Kildare woman’s art depicts life at mother and baby homes

Artist’s works depict adoption papers, coffin orders, birth certificates and pinafores

A Co Kildare woman has compiled a portfolio of artwork based on her impressions of life in the State’s Magdalene laundries and mother and baby homes.

Fiona Gordon (19), from Prosperous, produced the works based on her understanding of her mother’s adoption at just two months old from Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary. The pieces were completed using materials such as charcoal and fabrics.

Ms Gordon decided to explore themes of maternal separation and adoption as part of her portfolio of art work at the Ballyfermot College of Further Education in Dublin.

The works depict documents including adoption papers, coffin orders, birth certificates and pinafores that would have been associated with the institutions.


One of the pieces shows a young woman’s white pinafore with the names of mother and baby homes linked by threads to a baby’s pinafore inscribed with dates.

The names read “Lower Leeson Street”, “Bon Secours, Tuam”, “Sean Ross Abbey” and “St Gerard’s”, all mother and baby homes.

A second image shows a mother holding a baby to her breast superimposed on a birth certificate with the harp emblem and the word “Ireland”. A charcoal drawing of a small boy looking over the bars at the foot of his bed is also part of the collection.

A further piece depicts a chubby-cheeked infant on grass and playing with what appears to be a spoon. The charcoal drawing is superimposed on a classified advertisement headed “Children’s Home, Tuam – contract for coffins” which is noted and dated “Loughrea, 1932”.

Ms Gordon said her interest may have been sparked by her mother’s accounts of Sean Ross Abbey.

However, as her mother was so young when she was adopted, she said considerable research also went into the project.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist