For Stephen

'For Stephen' is a crowdfunding campaign to give one baby boy the final resting place he deserves. 'For Stephen' hopes to fund a place of remembrance for all babies born in Irish 'mother & baby' institutions, who remain a secret.

Beth Wallace Community October 31, 2018 at 5:12 pm
Pledged of £14,400 goal
  • Description
  • Updates
  • FAQ
  • Backers
Stephen was born to an unmarried mother in a Dublin ‘mother & baby’ institution in 1971.
Stephen, who was meant to be adopted like his two older sisters, died aged 3 months old. According to adoption agency records, only three people attended his funeral: a social worker, a priest, and the only blood relation who knew of his existence for almost 40 years, Stephen’s mother.
Stephen’s birth and death remain a secret, to this day, kept from most of his siblings, extended family and community. A secret like the births and deaths of many others born in ‘mother & baby’ institutions in Ireland in the 20th century. Stephen was 3 months old when he was buried in an unmarked communal ‘pauper’s grave’ in Deansgrange cemetery, Dublin.
My name is Beth and Stephen is my little brother. This campaign is to raise funds to purchase his ‘pauper’s grave’ & commission a memorial sculpture for the grave. This sculpture will not only commemorate Stephen’s life [and the other “paupers” in this communal plot] but will acknowledge and remember all babies born in Irish ‘mother & baby’ institutions, whose birth remains secret to this day.

‘For Stephen’ is an awareness and fund raising campaign, running from November 1st to December 7th 2018, that aims to:
– raise funds to purchase Stephen’s unmarked communal ‘pauper’s grave’ in Deansgrange cemetery, Dublin
– commission & erect a memorial sculpture both to Stephen and to all babies born in Irish ‘mother & baby’ institutions who are remain a secret, whether those ‘babies’ have died remaining a secret or have grown into adulthood remaining a secret

– continue to raise awareness of this deeply sad chapter of Irish life in order that we, as a nation and a people widely effected by the sorrow, loss and silence surrounding babies like Stephen, can find truth, justice & healing.

No one related to Stephen, other than his mother, knew he existed & who he was until the early 2000s & still, to this day, the majority of his blood relations are unaware of his existence; this is also the story of untold numbers of children born in ‘mother & baby’ institutions in Ireland in the 20th century.
This is the power of the shame that this chapter of Irish life still carries, that the secret of a baby’s birth must be kept, even from siblings who may be as young as in their 20s or 30s now.
It’s estimated that approximately 40,000 women gave birth in Irish ‘mother & baby’ institutions in the 20th century, that equates to more than 40,000 babies because we know that, like Stephen’s mother, it was not unusual for a woman to give birth to more than one child in these circumstances. How many of these babies remain secrets to this day? We know from the stories of adopted people that a very large proportion are still turned away from their birth parents & birth families after tracing for months or years, sometimes even decades.
Q – Who is running the campaign?
A – My name is Beth Wallace & I am Stephen’s oldest sister; he has 9 siblings that we know of, but they do not all know of him. I was born in a different ‘mother & baby’ institution & adopted after Stephen was born. I found out about Stephen’s existence several years ago, after finding out about him I went searching, for months, to find his grave & visited it with our sister who was also born in a ‘mother & baby’ institution in the year between Stephen & I & adopted to a different family.

I decided in that moment, when I looked down with tears in my eyes at the bare grass covering his unmarked ‘pauper’s grave’, in among all the other memorials, that he, & all the babies like him, the secrets, would not be forgotten, that people many decades from now, long after my death, would read the inscription & learn about or remember what happened & that the children who were born & died in secrecy, who still remain secrets, would be remembered, somehow by some one.
Q – What is a ‘pauper’s grave’?
A – It’s a grave owned by the local authority, in this case Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown Council. It is where someone is buried when no one pays, or there is no one, to pay for a ‘proper burial’. Homeless people, people who die unidentified, people too financially poor to pay for their own burial plots are buried in ‘pauper’s graves’. A ‘pauper’s grave’ will house the remains of several people who are unrelated to each other & buried many years apart. ‘Pauper’s graves’ are always unmarked, so there is no way to know by looking at it who is buried there, how many bodies are buried there or when they were buried. ‘Pauper’s graves’ can be subject to being opened & the remains moved to allow for new burials & Stephen’s grave has room for 2 more burials, obviously, I want neither of these to happen.
Q – How did Stephen die & how old was he?
A – The death certificate says ‘’kidney failure & gastroenteritis’’. The information from the adoption agency & cemetery conflict, this is common for many adopted people as we don’t have the legal right to access all the information relevant to us. It seems though, that he died & was buried in February 1971 at 3 months old.
Q – What is the cost breakdown & the funds needed?
A – A great & easy question to answer, the total is €16,000 (though it’s listed here in pounds sterling) & it breaks down like this:
€4,000 will cover the cost of the grave purchase, the testing required to measure the weight & size of memorial possible, the foundation for the memorial & all other ancillary & related costs & fees.
€4,000 will cover the cost of a standard ‘’off-the-shelf’’ memorial similar to one seen in most cemeteries. While these can be lovely the aim here is to create something very special & unique to properly honour Stephen & the ‘secret babies’.
€8,000 in addition to the €4,000 above will enable us to commission a bespoke memorial by the sculptor Lorcan Dunne, you can see his work here on Facebook. Lorcan applied for & was successful in the application process in 2017 to create the sculpture, once the necessary funding has been raised he can begin work.
Q – I’m in, how can I help?
A – Thank you, it’s easy. I would love if you would donate here and share Stephen’s Story, using the hashtag #ForStephen on social media, via email & via word of mouth with anyone you think may also be interested in supporting the project.
Thank you, your support truly means a lot.
Q – What will you do with any money not used on the project?
A – Any monies donated not used for the memorial project will be donated to The CARI Foundation for example if the funding exceeds €16,000 or if the funding exceeds €8,000 but doesn’t reach €16,000 any monies not used for the project will be donated to CARI.
Q – Why are you using Earth Ways to crowdfund & not a more well known website?
A – Earth Ways is a community-based, not-for-profit project, they do not charge fees to those who use the site & only support ‘ethical’ projects. Earth Ways is also attached to an ethical & sustainable small permaculture centre on the Isle of Skye in Scotland – donations towards the project in general are going to ‘good’ work, not simply to line the pockets of businesses that are solely in crowdfunding for financial profit, profit that can be very significant indeed, & profit that ultimately eats into the monies so generously donated by supporters.
Q – Do you receive the funds even if the target isn’t reached?
A – Yes.
Q – How long is the crowdfunding campaign running for?
A – November 1st to December 7th 2018.
Q – Is there a design already for the memorial?
A – We have some ideas….. one is the incorporation of stone from all the provinces, to reflect the fact that these ‘secret babies’ were born in every part of the country, another is that the eventual sculpture would have a very strong Irish/Gaelic/Celtic feel to it, perhaps tying into one of the ancient Irish myths relating to ‘lost’ children. If you have suggestions or ideas they’re welcome!
Q – There are lots of memorials for babies born in the ‘mother & baby’ institutions already, what makes this one different?
A – Yes, there are, which is great, & this one is different. Those memorials generally list the names of those who died along with, perhaps, their date of birth & death, for example at Mount Jerome for the babies who died at the Bethany Home. The memorials are usually attached to one particular institution & consequently honour the lives born, lived & died there. However, there are many, unfortunately we don’t know exactly how many, just like Stephen who lie in unmarked or unacknowleged graves, still a secret & unrecorded on any of these lists as well as unacknowledged in any of the figures or statistics. The graves are often ‘pauper’s graves’ with many women, & men still feeling the heavy weight of shame attached to being the parents of these babies
Q – Why are you asking the public, people who are strangers, for money to help with something that most people take care of privately?
A – there are a couple of answers to this…..
– Firstly, I can’t financially afford to do this on my own, and, it’s unlikely given my projected financial income that I would be able to afford to do this anytime in the near future. It’s not easy for me to ask for help as a woman who’s been fiercely independent all her adult life, but, I need help to make this happen as doing it alone is simply not a possibility at this time.
Given that the grave is a ‘pauper’s grave’ it is possible both that the remains would be moved and that the remains of other deceased people in need of a ‘pauper’s grave’ would be added to the plot, this is not something most people would want for the remains of their sibling & it’s something that can only be stopped by purchasing the grave, so, time is also of the essence.
– There is an awareness raising aspect to this project too. I feel it’s important that people know that these events, that people directly effected by this chapter of Irish life are not all long dead & gone, this is not history, this is alive in the lives of 1000s of people right now. There are people in their 20s & 30s unaware that they have older siblings, both alive & dead, there are many babies born in ‘mother & baby’ institutions who are still secrets to this day, both alive & dead – this project aims to raise awareness of this & to acknowledge their existence with the memorial sculpture.
Q – Because the funding is for a grave in a cemetery is there any way that any of the funds raised will find their way into the hands of ‘the church’?
A – No. The cemetery is owned by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council. All monies required to purchase the grave, to test the suitability of the soil & plot for the memorial, to secure no further burials, to put in a foundation for the memorial etc all go to the council. All other monies are towards the cost of the memorial, whether a ‘’off the shelf’’ one or a bespoke sculpture (funds depending) & they are supplied by private business or the commissioned artist, respectively.
Q – What is the timeframe for the project?
A – Ideally, the memorial will be in place by November 2019 – around the time of Stephen’s birthday. The crowd funding campaign is planned to take place over the period of about a month over November 2018, again over the time of Stephen’s birthday, it is, of course, hoped that the full €16,000 will be raised allowing the commissioning of a beautiful & unique sculpture as the memorial. Once funds have been raised then we begin work to purchase the plot & to design the memorial, this will not be a fast process, it both needs & deserves time.
Q – What if the €16,000 goal isn’t reached?
A – I will do what I can with the funds raised. The first goal of €4,000 is to purchase Stephen’s grave & secure it so that the remains cannot be moved & that no other remains can be added. Then, if between €8,000 & €16,000 is raised & we fail to reach the €16,000 target, it depends how much is raised & if a bespoke sculpture of any size is possible, if not, then a standard memorial will be purchased & the remaining funds donated to The CARI Foundation.
  • Ciara King
  • Laura Delahunty
  • Tara Purcell Maitland
  • Florence Vion
  • Deborah Davis
    Thank you Beth for creating this. I didn't know how to chanel my pain around this. I feel such huge admiration my you in my heart and soul!
  • natalia Brown
    Beautiful project - wonderfully explained in the question section. Good luck. <3
  • Cathryn Jiggens
    Dear Beth, thanks for the opportunity to contribute to the themes that you have raised. I wish you well with raising the complete amount.
  • Mary E Torney
  • 11/09/2018
    A much needed idea - creating a place for so many of us to honour, mourn and remember the hidden Dead and to give them dignity in death.