Originally named ‘Island of the Sea/ Oileán na Mara’, the tragic history that befell this tiny island at Carrickfinn in the last two centuries led to its gradual name change to Oileán na Marbh, ‘Island of the Dead’. An estimated 500 stillborn babies are thought to have been buried in a secret burial ground here because the church deemed there was no place for them in heaven.
The bodies of the unbaptised children, born mainly between the years of the Great Famine and 1912, were carried to the tiny island by night for secret burial as they could not be buried on consecrated ground, while afterwards their families grieved in same and secrecy. The island is also a burial place for some children and infants who died in the famine and for several sailors who died at sea.
In 2009 the local community erected a memorial cross and commemorative stone on the island to honour the dead publicly, and the island was blessed. An annual service has taken place on the island since then on 9 August.