Tuam Babies: The evidence

Tuam Home

My brushes with officialdom on the subject of this scandal in the last 48 hours suggest that many still feel there is little or no evidence to support the claims the Bon Secours nuns buried 796 infants and children in a disused septic tank.

This is wishful thinking. Although the evidence falls far short of what would be required in court it indisputably makes the case for a Garda or state investigation.

1) The testimony of Frannie Hopkins


Seen here standing on the site of the burials Frannie and his friend Barry Sweeney uncovered the grave in 1975. You can listen to his testimony about three minutes into a podcast of my report on Drivetime from 4/6/14. He is credible, has no reason to lie and is supported by other eye witnesses. It suffices to say his evidence proves there are bodies there. But how many and belonging to who?

2) Births, Deaths and Marriages own records.


Asked to retrieve records like the death certificate above for all the deaths that occurred there while the nuns were running it this state agency came up with a list of 796 names. So this figure of 800 dead babies (which incidentally excludes the stillborn) has been generated, and double checked, by an arm of government.

3) How do we know they’re all buried in the septic tank?

We don’t. But local historian Catherine Corless cross checked the list of 796 with Tuam and other local cemeteries. None of the 796 appear on any other list. So some or all are either on the site of the home or they vanished into thin air. Catherine took me through her documents on her kitchen table this afternoon – her interview is about 6 minutes into the podcast.


4) How do we know the burial site was a septic tank?

Look at the south west corner of the site from this 1892 map. You will see a “Sewage Tank” clearly marked in the south west corner of the site.


And now look at it overlaid with a map of present day Tuam.


That is the same site where Frannie Hopkins and Barry Sweeney made their ghastly discovery in 1975.

This does not prove, as some have alleged, that the nuns negligently let children starve to death. But it does establish what some seek to deny – that there is every reason to believe up to 800 bodies could in the literal sense of the word be unceremoniously discarded there.

That is not the view of the Gardaí though. They have set their faces against an investigation without apparently considering any of this evidence. They sent me the following statement this afternoon, even after the government had made its own announcement about a review of the evidence.

Hello Philip.

The grounds in Tuam were being surveyed in 2012 and bones were found, they are historical burials going back to Famine times, there is no suggestion of any impropiety and there is no Garda investigation. Also there is no confirmation from any source that there are between 750 and 800 bodies present.

There was a discovery of famine era bones in the vicinity in 2011 as “The Home” was a workhouse up until the turn of the century. The location of that site is about 100 yards away from the septic tank burial site. So the Gardaí are misinformed on this or have decided to find a reason not to investigate any closer. Because to claim that there is no source confirming the presence of any bodies there is to wilfully ignore myriad evidence in the public domain.

More in the coming days.





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44 responses to “Tuam Babies: The evidence

  1. john p

    there were also bodies found during a dig approx 4 years ago. these bodies were in a different area, but still inside the walls of the ‘home’. archaeologists claimed they were famine victims…

    • Sheelagh Hanly

      I’d say archaeologists would have a good idea by the age of the bones and would be used to doing digs. This country has a lot of burial grounds that are not marked and are there since famine times as has been said. People especially in poor houses were dying so quickly and carried very infectious diseases that they were buried in mass graves with the minimal of paperwork on identities etc. The babies who died un-baptised and miscarried were also buried in mass graves close to homes and hospitals where the babies were born. Very sad that this situation happened on such a large scale but with T.B. being rampant and whole families wiped out as well as other diseases, which back then were not curable, this was what happened. We, as a country should be doing everything we can to ensure that these children are given the dignity of a proper burial place with their identities in so far as is possible and that this kind of thing will never happen again. Hopefully, we won’t have future generations talking about this generation in the terms of having had no respect for human life to the extent that their lives meant nothing.

  2. Seamus Quinn

    Thank you for your work on this terrible story.
    I myself am not one the voices who have complained about the mainstream media not covering this awful subject, I do understand the processes that journalists have to go through to get to a well thought out as well as legally verifiable article.. And so, I definitely praise you for your attention to this horrific story. Please continue your investigation into the real facts of the story, and ultimately into who in particular committed these horrible acts and also who sanctioned them.
    I, myself, am not in any way connected to the area these acts occurred in or know any of the deceased. I merely wanted to support you in your investigation, and want to support the media’s role in helping with any healing which may occur from finding the real truth about these unconscionable crimes.
    One small detail, I couldn’t get the link to Frannie Hopkins’ testimony to work.. and I’m sure you want this strong voice to be heard. Do please post his story again separately if you can.
    Again Philip, thank you for your genuine and informative investigation so far and my heartfelt condolences to all affected by this horribly real tragedy.

  3. Good post and it’s good to see RTE follow up on this story, which was brought to national attention by Alison O’Reilly in the Irish Mail on Sunday. Here is her report from June 2: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2645870/Mass-grave-contains-bodies-800-babies-site-Irish-home-unmarried-mothers.html

  4. Pingback: “There Is No Garda Investigation” | Broadsheet.ie

  5. domy

    1) What is the span of time in wich there were these deaths?
    2) As far as I understand the authorities were aware of these deaths as they know their number, so were’nt they interested or involved in the place of their burial?

  6. Surely it would be a simple enough thing to analyse some of the remains to determine their age, and therefore discount them as Famine-age?
    That said, I don’t see how that should be necessary. I’m no expert but the records alone seem like enough of an indication of something very very wrong at the site.

    • Catherine Corless is distancing herself from the story. Now it appears there was 20 not 800 observed in the pit in 1975. The story has been a media fail.

      • You’re misquoting her. And she is not distancing herself from the facts established a) 796 died while in the nuns care b) Their burial places are unknown c) There’s bodies buried on the site of the home. She is distancing herself from poor reporting which has claimed she has proven the nuns buried 800 in a septic tank.

  7. Pingback: The scandal of Tuam’s #800babies | Daniel Owen

  8. Well Done Philip! Unfortunately your hyperlinks are broken. I would like to reblog.

  9. Declan

    Here’s a link to the archaeological report on the other human remains discovered further away to the NW located just inside the boundary walls and presumed to be of famine date – http://eachtra.ie/index.php/journal/10e0117-toberjarlath-co-galway/

  10. Pingback: Bon Secour – good assistance? #800deadbabies | Breise! Breise! Extra! Extra!

  11. Dave

    One of the many things that bothers me about this case is the fact that they where all dumped in the tank, over a long stretch of time – surely this means that it was opened up every time a new body was to be added to it?

    • Jimmy

      I had thought the same thing. It seems implausible. The site of the ‘Home’ is now a housing estate with the burial ground surrounded by houses.To me it seems more likely that during the construction of the housing estate all the bones that were put into the septic tank by the contractor.

    • I thought the same thing. It seems unlikely. The site of the ‘Home’ is now a housing estate and the burial ground is surrounded by houses.It seems plausible that during construction of the estate that the bones were put in the septic tank by the contractors as the area was bound to have been disturbed during construction.

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  14. Reblogged this on Breise! Breise! Extra! Extra! and commented:
    Great article about #Tuambabies with facts

  15. Thanks for exposing the facts. I’ll stay following and hope that justice will be done.

  16. This and the podcast are the most competent and clear reports so far. There is question of wrongdoing which was not explored. The discovery was made in 1975. A priest prayed over it, someone worked on repairing the tank’s covers, someone decided not to investigate, officials – possibly Gardaí – have kept this quiet for nearly 4 decades. Have those who put this under wraps committed an offence? This too needs to be investigated.

  17. Stephen Magee

    Thank you for this work and it needs to be continued. The Gardai response to this is sadly predictable. There are any number of these unmarked graves in similar circumstances throughout the country, they are whispered about, still kept under wraps.The Gardai don’t want to know because of the workload involved. It is a massive can of worms, the Irish holocaust, for the gas chamber insert the septic tank. I applaud your invaluable work on this, you should be very proud. Sincerely, well done, and please, pursue it as far as you can. Steve

  18. Susan Murray

    Please keep the pressure up on this story. Chilling to think that Gardai wont consider investigating the circumstances surrounding the dumping of tiny babies into a mass grave. Our dark past looms once again. I am following your reports and hoping that public pressure will ensure that we find our what happened to these abandoned souls. Please continue to do what you can to keep this story alive. Praise to Catherine for her tireless work. God knows how many other mass graves exist in similar institutions. This story is gaining traction around the world and is being reported widely. Government are distracted by election fallout, but the fate of these children, and how we as a Society respond holds a mirror up to who we are as a nation. We shouldn’t fail them as they were so callously failed by nuns discarding them to a dark tomb in a septic tank. Susan.

  19. john lynch

    I’ve looked at the Historic 25″ map on OSI public viewer. That feature is shown, but it does’nt have the annotation ‘Sewerage Tank’.
    Let’s assume that the building was by now served by mains sewage.

    It could have been 30 – 40 years since there was a ‘Sewerage Tank’ in actual use, by the time the nuns arrived. What happened next, we will have to wait and see.

    I attended funerals as a child where old coffins, bones etc were taken out of tombs and graves to allow a new burial and replaced before filling in the grave again. In this fastidious age this would look a ghoulish – back then it was normal – a reminder of human mortality.
    Possibly this tank was used as a tomb.

    As for the numbers, 796 recorded over 40 years does’nt sound excessive. Infant mortality was enormous before penicillin arrived in the late 40’s.

  20. john lynch

    On mature reflection – were burials in a disused tank or on the site of that tank? The area shown in press photos looks like a large back garden – possibly 400 sq m – much bigger than an a tank would have been.

  21. Neel

    It is really a shame, enormous shame for the catholic church. None other religion is guilty for the death of millions oh people, but the catholic church, Starting from the time they got grip on power, the murders of any opponent, even if only considered such, started. This church should be prohibited.

  22. Pingback: Tuam Babies: The evidence | disillusioned marxist

  23. Reblogged this on milesnagopaleen and commented:
    Philip Boucher-Hayes reports on the Tuam Babies case. Here are the stark facts, devoid of any speculation, as known at 4th June 2014.

  24. Vinnie Nauheimer

    Magdalene’s Martyrs: Invisible Victims
    By Vinnie Nauheimer

    Tell me tender babe dug up from this mass grave
    Did they give you a name your mother could save?
    Although, to your existence, the world was blind
    In some mother’s mind is your memory still enshrined?

    Did they throw you without ceremony into this ditch?
    Was the Mother Superior a black-hearted witch?
    Did you mum weep as your existence they did erase
    Tossing your lifeless body here, no marker for your place?

    Did your birth, your very existence, the nuns detest?
    Were you given a chance to suckle at your mother’s breast?
    Did you, just for a while, get to share mum’s bed,
    Feel her warmth, her love, a place to rest your head?

    Did she whisper of her dreams for you doing well?
    Offer prayers that you might escape the fate she befell?
    Ask the Virgin how you both landed in this hell;
    Slaves in a laundry where humanity bid farewell?

    Wee one at the moment of your birth was the Banshee
    Let loose to cut your mortal coil and set you free?
    If your little bones could talk, what would they tell me?
    Would they talk of hunger, disease, and anger felt by thee?

    Tell me, did you meet your mother outside her womb
    Before this laundry’s mass grave became your tomb.
    Was she a lovely young lass bright as the rising sun
    Or down-trodden, broken and vexed by some nun?

    Did she come to this place through no fault of her own;
    Raped by a man who had some seed he wanted sown?
    Maybe enticed to seek a few moments of pleasure
    For which, the rest of her life demanded their measure!

    Who shall be held accountable for your untimely death?
    Who deserves to be cursed with your last dying breath?
    The State is as guilty as the Church in this heinous matter
    Know, any evidence they can, they’ll squash and scatter

    Those who enriched themselves and turned a blind eye;
    While abused young women watched their babies die.
    Why aren’t their faces spread across the global front page
    Who smothers the story, hides the shame, prevents the rage?

    Dear babe, now bare bones and soul that once was alive
    You and the multitude hidden here had no chance to survive
    Yet another blot on a church whose core’s has turned rotten
    I swear by god, now that you’ve been found, you won’t be forgotten!

  25. @Croiteir

    There is more here than meets the eye. The well known phenomena of orphanage children dying far in excess than the general population as well as what resources were available? Did the orphanage get proper funding? Did they get proper facilities, what did the state do in respect of these children? In 1935 a spokesman for the Mayo Board of Health said that “Tuam is one of the best managed institutions I have seen in the country”. Corless also quotes a travel writer who wrote in the 1950s: “The grounds were well kept and had many flower beds. The Home is run by the Sisters of the Bon Secours of Paris and the Reverend Mother showed me around… The whole building was fresh and clean.”

  26. Pingback: Children’s bones; babies’ bodies – the undying shame of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland | Last Days News4Christians

  27. In fairness the infant mortality rate in Ireland during these years was the worst in Europe with Tuberculosis being rife. Still, the church were paid to “Care” for these mothers and babies from the Dept of Education, by selling the babies, from the parents in some cases and from the slave labour they received from the mothers. For a baby to have died of malnutrition when the funds were available to meet their needs, surely constitutes neglect? As newborns are usually fed by their mothers in the first few months of life, how is it possible for a baby to die of malnutrition?

    There is also a bigger issue here which is being lost in the witch hunt;

    “Do babies of unwed mothers go to heaven when they die?”

    You would think that in a church which teaches that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder, would bury any innocent baby, too young to be guilty of Sin, with the utmost respect, and on consecrated ground? Apparently babies of unwed mothers, even if they are rape victims, go to some magical place called Limbo, a place so secret that it is not even mentioned in the bible? St Augustine said that these babies and also stillborn babies go to Hell I believe in the 5th century which explains the invention of Limbo.

    I was expecting Bishop Diarmud Martin to do some damage control and go to Tuam with his crucifix and holy water and consecrate the ground immediately to let these babies out of Limbo, but rules are rules. There are many other stillborn babies that were not allowed a decent burial that were buried on the margins of catholic cemeteries or in non-denominational “Angels Plot” like Glasnevin, with 50,000 currently buried there.

  28. john lynch

    Why are’nt the local authority councillors and national poltitcians of that era being named? Afraid? Old nuns are’nt going to put up much of a fight.

    • Antony Stack

      The repugnance which the liberal media has for the Catholic Church is worth analysing. Liberals fancy themselves as altruistic, but like to be paid as well (well paid also). They also like power and prestige.

      The Church occupied a lot of that space – altruistic,prestigious and powerful. This was hugely resented by the following generation . Careers were built on this resentment. The liberals have worn down the Church by raking over their record for faults. They do’nt have a record – it’s all a promise. When I was young, I heard it predicted that when the Church was gone the country would collapse. We are getting there.

  29. Pingback: “That was then, this is now” | Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland

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  31. J Cunningham

    You have included above a map of Tuam Workhouse overlaid with a modern map. Among the features marked are cesspits/tunnels. According to official reports from the 1840s, workhouse cesspits or cesspools were built with stone, were six feet deep and were capped with an arched or domed cover made of brick or stone, with a manhole at its centre. Perhaps those were the type of structures that at least some of the people you spoke to had fallen into? I have written a little about workhouse drainage and sewerage here: http://cnnnfm.wordpress.com

  32. Reblogged this on IT'S YOUR LIFE and commented:
    An Investigation… and an independant one funded entirely by the Catholic Church and not by the taxpayers must be undertaken. Otherwise there are only allegations and the denial by the Catholic Bishops and the deflection of blame onto the unwed mothers. There are only allegations of Satanic Ritual Murder and dismemberment and decapitation circulating on the internet. The reluctance by the Gardai to do their job is what perpetuates conspiracy theories about what went on there. How will the Gardai step up? When people come together and demand that they do. Witnesses are coming forward publicly to describe what they know about the burial of children throughout Ireland and abuses suffered by them. This is the story that is being denied but can no longer be silenced. But the story must be tempered with facts and not hysteria or else it will be doomed to be buried along with those children.

  33. Just watched Vincent Browne and I feel very provoked to get involved with this,, This is Not a Tragedy, It is Criminality at its finest!
    Going to look at all the evidence and go from there//

  34. Pingback: Once Again Words Are Not Enough - the Tuam Babies

  35. Pingback: Considering the Burial ground – Tuam Babies | Kettle on the Range

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