Extent of child deaths in Dublin home revealed

Pelletstown home had an average of 94 deaths a year between 1924 and 1930

Pelletstown, on the Navan Road in Dublin. Between 1924 and 1930, a total of 662 children died at the institution, an average of over 94 deaths a year.

Pelletstown, on the Navan Road in Dublin. Between 1924 and 1930, a total of 662 children died at the institution, an average of over 94 deaths a year.

Sat, Jun 21, 2014, 10:17

The department of local government and public health’s 1930 report on the mother and baby home in Pelletstown in Dublin was upbeat in its assessment: “The health of the institution was excellent during the year. The death rate fell considerably.”

Despite the mortality rate of over 19 per cent, 1930 did signify an improvement on previous years, according to government documents accessible at the National Library.

“The fall in the death rate is attributed to the improved accommodation, better milk supply and better nursing,” the annual report notes.

Infant mortality rates

One in five died

While fatalities had undeniably fallen, the fact remained that 66 – or almost one in five – of the 336 children housed in Pelletstown died in the year to March 31st, 1930.

Half the children housed in the institution died in 1925, with a measles epidemic cited as the explanation for the high death rate . The following year, more than a third died. The death rate rose to 42 per cent in 1927 before falling to under 20 per cent in 1930.

Between 1924 and 1930, 662 children died at the institution, an average of over 94 deaths a year. This compares to the 796 deaths recorded in the children’s home in Tuam over a 36-year period between 1925 and 1960, an annual average of 22.

Local government and public health reports for 1922 -1945 contain periodically recorded data on numbers of deaths in five homes, including Pelletstown – later renamed St Patrick’s Home – and the children’s home in Tuam, both of which were maintained by Poor Law authorities. Pelletstown was run by the Sisters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul, while the Bon Secours Sisters oversaw the home in Tuam.

The reports also provide information on three other homes to which Poor Law authorities sent women who fell pregnant outside wedlock: the Sacred Heart Home in Bessborough in Cork, Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, and Manor House in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath. All three were run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary.

While the number of deaths in each home is not recorded for every year covered by the reports, they do provide some statistics on fatalities in different periods.

For example, continuous data exists for Pelletstown in Dublin for a seven-year period to March 31st, 1930. The number of deaths then goes unrecorded until the year ending to the end of March 1934, when 53 deaths were recorded. The final period for which deaths were recorded was the 12 months up to the end of March 1941, in which time 42 children died.

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