Kevin Doyle Blog

Writing and activism

Bessborough “In Remembrance …”

with 11 comments

Bessborough (Cork) was the largest of the mother-and-baby homes that operated in Ireland – the others being at Tuam and Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea.

Women who gave birth at the notorious Bessborough mother-and-baby home in Cork were not allowed pain relief during labour or stitches after birth, and when they developed abscesses from breast-feeding they were denied penicillin.

 One nun who ran the labour ward in 1951 also forbid any “moaning or screaming” during childbirth.

 The infant mortality rate at Bessborough in the 1940s was close to 55pc with 100 babies out of 180 dying in the space of just 12 months.

Helen Murphy was also born at Bessborough. “We founded the Bessborough Mother and Baby Support Group as an outlet for all those whose lives were affected by this place,” she said. “The purpose of it is to remember the people who were there and especially the babies who died.”

One campaigner, John Barrett (61), who was born in Bessborough, said he feared that anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 babies could be buried at the Blackrock facility, most in unmarked graves.

Ms Goulding’s book is heartbreaking, revealing how many of the girls cried themselves to sleep every night. Only those from moneyed families who could afford to pay £100 were allowed to leave after 10 days, but many had nowhere to got. June Goulding, The Light in the Window.

  The girls who could not make donations to the Sacred Heart order would have to spend three years after their babies were born cleaning and working on the lands around the home to “make amends” for their pregnancy and their children were usually taken from them and given up for adoption or sent to orphanages.


 “Where are they, who are they and why? We gave life and those innocent lives were taken and we don’t know where they are.” [quote from Marion Kelly].


Written by Kevin Doyle

June 13, 2014 at 3:38 pm

11 Responses

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  1. another indictment of this savage corrupt unequal so called republic of Ireland.

    Ger Mccloskey

    June 16, 2014 at 10:00 am

  2. Excellent account, Kevin. Thank you.

    Helen Murphy

    August 17, 2014 at 9:55 am

  3. No wonder Michael Hess and others had a dark side to their life. My brother did. It was different than Michael’s but none the less dark. Just what all did they witness?


    August 17, 2014 at 10:29 am

  4. These of us who had the misfortune of enduring 3 horrendous days in the labour ward in Bessborough. The nun got some kind of pleasure hearing the Girls screams with pain,it was during the screams, then the verbal abuse started. Sick sycophants.

    Madel Eine

    August 17, 2014 at 12:03 pm

  5. My Great Aunt was sent to Bessborough House in Cork in 1939 and gave birth to a baby girl. One morning my Aunt was woken and told that her daughter had died during the night, so she never saw her daughter again. Luckily my Grandmother had a fantastic employer and she was able to buy my Aunt (her sister) out. I was then born in a Catholic Mother and Baby home 30 years later and when I was old enough, she told me how heart broken she was about the whole thing and how she never felt they told her the truth. I have tried to get information about my Aunt’s “stay” there but I seem to constantly hit brick walls. If anyone can point me in the right direction I would appreciate it. My Aunt died last October at the age of 93 and I would like to find the truth of it all.


    September 5, 2014 at 8:35 am

    • HI Kari. Terrible! What can one say? Will ask around with the few contacts that I have about what you might do. K


      September 6, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      • Hi Kari. If you send me on your email I’ll pass on contact detailst to you. Tks Kevin. You can send to kfd at


        September 8, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      • Thanks Kevin, I have sent you an email, apologies for the delay but I have been away with work.


        September 16, 2014 at 8:25 am

  6. hello,i was born here in bessbourgh,,,I met my birth mum and she was forced to give me up.she told me .I am sadden by what I read she went through.i didn’t understand when I met her but I felt her pain.i to have pain for losing her ,I just want to know if I could get in contact with those llike me who were born there .I would like to visit there I live in Dublin .its just people don’t understand those of us who were taken from our mums .I would like to know if there is any groups that are tied into this evil place ,

    brian dineen

    October 17, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    • Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your message. It harrowing to read what you have to say. There is a contact group/ name that I know have and they have done quite a lot of work regarding Bessborough. I’ll email the contact name to you tomorrow at your email if that is okay.


      October 18, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      • ye ,,thanks that would really be great …I could say a lot .especially about my own life .I found out I was adopted at 12 from afreind ,my adopted family never wanted me after they had their own kids ..what I went throught ,I hoped my birth mother would have accepted me back into her life .but all erfamily and friends knew about me .she had another child after she left cork in Dublin and he found me and told me were my biorth mum came from,,i went home and was taken aback that no sooner than half an hour in the villege I was known .the only one who didn’t know about me was my births mums husband and kids .when he relsied she lied to him I understand his anger .so my birth mum made mistake ,,,I lost my chance of going home .I could have but never did , I met my uncle and grand ma and those who knew about me all those years .it broke my heart ,to be rejected by u mum what I thougt as I was told and to be rejected by your adopted family .I wonder ,,,,I know more about people I have met than I do myself ,not knowing the person u are .

        I just need to understand not form what I experienced but to meet others in my shoes so to speak .

        people I know don’t and never will understand , so I am tired of trying to explain to them ..just to be able to meet people who do is my only wish left …just to be able to chat with them not about my personal stuff but to meet people like me who love life and wish to see what happened never happen again .I don’t think the future should suffer those of the past ,,but the present if full of pain .

        brian dineen

        October 18, 2015 at 10:35 pm

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