SURVIVOR Aughagower man Seosamh Ó Maolchroin carrying the first lantern at the start of the memorial walking relay to the mother and baby home in Tuam from Jack’s Cottage in Islandeady. The walk was held back in November. Pic: Keith Heneghan
Aughagower man Seosamh Ó Maolchroin says action needed if apologies to be meaningful
A SURVIVOR of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home says he will take the apology by the nuns who ran the home with a ‘pinch of salt’ unless something is done for the 796 babies buried in the grounds of the former home.
The Sisters of Bon Secours, who ran the infamous Mother and Baby Home in Tuam from 1925 to 1961, apologised for their part ‘in this sorrowful history’ following the recent publication of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.
The Tuam home became one of the most infamous of the Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland after it emerged that 796 babies had been buried in its septic tank. It was also the home of Aughagower man Seosamh Ó Maolchroin for the first six years of his life, after his mother was sent to the home at the age of 16 to give birth to him in 1952.
Seosamh was finally reunited with his mother in 2003, but the Sisters of Bon Secours were no help to him during the search, and he is not convinced by their apology.
“To be honest I will take that with a pinch of salt. I wrote to them sisters down in Cork and I told them my story and they didn’t have the courtesy to acknowledge my letter. To be honest, apologies is one thing but meanings is another,” he told The Mayo News.
Seosamh said he has very few memories of being in the Tuam home and the only thing which he recalls is up to 20 children around a table waiting to be fed porridge. His mother stayed with him in Tuam until he was a year-and-a-half old, then she was brought to Dublin to work in a laundry.
“I am a survivor and not a victim. I am lucky to have come out of there. Every day I think about my mother and those little babies in Tuam. When she was in Dublin she came down every year on my birthday and brought me a little present.
“I can’t remember exactly but she wanted to take a photo with me outside the orphanage before she went away. The nuns wouldn’t allow her to take a photograph with me but she took one of me on my own beside a statue. She kept that photo before giving it to me after our reunion. It is a treasure for me to have it in my possession. It is the only thing I have of my mother. She was a lovely woman but was treated like a criminal like a number of women, a good number of which came from Mayo.
“She was only 16 and a child really when she was taken away. It has upset me that she is not here to hear all this and I don’t know if she would have accepted this apology for what she went through … but God rest her she is up there, and I pray for her every day.”
Seosamh was 14 before his mother finally signed his adoption papers. When he discovered he was adopted he searched the ‘length and breath of this country’, but all he came up against was ‘a blocked wall’.
At the turn of the millennium, he continued the search with the support of his wife and three children, and, with the help of officials in the Western Health Board, he eventually discovered who his mother was.
“From the day contact was made with her she was open to meeting up and I was delighted with that. I was told from the onset that a few things could go wrong – my mother could be dead, she could be an old woman with no memory and she might not want to know.
“Eventually we had a lovely reunion with her in 2003 and she came to visit my home in Aughagower in 2004. I have a lovely photograph taken at my home with Croagh Patrick in the background with my wife and three children. We kept in touch until she got sick and she died in 2005.
“Unfortunately I didn’t spend a lot of time [with her] before she died, but the one thing she did say to me, when I asked her about the nuns in Tuam, she said there was one good nun but the rest of them were hard – and those were the words she used.
“She held onto that photograph and always thought of me, but if she had her way she would have held onto me. She said something that really stuck with me, that she came down one time and was going to take me, but my hands were behind my back. If that was a drill from the orphanage I don’t know, but she said that if my hand had been down by my side she would have taken it and walked out the gate.
“God love her she went through hard times. It was hard on her that she was taken away from her home at such a young age.”Seosamh said he did not read the report, saying he does not need to read it to know of the ‘horror stories’ that occurred in the home. He added that all the apologies from the State and Church were worthless without action, and that he wants to ensure that the babies buried in Tuam are interred and given a proper memorial.
“The bottom line is it won’t be worth the paper it’s written on unless something is done for the 796 babies buried in that septic tank in Tuam, and across Ireland there is hundreds like it. We don’t want this put on a shelf to gather dust for 20 or 30 years.
“They [religious orders] need to act on it now. That would be my bottom line. I heard a lot of people on about money, but that won’t make a difference to me. The bottom line is these babies [must be] buried in a proper grave and given the proper ceremony they deserve.”