Child mortality was huge back then.

  6. As the 1995 film critic in Commonweal magazine put it, this is just another example of the revenge of the present against the past for not being the present.

  7. Armstrong, Beattie, Bell, Elliot, Heron, Hume, Rutledge, and Turnbull can be found all over the North of Ireland

    You can find Armstrong and Rutledge all over East Tennessee as well. Being names “William Armstrong” in Tennessee ca. 1860 was rather like being named “Michael Smith” today. Makes genealogy a challenge.

  8. I’m with Mary: thanks for posting this, Don. I haven’t read anything about the story because I could tell it would turn my stomach, but I’m glad I read this.

  9. I spent a lot of time in Ireland back in the late 70’s and 80’s. I still have friends there and it what struck me most even as a 20 year old was the liberal mush most of them spewed out and a growing derision of the Church and their faith. Their politics followed suit, hate Reagan, love Clinton and we all know they quickly claimed O’bama as one of their own. They welcome the biggest Mosque in the world while ushering out Christian morality. Just another fallen nation in what was once called Christendom.

  10. The canary in the Irish coal mine keeled over dead in 1990 when Mary Robinson was elected President of Ireland. That would be the rough equivalent of Sarah Weddington being elected to a high ceremonial office in this country.

  11. “Make careful note of the names of the reporters who wrote these stories. Even the most minimal journalistic standards were not applied. Think about it. A local historian tells you that she thinks 800 kids were buried in a tiny plot. The plot is far too small for 800 kids. All the proof she has is that 800 death certificates. You would ask “how do you know they are all buried in this one tiny plot?” Answer: she does not know. She just thinks they must have been. For any serious journalist, red flags would go up immediately. So the most the story can say is is “800 children may be buried in tiny plot”. Yet virtually ever story said that “800 children were found buried in a sewerpit.
    This is not a simple overlook. Any reporter, any editor would have known full well that the stories that were published were not backed up by the facts.
    We are left with one incontrovertable conclusion: the media is waging a war against Catholics, and they will stop at nothing. They will accuse CAtholics, at the drop of a hat, of the most foul deeds they can think of.
    I keep thinking of similar attempts to drum up hate in the past – the thing that comes closest is Josef Goebbels and his attempt to demonize Jews in the 1930’s. It is the only thing that comes close – look at the foul nature of the media narrative in each of these cases – Tuam: “dead babies, nuns, bodies dumped in sewer”. Look at the Magdalen Laundries false narrative – “Nuns, poor girls, sexually abused them, worked them to death, beat them, etc, held as slaves” All of it completely false, as determined by the McAleese report. Look at Philomena – “forcing women to give up babies, stolen babies, sold for profit.”
    Look at the media’s attempt in the Tuam stories to say that Catholic doctrine was responsible – not just the nuns.
    All of it is not far from the Eternal Jew – showing Jews as rats, etc. The parallels are very close

  12. Kevin

    In the West of Scotland, people of Irish descent, in describing themselves as “Catholic,” often enough do so to identify with a particular community, namely, the Republican community in the North of Ireland. They tend to use “Protestant” and “Orange” interchangeably, just as the opposing camp uses “Catholic” and “Fenian” as synonyms. It has little or nothing to do with belief or observance, in either case.

    I once heard a footballer, a Scottish Protestant, who had been signed by Celtic FC described as a “mercenary for the Free State.”

    I fancy that, in Ireland itself, “Catholic” and “Protestant” were often little more than labels or markers for Nationalist or Unionist.

  13. To say that children’s bodies were found inside a septic tank, demonstrates an apparent lack of knowledge concerning the configuration of a septic tank. To say the nuns were guilty of gross abuse of children, demonstrates an apparent lack of knowledge concerning the configuration of the truth.

  14. I am a Dubliner living in the US for the last 18 years .
    I attended these one of these so called schools for troubled kids ,dumped there by their parents .
    I received a great education and learned discipline and hard work .

    The Irish times article ,which I read over the weekend ,shows incredible light this hyped story .The historian heard of two wags in a Pub in Tuam who were playing a game on this so called burial fields in the 70’s and were recalling how they opened a cover of a sewage drain and saw skulls .When questioned they confirm there may have been a few ,and certainly not Hundreds .

    This plot of land was once a workhouse and I would ask anyone who is not familiar with the term to Google it .Simply put ,they were the Auschwitz’s of the 19 century and would therefore have had thousands of nearby graves and skulls …not caused by Nuns or Priests.

    Fair play to the Irish Times for running the facts and lets see if the other naysayers follow suit

  15. The catholic church as a whole has an awful lot to answer for and we are only getting to the bottom of it now they ruled with an iron fist people to scared to speak out and now that we do we are all telling lies I remember growing up in the seventies in Dublin seeing this organization at its finest and the people they chose to have working for them some very weird disturbing and absolute dangerous characters some still alive today both male and female so when I see articles like this about catholic bashing in the media it compels me to speak I’m a catholic not practicing these days we are not afraid or will hide anymore so get used to it and I would venture to say this and many other stories are only the tip of the iceberg the evil that went on is hard to comprehend so people need to know the truth the catholic church is not clean and never will be but you are entitled to your opinion whether right or wrong

  16. david: Whatever you do, stay on your side of the pond! We have a large surplus of wrathful, misinformed people here.

  17. Mr mc clarey I take yiur point about my convoluted sentences and running sentences, but my my point is about the catholic bashing you talk of in media. I have read the article and listened to your argument or point of misinformation and the media trumping up this story to sensationalize it’s headlines but on the other hand do we not deserve an explanation to these heinous acts? I might not be well educated but I know when something is very wrong and the catholic church and the religious orders have some explaining as for you. T Shaw what the hell are you on about this side of the pond if this is suppose to reference the fact I live in Ireland and you live in where? If it’s the states then how the hell csn you comment in something you know nothing about being hundreds of thousands of miles away and by the way our minister for children has announced today a full scale inquiry into the religious orders and institutions so I’d say most of your opinions are going to look good when the truth is outed right or wrong!!!!!!!

  18. David, unless you are James Joyce punctuation is always a good idea. The whole point is that there were no heinous acts, merely heinous anti-Catholic bigotry that turned a nothing local story into a world wide episode of Catholic bashing.

  19. One cannot dialog with people like David. I personally would like a full scale inquiry into every secularist liberal progressive organization throughout Ireland and in fact in all of Western Europe and North America. I would like it revealed for all the world to see that all the crimes of which David and his ilk accuse the Catholic Church are actually perpetrated by left wing liberal progressive organizations, and the Academia and news media which they control. I would like their Satanic evil exposed to the light of day, and see them running like the gutless, worthless cowards in iniquity that they are.

    It is the Church which held the light of civilization, and to the extent that that light is diminished is the extent of the fall of Western society. No other organization has done more to help children and their spouseless mothers than the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and this has been true since Romans used to abandon their newly born on hill tops two millennia ago. It is a contemptible and despicable lie from the bowels of hell to assert otherwise. This latest fabricated scandal only serves to take the public’s eyes off the godless immoral filth perpetrated by the very ones who are accusing the Church of infanticide. Imagine that those accuse the Church in this fictional event are the very same people who believe that it is a woman’s right to murder her unborn baby! The irony of it all! The blatant hypocrisy is unfathomable!

    Sorry, folks, but I just had to vent my spleen. I despise all that people like David support. People in the Church have sinned – yes, that is true. And godless secularists murder unborn babies by the millions per year.

    Mors Democratiae Atheismoque! Vive Christe Rex! Vive Una Sacra Catholica et Apostolica Ecclessia!

  20. I am again reminded that the Cloaca Maxima was found littered with the bones of infants. Infanticide was common in pagan Rome, banished in Christendom, and common again in a formerly civilized world. That, unlike the calumny of the Irish nuns, is a historical fact.

  21. David …We have both been exposed to the good and the bad side of the Church .I went to a Christian Brothers boarding school in Dublin in the late 60’s where the discipline was harsh and meted out at an instant .Equally ,at least 80% of the brothers were decent men in a very harsh environment . To paint them all in the manner in which you have is most unfair and inaccurate .An entire institution cannot be judged by the actions of a few . The Church is a large target for unfair criticism and, as in the movie Philomena ,the factual and historical inaccuracies are never presented after the fact, so the already poisoned minds of ex-Catholics and Catholic detractors only wish to promulgate the lies .

    Finally ,David ,I would ask you to read the Irish Times article published on Sat ..it speaks volumes and make a mockery of the original hysterical hyberbole condemning the Nuns for the burial of the so called 800 little infants

  22. “…unless you are James Joyce punctuation is always a good idea.”

    Actually, it would have been a good idea for him also.

  23. I am of complete Irish descent. One quarter of my ancestors came to America via New York in the 1840’s-I even have a member of the family who fought for the Union in the Civil War. The other three quarters came over a bit later, but all grandparents were American born. we had memories and traditions and stories passed down from generation to generation concerning how the English treated the Irish, taking our language away and trying to take our religion as well. We all had a certain image of Ireland.

    Then I went over to Ireland for an extended vacation. Of course, the Ireland of thatched roof houses etc had all but completely vanished. What I did find however was an extremely class structured society which not only did the Church fit into but seemed to promote at every turn. I found the diocesan clergy particularly arrogant to such an extent that the worst American clericalist could not hold a candle to what I witnessed. Because of the all but fusion between the state and church in Ireland, I was witnessing a seething cauldron about to boil over.

    Before going on I need to remind people that I believe in and uphold the Church’s teaching on life, marriage between man and woman that i indissoluble, the meaning of conjugal charity as love giving and life giving, to name a few foundational teachings which the West finds unacceptable. However, what I saw in Ireland in the 1970’s was unhealthy and ultimately harmful for the Church as well as the People of Ireland.

    This latest series of articles is, as you say, Donald, anti-Catholic. It is. That seething cauldron I witnessed in the 1970’s has boiled over and continues to boil over. There is a wild cultural revolution taking place in Ireland and in the Irish Church. Some of this change was/is necessary-such as the sexual abuse scandals have brought out both here and in Ireland. However, I don’t think we as Americans, and especially of Irish descent, can really grasp what is going on in Ireland as we speak. These forces are attempting to force a people totally class and hierarchically structured into a Western dysutopian society that has swept all that predates 2000 away. Further, certain forces have entered into the Irish Church which even question the Catechism as ‘outdated’ and pushed on to the Church by the Curia (neither being the case).

    As a son of Erin, I mourn the revolution taking place in the homeland of my ancestors.

  24. What I did find however was an extremely class structured society which not only did the Church fit into but seemed to promote at every turn. I found the diocesan clergy particularly arrogant to such an extent that the worst American clericalist could not hold a candle to what I witnessed. Because of the all but fusion between the state and church in Ireland, I was witnessing a seething cauldron about to boil over.

    1. Was the frequency of inter-generational upward and downward mobility lower or higher than that in Britain or in the United States?

    2. Ever lived in a college town? If you have, did you know any ordinary resident who was in the circle of friends of a local faculty member? How often do you think this happens?

    3. Someone once said that snobbery is the inevitable byproduct of efforts to maintain standards. A deficit of snobbery can be a good thing – or indicative of a bad thing.

  25. “2. Ever lived in a college town? If you have, did you know any ordinary resident who was in the circle of friends of a local faculty member? How often do you think this happens?” We couldn’t afford to live in the town but many years ago I commuted to my job at the college. I recall that non-faculty employees were known as emmets by their betters. Nothing is new under the sun.

  26. I recall that non-faculty employees were known as emmets by their betters. Nothing is new under the sun.

    Never encountered anything that blatant, just a failure to connect beyond minor pleasantries. The boundaries between the faculty spouse and others on both sides was more porous, as it was between townie professionals and the faculty. Still, I think you’d find the local physicians did not have faculty friends either, by and large, and certainly the local merchants did not. You also remarked that faculty tended to behave according to status markers without regard to venue. There were always a few exceptions, of course, and general situational exceptions. You could always hitch a ride. If you’re riding, your the client and he’s the patron, so its all good.

    That’s the college town life. My experience is that faculty in metropolitan environments have a more variegated circle of friends and are less status driven.

  27. I know of no country where the social divide between the upper and middle class is as sharp as in Ireland.

    I know of no country where the social divide between the upper and middle class is as sharp as in Ireland.

    The Irish upper class educates its children in English boarding schools, serves in English regiments (notably the Irish Guards and the Household Cavalry) practices at the English Bar (Gray’s Inn is full of Irish chambers) is baptised, married and buried by the Church of Ireland and provides, perhaps, half its clergy. They live, for the most part, in genteel poverty, but still manage to keep decent stables and to pay their country member’s subscriptions to their London clubs. One meets them on the hunting field, where they display a suicidal courage,
    at point-to-points and country race-meetings. They drink claret.

  28. I think you mean ‘cultural divide’, MPS, and I have a suspicion that when Botolph was referring to Catholic clergy promoting status hierarchies in Ireland he had in mind something different than the tastes of Ireland’s genteel Anglican minority.

  29. Art Deco

    The Ascendency, albeit a small minority, has always had a quite disproportionate influence in the universities, publishing and the press and have long exercised an anti-clerical and secularising influence on the classes immediately below them, the wealthy and the higher bureaucracy, as well as on the Freemasons, with whom they are largely identified.

    Apart from the Ascendency, Ireland does not have an upper class.

  30. Apart from the Ascendency, Ireland does not have an upper class.

    Rubbish. Any society more complicated than an agricultural village will have a stratum of people with contextually large assets and a stratum of influentials as well as many people in both categories. Sweden is noted for it’s fairly leveled-in income distribution but has immensely unequal asset distribution including one fabulously wealthy family which controls a double-digit share of Sweden’s private assets. There’s an Irish upper class. The different fractions of it may not talk to each other much, but it’s there.

  31. Art Deco

    Sweden does indeed have an upper class, divided into the titled and untitled nobility, this last, the “obetitlad adel” corresponding to the Gentry (’squires, lairds and Chieftans) in the British Isles. The nobility is further divided into those families that were mambers of the House of Nobility (Riddarhuset) and the “unintroduced nobility,” or foreign noble families resident in Sweden. They are included in the “Kalender över Ointroducerad adels förening” published annually since 1935. Swedish law protects both names and arms from unauthorised assumption.

    In Scotland, the Lyon Court has matriculated the arms of several Swedish families, who have married Scots. (In Scotland, it is an offence to use arms without the holder registering (matriculating) them with Lord Lyon.)

    The Republic of Ireland, too, maintains an Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland and Northern Ireland comes under the jurisdiction of Norroy & Ulster King of Arms, a member of the English College of Arms.

  32. MPS, I think you’re somewhat lost in the distinction between ‘order’ and ‘class’. We’ve no orders in my home town, just senior corporation executives, the top rasher at the local hospitals and colleges, the partners at the notable firms, a latent (or actual) rentier element (who are often on the board of this or that eleemosynary), and a few politicians (few of whom are patrician in spirit). There are sports clubs and social clubs which house the corporate types, the lawyers, and the old money (though I suspect their membership trends old now). At one time, the clubs and social circles were ethnically fissured, old stock and Irish Catholic over here, Jews and Italians over there. I suspect that’s less noticeable now, but people’s associations are still not random in that respect.

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