Catherine and Aidan Corless with Valerie Jennings, head of the organising committee of A Little Light of Love. PHOTO: ALISON LAREDO

Emotionally charged Mayo tribute to Tuam babies sends out a strong message

Over 2,000 people attended the vigil, 'A Little Light of Love', at Lough Lannagh in Castlebar last night in memory of all the children who died in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home from 1925 to 1961.

The names of the 796 children, for whom there are no burial records, were read out during a two-kilometre memorial walk around the lakeside as a concert filled with inspirational music was performed on site by the Mayo Concert Orchestra and the local Chapel Street Gospel Choir, led by musical director Kathy Fahey.

Tuam historian Catherine Corless, whose dedicated and relentless work uncovered the burial of infants in chambers at the mother and baby home, said she was overwhelmed by the commemoration and praised the efforts of the organisers.

"It has surpassed all expectations, a wonderful and fitting tribute to all the children who died in the institution.

"It is the first time we have ever had an orchestra and choir perform at one of our vigils, reflecting the massive effort Mayo has made in staging this commemoration."

However, she noted her disappointment that another event had to staged into order to push the government into action in terms of ensure that the "significant quantities of human remains" that are buried on the site of the former home are exhumed and analysed.

While the government has passed legislation to allow this to happen, the appointment of a director to oversee the process is proving a protracted process.

Mrs. Corless and her husband Aidan, with lanterns in hand, led the beautiful vigil, which also marked the fact that up to one third of the mothers who were sent to the home in Tuam were from Mayo.

A total of 208 babies with Mayo parents are among the 796 for whom there are no burial records.

In a closing address at the ceremony, Aidan Corless said the whole event was "absolutely beautiful and so emotionally charged."

"It was a privilege and an honour for Catherine and I to carry the lantern around the silver lake and where every baby of the 796 who died were fondly remembered.

"And not only were there 1,000 participants involved in the ceremony, but it was wonderful to see many, many more - including children, teenagers, adults and pensioners - in attendance at a truly special event.

"We all felt a closeness to the babies. And thanks to the little angels for providing a beautiful evening and not a cloud in the sky."

Great credit goes to all the volunteers who invested long hours in ensuring the event was such a success and that it sent out such a strong message to the government.