Tipperary's shame: 1,090 children died in Sean Ross Abbey

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Tipperary's shame: 1,090 children died in Sean Ross Abbey

Tipperary's shame: 1,090 children died in Sean Ross Abbey

Of all the figures and statistics released in the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes Report, the saddest and shocking is the number of child deaths in Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea.

Run by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a total of 1,090 deaths were recorded from the day it opened in 1931 to the day it closed in 1969. A total of 6,079 children were born in or admitted to Sean Ross.

Even in its first year, the numbers were horrific with close to 31% of babies dying. The highest number of deaths came at almost 50% in 1936. Records show that most infant and child deaths (79%) occurred between 1932 and 1947. Mortality peaked between 1936 and 1942 when 95 and 82 deaths were recorded respectively.

The 1930s was the worst decade for deaths in Sean Ross and accounted for 42.5% of all infant and child mortality in the institution.

Over 39.5% of mortality occurred in the 1940s; 12% in the 1950s and 6% occurred in the 1960s.

Sean Ross also took in private patients and while these made up 11.2% of admissions, they accounted for just 2% of child deaths. The majority of private patients were admitted in the 1960s when mortality rates were considerably lower than previous decades.

The figures show that 1,061 children died in the home, with the next highest, 63, dying in a hospital setting, mainly Roscrea District Hospital.

The institutional records show that almost 95% of deaths occurred in infants as follows: perinatal, 12.91%; neonatal, 13.85% and infancy, 68.05%. The remaining 5% of deaths occurred in early childhood.

While some deaths were linked to childhood illnesses and other illnesses prevalent at the time, most deaths (15.5%) were medically certified as being due to respiratory infections, mainly pneumonia, bronchitis and atelectasis; 13.3% were assigned to non-specific causes such as congenital debility, prematurity and delicate/weak from birth; 13% were attributed to generalised infections such as toxaemia, sepsis and septicaemia; 12% were due to gastroenteritis, gastritis and epidemic enteritis/diarrhoea; 8.1% were assigned to malabsorption - mainly marasmus; 8% to influenza; 7.5% to asphyxia pallida, pyloric stenosis and a range of mostly one off causes such as pertussis, chickenpox, jaundice, heatstroke and sunstroke; 7.2% were due to diphtheria; 4.5% to congenital heart disease; 3.2% to convulsions; 3% to haemorrhage, mainly intercranial; 1.6% to spina bifida; 1.6% to tuberculosis; 0.75% to congenital syphilis and 0.75% to meningitis.

Some 7% of children died unaccompanied by a parent.

While deaths among infants was high, the rate among mothers was low, with 37 maternal deaths recorded. Some of these were linked to conditions developed during pregnancy while others were due to typhoid and TB, sometimes brought in from the local fever hospital.

A staggering 6.6% of admissions were among girls aged between 12 and 16 years, mere children themselves at the time of their pregnancies. Most women (87.5%) were aged between 17 and 30 years on admission.