The Leaving of Loughrea : An Irish Family in the Great Famine

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During the famine in the mids, sheds were erected to accommodate fever patients. A fever hospital was subsequently erected at the south-east of the site with a graveyard nearby. In , the south-eastern part of the Loughrea Union went to become part of the new Portumna Union. In , Loughrea was visited by a "commission" from the British Medical Journal investigating conditions in Irish workhouse infirmaries. Their report listed a long catalogue of defects: the buildings and fittings were dirty and neglected, with the filthy lunatic wards being used to house ducks; in the entrance block, one of the rooms was being used as as bathroom, men's dormitory, male and female refectory, and waiting-room, the women sleeping above; as was typical elsewhere, no night nurse was employed.

Further details are available in the full report. After , the former workhouse was designated as a County Home. The water supply and sewerage system were improved, the kitchen and laundry remodelled, and a dining room and recreation rooms added. In the winter of , the total number of inmates reached , and at the beginning of there were lunatics in residence.

From the s, an input of trained nurses under the direction of the Sisters of Mercy assisted the hospital, now known as St Brendan's, develop a service specialising in providing care services for the elderly.

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The Sisters of Mercy continued to oversee nursing services at St Brendan's until Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available. Contents may not be reproduced without permission. Tweet Follow Workhouses.

You can go to cart and save for later there. Average rating: 0 out of 5 stars, based on 0 reviews Write a review. Tell us if something is incorrect. Book Format: Choose an option. Add to Cart. About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information. Manufacturers, suppliers and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it. See our disclaimer. The Leaving of Loughrea This is the story of the Lally family between and It could just as easily be your story if you have ancestors who were among over a million people who left the beautiful and tragic land of Ireland in the s.

This family lived in the Loughrea. Specifications Publisher Authorhouse. Customer Reviews. Frannie Hopkins was about 9, Barry Sweeney, about 7. The two were at the fledgling stage of boyhood mischief as they monkeyed around some crab apple trees, all within view of the deserted home that figured in their fertile imagination. But on this autumn day in the early s, the boys were daring in the daylight.

Curious, they pushed aside the lid to reveal a shallow, tank-like space containing a gruesome jumble of skulls and bones. Frannie nudge-bumped Barry, and the younger lad fell in.


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He started to cry, as any boy would, so Frannie pulled him out and then the two boys were running away, laughing in fun or out of fright. County workers soon arrived to level that corner of the property. The police said they were only famine bones. A priest said a prayer. And that was that. In adulthood, Barry Sweeney would go to England to find work, and Frannie Hopkins would travel the world as an Irish soldier. Both would return to Tuam, where their shared story would come up now and then in the pub or on the street.

People would tell them they were either mistaken or lying. Barry would become upset that anyone would doubt a story that had so affected him, but Frannie would take pains to reassure him. When her headaches and panic attacks eased, she pored over old newspapers in a blur of microfilm.

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She spent hours studying historic maps in the special collections department of the library at the national university in Galway City. One day she copied a modern map of Tuam on tracing paper and placed it over a town map from Did this mean, then, that the two lads had stumbled upon the bones of home babies? Buried in an old sewage area? Acting on instinct, she purchased a random sample from the government of death certificates for children who had died at the home.

Only two children from the home had been buried in the town graveyard. Neither the Bon Secours order nor the county council could explain the absence of burial records for home babies, although it was suggested that relatives had probably claimed the bodies to bury in their own family plots. Given the ostracizing stigma attached at the time to illegitimacy, Catherine found this absurd.

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. She also shared her own memories, including that joke she and a classmate had played on two home babies long ago. 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?

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Catherine braced for condemnation from government and clergy — but none came. It was as if she had written nothing at all. There was a time when Catherine wanted only to have a plaque erected in memory of these forgotten children. But now she felt that she owed them much more.

Five-month-old Patrick Derrane was the first to die, from gastroenteritis. Weeks later, Mary Blake, less than 4 months old and anemic since birth. A month after that, 3-month-old Matthew Griffin, of meningitis. Then James Murray, fine one moment, dead the next.

He was 4 weeks old. In all, seven children died at the mother and baby home in , the year it opened. The holidays were especially tough, with month-old Peter Lally dying of intestinal tuberculosis on Christmas Day, and 1-year-old Julia Hynes dying the next day, St. Whooping cough. Severe undernourishment, also known as marasmus. Nine home babies died in Eleven in Twenty-four in Thirty-two in The Tuam home was not alone. The reasons may be many — poor prenatal care, insufficient government funding, little or no training of staff — but this is certain: It was no secret.

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GREAT IRISH FAMINE

In , the Irish parliament was informed of the inordinate number of deaths among this group of children. Catherine felt obligated to these children. Continuing to plumb the depths of the past, she eventually cross-checked her spreadsheet of deceased home babies with the burial records of cemeteries throughout counties Galway and Mayo. Not one match. Where are they? Catherine lives simply, almost monastically. She favors practical clothing, usually black, and has never been one for a night at the pub. Those headaches and anxiety attacks, though, remain a part of her withdrawn life.

Aidan, her husband, has become accustomed to attending wakes and weddings by himself.

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A few years ago, he booked a Mediterranean cruise for two; he traveled alone. But thoughts of the dead children of Tuam pushed Catherine beyond her fears.


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  8. Adding to her fury was the knowledge that when a Tuam hospital run by the Bon Secours closed in , the religious order disinterred the bodies of a dozen nuns and reinterred them in consecrated ground outside the nearby pilgrimage town of Knock. Seeing no other option, she contacted a reporter for The Irish Mail on Sunday, a national newspaper. Not long after, in the spring of , a front-page story appeared about a certain seven acres in Tuam. She was, after all, only a housewife. Mary Moriarty was getting her light-blond hair done at a salon in Tuam one day when the beauty-parlor chatter turned to this troublemaker Catherine Corless.

    The entire matter should be forgotten and put behind us , someone said.

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    Mary, a grandmother well known in town for her advocacy work, would have none of it. Well , she said. Every child is entitled to their name, and their mothers could be any one of us but for the grace of God. She left the salon, introduced herself by telephone to Catherine, and recounted a story that she rarely shared. In , Mary was a young married mother living in one of the new subsidized houses built on the old mother and baby home property. One morning, close to Halloween, a neighbor told her that a boy was running about with a skull on a stick.

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    The boy, Martin, said he had found his prize in the overgrown muck, and there were loads more. What the boy mistook for a plastic toy was actually the skull of a child, with a nearly complete set of teeth. Mary and a couple of neighbors followed the boy through the weeds and rubble, across the soft wet ground. Suddenly, the earth beneath her feet began to give, and down she fell into some cave or tunnel, with just enough light to illuminate the subterranean scene.

    As far as she could see were little bundles stacked one on top of another, like packets in a grocery, each about the size of a large soda bottle and wrapped tight in graying cloth. What had she seen? That very morning, she reached out to a person in town who might know. Soon a stout older woman arrived on a bicycle, her faithful dogs trotting by her side. Julia bent down at the hole and peered in. Mary did not know what to make of this.