Ballyshannon Workhouse

Early in the C19th, the poor of Ballyshannon depended on the charity of private individuals and societies. There was, among others, the Ballyshannon Soup society, and, bizarrely the Ballyshannon Mendicity, an organisation which provided for the old and infirm and also employed a bangbeggar who, amongst other duties, used a whip to prevent beggars from annoying the occupants of carriages. Ballyshannon Poor Law Union was set up on June 5th 1840, and included districts in nearby counties Leitrim and Fermanagh. The present building was opened in 1843, with occupancy for 500 paupers. In keeping with the stipulated allowance of one shilling and three pence per pauper per week, the diet was frugal. For adult males, breakfast was 7 oz oatmeal, with pint of milk; dinner was 3 and 1/2lbs potatoes and 1 pint of buttermilk. Children from 2-9years of age were allowed a supper of 2oz stirabout (porridge). Stone breaking was the principal employment of males. Women worked at laundry and cleaning, evidenced in quantities of soap and carts of sand delivered for scouring. Wool and flax were obtained for knitting.

By 1847, with the potato crop failures and consequent famine, the number of inmates in Ballyshannon workhouse had risen to 769. The diet was downgraded, with white bread replacing oatmeal. Add to this overcrowded conditions, and the general decline in the health of the population, and disease and death were not far behind; typhus and dysentery were rampant, water and sanitation caused problems. In January 1847, the master of the workhouse reported that bedding and clothing were not washed for 3 weeks, due to a water shortage. By November, he reported that sewage was backing into the water tank, and that there was a cesspool in the women's yard. While the number of dead is not recorded in the Board of Guardians minutes, the cost of coffins gives some indication of the rising number of dead, and the use of two covered barrows in January 1848 for conveying the dead across the town suggests that coffins were dispensed with.

By the C20th, Ballyshannon Workhouse was being used as a Fever Hospital. When influenza struck in 1918 there were 51 in the infirmary.

During the political turbulence of the 1920s, the Northern Division of the IRA used part of the building as a temporary training camp. Since then, the workhouse has been used for a variety of purposes, a dispensary, a school, a library, and an old people's home.

Researched by Una McGarrigle, Soinbhe Lally, Fr Ramon Munster, William Finn, Cecil Stephens, Bob Gallagher and Anthony Begley for "Workhouses of the North West" ed. Jack Johnston1996.


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User contributions:

By PartlyIrish | 2012-11-08 05:14:01

Workhouse 2012

I'm sure this place is haunted.

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