THE IRISH TIMES (Thursday 11th August, 1994)
Gulls hung in the air, their mournful cries carried by the wind and mixed with the prayers, as a plot of land on scenic Connemara shore where hundreds of unbaptised babies had been buried over the last 150 years was blessed yesterday.
At the front of a crowd of more than 50 people who attended the ceremony, Mrs Mary Salmon (80), of Tullybeg, Co Galway, somehow looked all alone as Father Patrick Mullins, of Letterfrack, the Ballinakill parish priest, led the prayers on the little bluff overlooking the Atlantic.
She had staged a one-woman campaign for recognition of the burial site – where two of her twelve children had been buried some 60 years ago – on Renvyle peninsula, a few hundred metres from the Renvyle House Hotel. “I was very lonely for a while,” Mrs Salmon said of her feelings during the 25-minute rite in front of the gravestone she had paid to have put in place. “I was thinking that for years and years the children were there and nothing was done. I am happy about it now. The graveyard is blessed.” The marker, placed at a location where the bluff forms a natural star, reads: ‘In memory of the little children.’
At first glance the windswept bluff, looking out to Inishturk and Clare Islands to the north and overlooked by the Twelve Bens to the east, appears to be covered in a jumble of stones. But closer scrutiny shows the outlines of little graves where grieving parents had interred their children, who could not be buried in consecrated ground because they had not been christened before they died. The first child had been buried there 150 years ago at the time of the Famine. Time has stood still at Sméaróid, as the location is called. Countless tides have rolled in and out since the first baby was laid to rest. But for Mrs Salmon and the other mothers the memories are as fresh as today. Mrs Salmon remembered her husband, Stephen, who died twelve years ago, making two small boxes and carrying them two miles to the burial site. Even then she thought it was wrong. She believed they should have been laid to rest in consecrated land.
“We have prayed for all the dead including the children buried here,” Father Mullins said after the reciting of the Rosary. “We remember the children buried in former times.”
“Lord, we pray that the children will be with you,” he concluded. As the crowd walked back over soggy fields after the ceremony, Mrs Salmon stood with her family – many over from the US for her birthday celebrations last night – and watched them go.
“I was surprised by the number who attended,” she said. “It was a nice ceremony. Now the babies are blessed.”
By Alan Harman.
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