The children were all residents of a care home run by Catholic nuns. At least 400 children are thought to be buried in a section of St Mary's Cemetery in Lanark. The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, which ran the home, refused to comment on the findings. The research by the File on 4 programme in conjunction with the Sunday Post newspaper focused on Smyllum Park Orphanage in Lanark. It opened in 1864 and provided care for orphans or children from broken homes. It closed in 1981, having looked after 11,600 children.
A burial plot containing the remains of a number of children were discovered by previous residents Frank Docherty and Jim Kanem in 2004. Both men believed that the grounds of the former care home hid more bodies and this recent discovery confirms their suspicions.
The death records indicate that most of the children died of natural causes, from diseases common at the time such as TB, pneumonia and pleurisy. Analysis of the records show that a third of those who died were aged five or under. Very few of those who died, 24 in total, were aged over 15, and most of the deaths occurred between 1870 and 1930. One of those believed to be buried there is Francis McColl. He died in 1961, aged 13; his death certificate indicates he died from a brain haemorrhage. His brother Eddie spent decades wondering what had happened to Francis. At one point, he heard he'd been struck on the head by a golf club, which now chimes with the evidence of the death certificate.
The Commission of Investigation is investigating claims - first raised by local historian Catherine Corless - that nearly 800 babies and young children died in the Tuam home and were buried in unmarked graves. It was one of 10 Irish institutions run by religious orders, to which about 35,000 unmarried pregnant women are thought to have been sent. A child died there nearly every two weeks between the mid-1920s and 1960s.