Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Tuam Spirit Babies - The Dangerous Dead

Now that a preliminary excavation of the 'Home' site burial ground is underway, a few questions have arisen.

Firstly, is it standard practice that whoever's carrying out such a delicate operation is anonymous? 
Will this job be done properly?
Why just a preliminary excavation given all the anecdotal evidence which more than suggests a full examination is required? 

Some very interesting aspects have arisen from other excavations, most notably as recounted by the foremost archaeologist and anthropologist Toni Macguire who specialises in this subject and is best known for her work at Milltown cemetery in Belfast.

Extract from the Irish Examiner - To the grave 2012
“A cillin was any area of ground used for unconsecrated burials, which came under various categories,” she says. “This included executed criminals, truce breakers, suicides, mothers who died in childbirth but haven’t been churched, strangers whose religion might not be known, and, by far the largest category, unbaptised babies. There were probably regional differences; for example, in some places it was believed that if a first child died and was buried in a cillin, then the other children would be spared the same fate...”

Ms Maguire says there was trepidation about these unsettled souls. “I refer to them as the dangerous dead, particularly the adult burials,” she says. “Boundaries were considered important routes into the underworld and we often find cillinĂ­ associated with boundaries, such as running water. more.

It is no small thing to undertake this excavation. Now that the ground is open for inspection, all sorts could be revealed. The 'dangerous dead' potentially hold a lot of information. At a site in Dublin where the skeletal remains of women (almost two hundred former laundry workers) were found with plaster casts on their ankles and wrists, there are questions, largely unanswered, as to how so many of them could have acquired the casts in the first place. 

What will be revealed here and how much of it will we be allowed to know? #Tuamspiritbabies

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