In 1975, 12-year-old boys Barry Sweeney and Francis Hopkins were outside of an old Irish home for unwed mothers when they made a gruesome discovery.
"It was a concrete slab and we used to play there, but there was
something hollow underneath it, so we decided to bust it open, and it
was full to the brim with skeletons," Sweeney told Daily Mail.
The slab is believed to be covering the septic tank of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home, also known as St. Mary's Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, a town in County Galway. You'd think that some kind of investigation would have been launched right then and there, since they were the skeletons of children, but it didn't cause much of a stir back then.
The home run by the Bon Secours Sisters, a Catholic order of nuns, housed unmarried mothers and their children between 1925 and 1961. It is now a private housing estate, but the tank remains.
In 2014, historian and genealogist Catherine Corless published an article with her research about the babies and young children who died at the home.
She found that there were 796 children's death certificates, but after finding no records of where they were buried, she believed it was very likely that they were laid to rest in the mass grave.
Mothers were forcibly separated from their children at this place, and the conditions were said to be horrific. Toddlers and infants alike were emaciated and badly neglected. Many died from measles, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and gastroenteritis.
Corless was appalled that even after reporting her findings, most of the Tuam media didn't cover the story -- that is, until a relative of William Joseph Dolan, one of the deceased children, filed a complaint with the police.
An official investigation was launched after Corless found that some of the death certificates were missing. She has also established the Children's Home Graveyard Committee to set up a memorial for the children.
The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, which was set up in July 2016, has ordered that the site be excavated. This began in October and is expected to last for about five weeks.
Nobody knows exactly how many bodies are inside the tank, but hopefully this work will finally give the mothers who lost their children some much-needed closure.