Bressie aiming to ‘honour’ 1,300 unmarked graves at psychiatric hospital

Project under way to build memorial garden and to restore graves at St Loman’s Hospital in Mullingar

Podcaster and musician Bressie is aiming to “honour” 1,300 unmarked graves at a former psychiatric hospital.

A new project is under way to pay tribute to the lives of more than 1,300 people buried in unmarked graves on the grounds of St Loman’s Hospital in Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

Burials took place there between 1907 and 1970, where crosses with numbers identified individual graves, as opposed to people’s names.

Over the years these crosses have deteriorated and the last were removed in the early 2010s – since then the site has become unrecognisable as a graveyard.


Mullingar native Niall ‘Bressie’ Breslin decided “this isn’t good enough” and has teamed up with Julie Clarke, whose great-grandmother is buried at St Loman’s, to help build a memorial wall and garden, and restore the graves.

They held a public meeting in the Annebrook House Hotel in Mullingar on February 18th which was attended by former hospital staff and relatives of those buried there.

Many attendees vented their frustration with the HSE over their refusal to release records they hold of long-deceased former patients back to their living relatives, but also the list of the 1,300 people buried there.

Bressie, who is working on a PhD with Trinity College Dublin about the Irish psychiatric system, said Ireland had the highest level in the world of people in institutions by 1950.

“We just kept putting people in there and we just haven’t told that story yet,” he said.

“We haven’t done anything wrong; this is just what we did and it’s not a blame game.

“This is just a story we have to acknowledge, much like the Magdalene laundries, much like everything else that happened, and we have to acknowledge it.”

Bressie, who grew up not far from the hospital, said “a lot of people died there”.

“People who died in those psychiatric hospitals didn’t have families who wanted to bury them and I just found it very sad, to be honest.

“They buried them like they buried people in penal situations, they were buried like criminals and given numbers, they weren’t buried with names.

“These people were failed; they didn’t fail society, society failed them – and I think people need to understand that.”

Ms Clarke has been looking into the burials at St Loman’s for more than a decade and said she has heard some “harrowing stories” over the years.

“I know of one incident where a child, aged five I believe, was committed to St Loman’s and died there when she was 15 or 16,” she said.

“Some of the stories are so personal and so emotional. If we can get those stories out to the general public, everyone can see why we are doing this and help us.”

Ms Clarke said she is now trying to compile a database of the people buried at the former psychiatric institution.

“It started with just my great grandmother, Julia Leonard, and now we have ten – but I’m optimistic we can get a lot more,” she said.

“We’re trying to establish the database of names because we can’t get access to the official register of names and we have created a website to do that (

“We want to put these names on to the memorial wall along with how they died, their burial plot number and their cross number – that’s the plan.”

The next step for the project is a planned meeting with stakeholders behind the memorial wall and the HSE at the gravesite on March 4th to discuss plans.

Further public meetings are also to be announced for the families of those buried at St Loman’s to help push the project forward.

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