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'They all looked down on us' - man recalls heartbreak of Tuam mother and baby home

A man has spoken about his difficulty growing up as a foster child after leaving the Tuam mother-and-baby home.

Tom Ward (72) lived in the home for five and a half years until he was fostered by a family in the Loughrea area of Galway on August 9 1947.

“I was fostered off to somebody. There were a lot of us fostered people. They got paid for having us in the house and they reared us, but the priests, the teachers, they all left us out.

“When we would go to town events or coming down from Mass, someone would say ‘Who’s the little laddie?’ and they would reply ‘Oh he was fostered out of that home’ and all eyes turned away. We were just outcasts.

“In school, we had to stay at the desk and we wouldn’t be able to go out to play.

“The teachers, doctors, priests, they all looked down on us. We were only a number but things have changed, thanks be to God,” Tom told Joe Duffy on RTE Radio 1’s LiveLine today.

“When you went to school they would say ‘you have no father or mother’ and that was very hurtful so in my own head I said I would pursue them.”

With the help of a local priest, Tom was able to successfully trace his family all the way back to his grandparents.

“I met a Friar in Loughrea and he asked me where I was from. He said ‘I know who baptised you’ so he wrote to the Priest who baptised me and he wrote back saying he wanted to meet me.

“I went to see him and he wrote to a Parish Priest in my mothers the area who made arrangements for me to meet my mother.

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“I was going on for 30 years of age when I first met her. She was in her 50s. She had ten in her family besides me. I was the oldest.

“It was very strange. I was delighted of course. She was too. She brought me out to her home on that particular day.  I met some of my siblings out there, some were in England, but I met them all eventually.

“I went on to pursue the other half, my father and that was a bigger job because I was led on a wild goose chase for a number of years.”

When he eventually tracked down his father, he had passed away but he was still able to meet his family.

“My family say ‘why bother?’, but I can’t rest. My birth certificate was 72 yesterday but I still want my father’s name on it.

“I am convinced that every child that was born at the time should have their fathers name on their birth certificate. Every child is constitutionally entitled to know.”

It has recently emerged up to 800 children may have died at the home during its period of operation from 1925 to 1961.

A large number of unidentified remains were found in a water tank close to the home, leading some concluding that deceased children were disposed of in the tank without a proper burial.

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