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Orphanage fire victims to be remembered

Story by Seamus Enright

Friday, 22nd February, 2013 11:09am

Orphanage fire victims to be remembered

Seamus Enright

The souls of the 36 victims - all but one a child - who perished in the infamous orphanage fire some 70 years ago will be remembered in commemorative ceremonies this weekend.

The Sisters of the Poor Clare's Order, who operated St Joseph's Orphanage in the town, which caught fire on February 23, 1943 will host services on Saturday with prayers offered at the children's communal grave in Cullies Cemetery from 11am.

This will be further commemorated with the release of 36 white balloons - each inscribed with the name of a child who died - and followed by a Mass of the Angels in St Clare's Chapel at midday, after which a marble plaque of remembrance will be unveiled.

Then on Sunday (February 24), Friends of the Cavan Orphanage Victims will hold a Service of Light to mark the anniversary of the fire at the Convent Courtyard, starting at 2pm.

Sr Margaret McElgunn of the Poor Clare Order told The Anglo-Celt that as the anniversary approaches, there is as much a need to remember those who died as there is to remember those who survived the tragedy - the orphanage had 85 children in residence on the night.

"We are also remembering those who survived, and we will certainly be remembering the families of those who died because they suffered a great deal, too. They can't be forgotten," she said.

"If we could change what happened that night we would, who wouldn't change that night... it's a mark on the history of the country," she said.

"Seventy years on it's no longer a blame game... its now about respectfully commemorating the memory of those girls who died in the fire."

Patrick Doyle, a native of Dublin turns 90-years-old later this year, but as a teenager, then 19 and stationed as a serving member with the defence forces in Cavan.

He was among those charged with the horrific task of sifting through the wreckage in the search for bodies.

"I was only young myself but all you could do was think how could this have happened to children so young. It was a very sad time," he said.

He told the Celt since the terrible events, he has lived in the hope that the memories of the children would be commemorated in a fitting manner.

See page four of this week's newspaper for related articles.

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