Their ribbons rustling in the brisk westerly breeze, a half dozen bouquets marked a black memorial plaque close to a children’s playground in Tuam, Co Galway, yesterday morning.
“There’s always someone coming to pay respects,” said Dublin Road Estate resident John Lowe, “and not just now.”
For almost 45 years, Mr Lowe said, neighbours in the estates built on the site of the mother and babies institution had tended a children’s burial site.
“Long before all this became national and international news, we made sure those children were remembered,”he said.
“No one else, not the church or the council, was that interested,” added Mr Lowe, clearly upset at media coverage.
Almost 84-years-old and from Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, Mr Lowe moved into what was then a new house in 1972.
He worked in Galway but had many Tuam sugar factory workers among his neighbours.
“In the mid-1970s, local kids found skeletons and bones near an old septic tank and it was covered over by the council with slabs,” he said.
“But we knew they were children from the home, and families like the Doorleys and Mullins tended that grave site all the time.”
He continued: “When Catherine Corless started her research, we formed a committee with her and raised money for the certificates she acquired from the local authority,” he said.
Mr Lowe said money was raised to erect a series of brass plaques “with the names of all these children” on the original workhouse wall.
Donations“The Bon Secours order and Tuam town council gave donations to it,” he said. “I’d still hope we can erect it, but we have been told we can’t go on site while the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes continues its work.”
The Tuam Babies Home committee, of which Mr Lowe is a member, has been assured it will be consulted about the next stage – whether remains are to be exhumed or left where they lie. Identification could prove almost impossible, he believes.
At several packed morning Masses in Tuam cathedral, parishioners heard Archbishop of Tuam Dr Michael Neary express his horror at the extent of deaths associated with the home.
Few were willing to comment publicly afterwards, with opinion divided among the congregation as to whether children’s bodies had been deliberately or accidentally disposed of in a decommissioned septic tank and a series of 17 chambers which may have been designed for sewage.
Several parishioners said far more information was required.
In Galway city, former home resident Peter Mulryan broke down at a memorial event for women and children who had been in the Magdalen laundries.
Mr Mulryan has taken a High Court action, seeking information about a baby sister he never knew from Tusla, the child and family agency.
The case is listed again for today.