Children's Burial Grounds
Many such sacred locations are located in the Skehana District.
Children’s burial grounds were often non-consecrated sites used primarily, though not exclusively, for the burial of unbaptised children. The custom of setting aside a special place for the burial of very young unbaptised babies was common practice in Ireland until the 19th century but continued on a less frequent scale up to the mid 20th century. It is believed to have been practiced by the ancient Greeks and Romans and began in Ireland in the 5th or 6th century, when the Catholic Church decreed that the burial of unbaptised babies in consecrated ground was not permitted. This practice was also carried out for the victims of suicides and executions, criminals, victims of famine, murder, disease, etc. Often, children of unmarried mothers and children who had not received their First Holy Communion were not considered worthy to be buried in consecrated ground either. In some cases, there was an economic factor to be considered as there were families who could not afford the cost of a grave or headstone and so opted for the Cillíní as they were also known.
The Selection Of The Location:
It is considered by many today who have studied children’s burial grounds around the country that the ground used may not have been as non-consecrated as was thought at a time. It is possible, and many studies point to this likelihood, that the grounds used for these burials were in times long past used for old churches, sites of worship, religious rituals of various kinds, old derelict monastic sites, ringforts, a sheltered corner of a field or ancient enclosure, close to a river, stream or a lake and, while they were non-consecrated in the eyes of the Catholic Church, were chosen because they were of some special significance in religious beliefs and sacred rituals of times previous to the Catholic Church’s teachings.
Ending This Practice:
The practice of these burials in this area was ended in 1947 by the then curate of Skehana, Fr. Paddy Moran, upon his arrival in the parish. This decision met with some local dissatisfaction and opposition from some families who still wanted to use the children’s burial ground in Skehana. However, the priest had the power in these times and the local people fell into line eventually. Many people today find this hard to believe that the people were so conditioned as to want to continue on burying their children in those plots, particularly in light of the outcry today about such things, but I have it on the best of authority. My late mother was a young seventeen year old at the time who came from Newport, Co Mayo to work as housekeeper for the same Fr. Paddy Moran, who was her cousin and she related this story to us many times during her lifetime about the opposition he faced from locals when he began the practise of having all burials in consecrated graveyards and cemeteries.
These are the burial grounds in the general Skehana area.
The Curraghaun, Windfield Demesne