'We knew our babies would be sold to the highest bidder' - Irish woman tells of son 'left to die' in mother and baby home

'We knew our babies would be sold to the highest bidder' - Irish woman tells of son 'left to die' in mother and baby home

AN IRISH woman based in London has spoken of how a Mother and Baby Home in Ireland 'left her son to die'.

Bridget, now in her 70s, was speaking to Joe Duffy on RTÉ's Liveline yesterday, March 7 when she told of her experience at Bessborough Home in Blackrock, Co. Cork.

Bridget had discovered she was pregnant at 17 in 1960 and had come to work in London, when out of desperation, she told a priest in a confessional box that she was pregnant.

He sent her to the Crusade of Rescue in south London and from there she was sent home to Ireland.

"I was told I had to go back to Ireland to have my baby," she said. "Now I realise of course I need not have, if I knew how things worked I could have stayed here and still had my baby."

Bridget was sent by boat to Cork where she was met by a man with a car and taken to the home.

"I was doing everything I was told to do, I arrived in Bessborough like thousands of other girls, I didn't know what was ahead and straight away, you could feel the horror of it.

"My clothes were taken, my handbag, coat, everything personal that was belong to you was taken. I was given shoes and a uniform."

Bridget arrived at the home in August and her baby boy, William, was born in late October.

"I had a beautiful little boy there. He was born 7lbs 11. They were delighted it as a boy, a boy was easier to get rid of.

"It was a battle [to name him William] they said that it was an English Protestant name, and to call him Gerard.

"Gerard would be easier to sell. I was told before he was born that they chose the name of the baby so that they could be sold to a Catholic family.

'On his birth cert it said Gerard but on his death cert it said William - because without a baby, Gerard would be of no further use," she said.

However, after a few days of feeding, both Bridget and William became ill and the baby was unable to feed.

"Bessborough knew that my baby was desperately ill, that I was desperately ill. I was dragging my foot around for weeks but they wouldn't take any notice."

After 19 days of illness, William was taken to St Finbarr's Hospital in Cork where he lived for a further 19 days.

Bridget was discharged from the home shortly after the death of her baby and she returned to London.

While Bridget went on to have a family it wasn't until her daughter, by chance, moved to Cork to a house overlooking the Angel Plot at Bessborough Home - where Bridget's first son William was buried.

"I used to go to Ireland and visit Bessborough secretly even though I didn't know where my baby was buried.

"As a result of one of these visits I broke down in my daughter's house and for the first time I told her my baby was buried in Bessborough."

On the encouragement from her daughter, Bridget went back to the home and asked to be shown where her son was buried.

"I was told he was buried in the Angel's Plot. They took me to show me and actually tapped on the ground where my baby was buried but later admitted they didn't know where my baby was buried."

Bridget said it was a been a "terrible ordeal" for her whole life, as her son could have been saved.

"This little boy, he could be saved, he was a fighter and a beautiful healthy little boy who could have been saved but he was just left there to die."

Now, 58 years later, Bridget has spoken out on behalf of those mothers who don't have a voice.

"I'm speaking for other mothers who have died and haven't made it out of Bessborough, and the babies, who have not made it out of Bessborough.

"I had plans to have my baby on the underground in London, because you were desperate and I'm sure I'm not the only Irish girl who was desperate and in complete fear, but of course, we were just sitting ducks for the people who wanted our babies.

"I still haven't got over it, I will die with the pain and the injustice, how dare they treat young, vulnerable women. Our first born was agony, there was no joy in it.

"We knew our babies would be taken away and sold to the highest bidder."

Last week 'significant quantities’ of human remains were found at the site of a former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co. Galway. 

If you were in a mother and baby home and want to share your story please contact Erica at The Irish Post on 0208 900 4354, [email protected] or send a letter to Erica Doyle Higgins, c/o The Irish Post, 88 Fenchurch Street, London, EC3M 4BY.