Survivors ‘did the impossible’ by finding graves at  mother and baby homes

There was not even a flower petal left to mark the graves of the hundreds of children who died in the Protestant mother and baby homes.

That’s why members of the Bethany Survivors Group felt they had “achieved the impossible” when they found them.

They stood in silence in a graveyard Dublin yesterday as a new memorial bearing the names of more than 70 babies and children who died in the Bethany Mother and Baby Home was unveiled.

The memorial included the name of Edith Galbraith, who died in 1927 after giving birth to her daughter, Ruth, in the Bethany Home in Dublin, Sadly, Ruth died five weeks later.

 

Edith’s spirit is looking after the “little ones”, said the founder of the group, Derek Leinster.

“It was not just children and babies who died in the Bethany Home — they were also young girls and mothers who paid a terrible price and we wanted the stone to represent them as well,” he said.

The remembrance service took place in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harold Cross and afterwards a bagpiper led survivors and supporters to the new memorial.

Survivors also remembered the children from four newly recovered Protestant homes — Miss Smiley’s, Miss Carr’s, Magdalene Asylum, and Irish Church Missions.

Sheila O’Byrne, who was in St Patrick’s mother and baby home, at the ceremony with Sinn Féin TD Denise Mitchell. The headstone was organised by the Bethany Home Survivors Group.
Sheila O’Byrne, who was in St Patrick’s mother and baby home, at the ceremony with Sinn Féin TD Denise Mitchell. The headstone was organised by the Bethany Home Survivors Group.

“I have put up a granite polished stone at the back of the original Bethany Home memorial and on it are names of the 169 children from Protestant homes to make sure they’re not forgotten,” said Mr Leinster.

Most of the children are buried in Mount Jerome but a number are also buried in Deans Grange Cemetery in Dublin.

Mr Leinster was born in the Bethany Home in Rathgar in 1941 and moved to Britain when he was 18 years old after spending his teenage years in a foster home in Ireland.

He started campaigning in 1998 to get redress for the survivors. He said their research continued to unearth the names of babies who attended the home.

“Many years ago, we promised to faithfully remember all those who died in the Bethany Home and all our friends and fellow survivors who have passed away,” said Mr Leinster.

 

He has been researching the Protestant mother and baby homes for most of his life but only recently came across four more Protestant homes.

He said most of the survivors had died and he was determined that all of the children are remembered.

“Not only have we got the death certificates but we know how they died and where they died and we also know where they are buried,” he said.

During the ceremony, a white dove was released to “symbolise the souls of the innocent freed from the injustice of this world”.

Mr Leinster said they have achieved “the impossible” in finding the children.

“There was not even a flower petal to lead us to them,” he said.

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