Recognition for the mothers and babies from the County Clare Nursery in the form of a fitting memorial is needed in the town of Kilrush.
Records indicate that between 300 to 400 women lived at the Nursery from 1922 to 1932 with considerably more children. Baptismal records suggest 330 children were born there during this period while 168 infants died in this time.
Rita McCarthy has been researching this particular Mother & Baby Home since 2009. “Dreadful” conditions and lack of proper food led to the high death rate, she stated. “The water was running down the walls. There was no sanitary conditions, there was no hot water, there was no cold water, there was nothing, these people were living in the most unbelievably primitive conditions, it is not enough to say this was because of its time, even in its time councillors were going along and paying lip service saying it was a disgrace”.
An example of the conditions cited by Rita include women doing laundry while water was up to their ankles in the cold of winter.
In a memo written to the Minister for Local Government and Health in 1924 by Dr Counihan asked for the rations to be increased. This was initially agreed to and then questioned with the Board of Health asking for the rations to be reduced.
As one of the main contributors to the chapter on Kilrush in the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, the historian admitted that the topic has become an obsession. She told The Clare Echo that a fitting memorial is needed in the West Clare town for the mothers and babies. “I feel very strongly that these women and all their children deserve some recognition. There must be some memorial for the women and children. We need to remember at least look and say this happened in our town behind the gates of the Workhouse and these were the conditions the people were in”.
The absence of fathers is highlighted, many of whom were allowed walk away while the women took the shame and blame. Abandoned children who were without a name were sometimes given a name such as ‘Hill’ for a child was found on a hill, noting the location in which they were found.
“There are several reports where they acknowledged the conditions certainly some doctors and matrons were looking to improve food and conditions. There are people who knew it was happening and did nothing,” she noted.