Behind the quay at Ross Point, overlooking Broad Haven (on the north Mayo coastline) is a plaque. It marks a old graveyard for unbaptised children (their actual burial spots are marked by flat stones, of which few remain). It's hard to believe now that stillborn children, or those who died before they were baptised) were denied a Christian burial by the Catholic church. The children were buried here as it it were an act of shame, sometimes at night, with no prayers, no congregation or gestures of support. Only the rhythmic sound of the North Atlantic, washing against the sandy inlet of Broad Haven, hastened their journey to the afterlife. According to the Church, an unbaptised child spent eternity in limbo, which was not quite purgatory, not quite hell, but certainly not heaven; the punishment for not living long enough to be baptised. The relatives left behind suffered their own kind of purgatory.
The Dooncarton stone circle (from pre-Christian times) overlooks the grave and the bay. It represented a culture with very simple beliefs; the rising of the sun and the fall of the tide encompassed the belief system of the circle- builders; just like the tide and the sun, there is a continuous cycle of birth, death and renewal. Perhaps they too considered the stillborn as somehow undead. Perhaps they saw them as merely dead.
The plaque on the grave at least represents some progress – an acknowledgement by the Chrch of life, death and suffering that was previously ignored. But the quote on the plaque is a searing indictment of those who would claim to speak for the author of those words. It speaks of a simple love of children, a love that was too-often forgotten by the Church. The suffering of children at the hands of clerics is well-recorded. Even in Ireland, the full truth is still a distant hill to be climbed. The children in the graveyard died young, and were punished for it. Many other children who lived longer suffered from the misdeeds of clerics, who, for the most part, were protected by the Church.
Created by: Janice Klafehn
Record added: Nov 25, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 16785101