Campaigner succeeds in erecting memorial to ploughed infants graveyard

Limerick Diocese sold plot in 1979, prior to 'inhumane' disturbance

Catholic Church, child safety, improvements, NBSCCCI, safeguarding, orders, congregations

The graveyard at the Bessborough Centre in Blackrock, Cork - formerly Bessborough House mother and baby home | Image:

A graveyard which was sold by the Catholic Church resulted in the land being ploughed up and babies' graves disturbed.

Now, a memorial was unveiled this week for babies whose final resting place was disturbed when the Diocese of Limerick sold plots in the area known as the Innocent’s Plot for adult graves.

Phil and Paul Walsh lost their baby, William, when when he was delivered close to six months into Phil’s pregnancy in December 1971.

"They just planted them in the verges or if there was a funeral they would slip a coffin," Phil told Newstalk Lunchtime.

"We were absolutely shocked at the inhumanity of it, the children were left there in good faith, and they just ploughed them up," she added.

The couple made inquiries and a gravedigger confirmed the bodies of the babies, who were stillborn or who died before birth, had been moved to make way for adult graves and 'buried down deep'.

There were no records of how many babies were buried in the plot, but Bishop Brendan Leahy began an inquiry which confirmed that the diocese had sold the section of the burial grounds. Now a memorial plaque, commissioned by the diocese, has been placed near the location of the plot.


Bishop Brendan Leahy was unavailable when contacted by Newstalk Lunchtime.

A spokesperson for Limerick City Council, who have responsibility for Mount Saint Lawrence Cemetery, told Newstalk Lunchtime that their understanding of the practice of burying stillborn babies prior to the Council assuming responsibility was that the family would take the remains of the baby to the cemetery, where a caretaker or gravedigger would bury the remains, there were no records of many of these kept. 

If a white box, or the remains of a stillborn baby were discovered while preparing a new or separate grave, the remains were then reinterred in the immediate vicinity.

There are no records of the specific location where such remains were reinterred

Since the Council took control of the cemetery, the remains would be buried in the family plot, with a grandparent for example. The spokesperson also said that in some cases the HSE arrange for the remains to be interred in Castlemungret Cemetery, where a dedicated plot exists.