RESEARCH relating to the County Nursery in Kilrush has found that 261 children, under the age of nine, died there between 1922 and 1932.
Historian Paddy Waldron told The Clare Champion that married mothers with children also lived at the home, which predominantly housed unmarried mothers and their children.
“It was set up as one of the first things that the Sinn Féin authorities did before the Treaty and as soon as they closed the workhouses down. We have 266 recorded deaths, of which five were mothers and 261 were children under the age of nine.
“The information came from the civil records of deaths, which were put online, free of charge, last September.
“I had been planning to go through them but I got a volunteer in Australia, who was doing his own family research. He went through all of the Kilrush deaths of children under the age of 10,” Mr Waldron explained, adding that these figures have not been compiled and made public prior to this.
However, Mr Waldron is unsure where the children who died at the Country Nursery are buried.
“I don’t know where they are buried. There are rumours but no facts. I just have no idea. Maybe they are in Shanakyle, which would have been a local cemetery at the time. There is no reason for them to be on unconsecrated ground because the majority of them were old enough to be baptised.
“Also, I think there are probably more mothers who died there, that just haven’t been picked up. It’s not easy to go through the records page by page. It’s easier to go through the indexes and I think that’s what my assistant did. He went through the indexes looking for deaths of children.”
While most of the children and mothers who died at the County Nursery were likely to be from Clare, Mr Waldron is not certain that all of them originated in the county.
“I want to do more research on the causes of death and on the geographical origins of the mothers and children, which are mentioned on some of the records but not on all of them. It was the County Nursery and women from all over the county were sent there. There is also evidence that it was not just for unmarried mothers and that it was as much a refuge for deserted wives and children. I have come across stories of women with several children going in there, when their husbands abandoned or abused them,” he revealed.
By Owen Ryan