Workhouse Infirmaries

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Sduddy
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Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by Sduddy » Sat Apr 20, 2019 12:37 pm

By 1864, when civil registration became law, the workhouse infirmaries were not longer reserved for the destitute. I’ve been reading “Medical Relief and Workhouse Infirmaries in the Late Nineteenth Century” by Donncha Séan Lucy, in The West of Ireland: New Perspectives on the Nineteenth Century, edited by Carla King and Conor McNamara (The History Press Ireland, 2011). The article is very interesting, and while it takes Westport workhouse, in Co. Mayo, as its case study, we can extrapolate for the workhouse infirmaries in Co. Clare.
After the 1862 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infirmaries in workhouses underwent a new development. They went from being the places where the inmates of the workhouses died, to being general public hospitals. And so the great stigma attached to the workhouses was, over time, no longer attached to the infirmaries in those workhouses. The infirmary in the workhouse became the place where many ordinary people went when they were very ill, or dying. The well off people were usually cared for by nurses in their own homes, and the middle class people went to a private hospital, or to the county infirmary, which was usually located in the main county town only. McNamara writes, “The constraints of this system were highlighted during the 1861 pariliamentary inquiry into the Irish Poor Laws. The chief commissioner of the Irish Poor Law, Alfred Power, informed the inquiry that the existing system of county infirmaries, which were mostly located in the leading town of each county, prohibited larger numbers from receiving assistance. He complained that at times ‘sick persons … have to travel perhaps sixty or seventy miles to reach them’, and highlighted counties Mayo and Kerry, both with extensive western seaboards, as the worst cases. Power was of the opinion that in many counties ‘very nearly three-fourths of the area [of such counties] was almost deprived of the benefit of the county infirmaries, the remaining one-fourth having nearly the exclusive use of it’”.Thus began the opening of the Workhouse infirmaries as hospitals for the general population. So when we see, in the civil records, that an ancestor died in the workhouse, we should not jump to the conclusion that they were very poor, or abandoned by the family.

Unfortunately, apart from half of the salary of the mecical official and the medicines dispensed by him, this new development was not funded by the government – it was funded, as before, by the Poor Law rates (or cess), which were levied on the people of the Poor Law Union. McNamara explains that this meant that the development of the infirmaries was not uniform throughout the country – those infirmaries in the better off parts of Ireland (in the East, and South) were superior to those in the West. In the West, it was not until the 1890s that professional nurses were employed – and even then the nursing was often given over to some religious order of nuns, that being the cheapest option. Up to that time, much of the nursing work had been carried out by inmates of the workhouse, although objections were raised as to the suitability of these inmates, some of whom were “fallen women”.

A system of payment by patients who could afford to pay for maintenance was established. The main preoccupation of the members of the Poor Law Guardians was with keeping costs down. In 1872, the Poor Law Commission, which oversaw the Poor Law Unions, became the Local Government Board. The Board was usually composed of local landlords and the Catholic middle classes, but after the Land War, 1879-1882, many boards came under the control of local nationalists. The preoccupation with costs remained, however - the members of the board being well aware that any increase in rates would be strongly resisted.

Sheila

kbarlow
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Re: Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by kbarlow » Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:37 am

Thank you Sheila for this very useful information. I had suspected this may be the case, given so many people are noted as having died there when one is searching the records. It is good to have that hunch verified.

Kerry

Sduddy
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Re: Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by Sduddy » Thu Jun 13, 2019 12:14 pm

In the 1901 and 1911 censuses, no disctinction is made between ordinary inmates of the workhouses and patients in the workhouse infirmaries in Co. Clare, which makes me wonder if there really were workhouse infirmaries in the workhouses in Clare. The Sisters of Mercy are living beside the workhouse in Kilrush in 1901 – that indicates that there was an infirmary in Kilrush at least. But what about the other workhouses?

It can be difficult to find the workhouses in the 1901 and 1911 censuses because workhouses and lunatic asylums (and all instituations) are listed just like private houses. I give the locations here for anyone who is interested:
In 1901, Ballyvaughan Workhouse is house No. 26.6 in the townland of Ballyvaughan (Drumcreehy DED). The Lunatic Asylum is house No. 26.7.
In 1911, Ballyvaughan Workhouse is house No. 22.4 in the townland of Ballyvaghan (note spelling); the Lunatic Asylum is house No. 22.7 (with just 4 occupants).

In 1901, Ennistymon Workhouse is house No. 12.2 in the townland of Lehinch (Ennistymon DED); the Lunatic Asylum is house No. 12.3.
In 1911, Ennistymon Workhouse is house No. 15.1 in the townland of Lehinch; (Ennistimon DED); the Lunatic Asylum is house No. 15.2.

In 1901, Kilrush Workhouse is house No. 2.9 in the townland of Ballyarra (Kilrush Urban DED); the Lunatic Asylum is house No. 2.10.
In 1911, Kilrush Workhouse is house No. 9 in the townland of Ballyurra (note spelling); the Lunatic Asylum is house No.10.

In 1901, Ennis Workhouse is house No. 24.8 in the townland of Lifford (Ennis Rural DED); the Lunatic Asylum is house No. 24.9.
In 1911, Ennis Workhouse is house No. 7.1 in the townland of Lifford (Ennis Rural); the Lunatic Asylum is in house No. 7.2.

In 1901, Tulla Workhouse is house No. 25.1 in the townland of Garruragh (Tulla DED); the Lunatic Asylum is in house No. 25.2.
In 1911, both Workhouse and Asylum are vacant.

In 1901, Scarriff Workhouse is house No. 1000 in the townland of Drewsborough (Scariff DED); the Lunatic Asylum is house No. 1001.
In 1911, Scarriff Workhouse is house No. 20.1 in the townland of Drewsborough; the Lunatic Asylum is in house No. 20.2.

In 1901, Corofin Workhouse is house No. 7.2 in the townland of Kilvoydane (Clare DED); the Lunatic Asylum is house No. 7.3. The full names of the occupants are given, which is most unusual.
In 1911, Corrofin Workhouse is house No. 110.2 in Corrofin Town (Corrofin DED); the Lunatic Asylum is house No. 110.3 (with just 5 occupants).

Kildysart ????. Where is the workhouse in Kildysart/Kiladysert? This workhouse is mentioned a few times in Three Men From Clare: George Casey, Tom Cusack, Morgie O’Connell, edited by by Jackie Elger and Patricia Sheehan (Cat Beag Books, 2018). This is a book full of memories of life in Clare (It gives a very rounded view of life in the mid 1900s), and there are lots of pictures and reproduced newpaper notices, including a report published in The Irish Independent of 16 Sept. 1919, which says, “Guardians and an Army Officer: That Kildysart workhouse was being used as a base by the military was a statement made to the Kildysart guardians in a communication from Mr. MacNamara, secretary of the Kildysart Sinn Fein Club. Even visitors to the hospital, he complained, were not allowed to see their sick friends, without being challenged by army sentries.” It’s clear from this that Kildysart Workhouse was still in use in 1919, and so must have been in use in 1901 and 1911. But I can’t find it. Help needed please.

Sheila

murf
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Re: Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by murf » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:02 pm

Sheila the Kildysart Workhouse lies in the townland of Crovraghan, residents of houses 13.2 and 13.3 in the 1901 census. If you put just Crovraghan in the townland box, the workhouse inmates start at page 8 of the search results.
In the 1911 census they start at the first page - residents of houses 1.1 and 1.2.
It is interesting to compare the entries on the House and Building Return(Form B1) for the workhouse between the two censuses, eg no of persons in family, and no of persons sick.

Sduddy
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Re: Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by Sduddy » Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:34 pm

Hi Murf, thanks for that help.

Sheila

kbarlow
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Re: Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by kbarlow » Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:43 am

Thank you again Sheila - a really important piece of information; greatly adds to our interpretation of death records, particularly in more remote areas.

Kerry

murf
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Location: Qld Australia

Re: Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by murf » Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:29 am

Hi Sheila & Kerry
With reference to an infirmary in the Kildysart Workhouse: my g grandfather Patrick Phillips of Caherea died at this workhouse in 1908. There is no reason to suppose that he was in any way destitute. He was a farmer on 35 acres, his wife was still alive, and one son and his wife were living with them. The cause of his death was prostatic dysuria and uremia, conditions likely to cause acute pain and requiring hospital treatment.
Six of the seven Phillips children had emigrated to Australia and the U.S. some years prior to this. Daughter Ellen returned to Clare, probably following her father's death, to care for her ageing mother. Ellen was present at her mother's death in 1911 and subsequently returned to live with her sister in Massachussets.

On a slightly different note, I have noticed at times when exploring the civil death register, that workhouse deaths often appear in large blocks. An example of this is at the Kildysart Workhouse in 1901, when 11 deaths were registered on 16 August 1901, including deaths which actually occurred in the workhouse during the period 13 Dec 1900 to 31 July 1901. Does this mean that workhouse masters were under no pressure to register deaths in a timely fashion?

Sduddy
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Re: Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by Sduddy » Mon Jun 17, 2019 10:21 am

Hi Murf

That is interesting.

I took a look at a couple of years in Corofin.
(1) 1880: 109 deaths were registered in Corofin Union, of which 27 were recorded as happening in the Workhouse. Deaths happening throughout a particular month were all reported on one day – probably what we would call “time management” now. They were reported well within the time limit. The only exception I can see is where two deaths in April, two in May and two in June were all reported on 10 June.
Of the 27 deaths in the Workhouse, 10 were of Labourers, 8 were of wives or widows of Labourers, 2 were female servants, 1 the child of a labourer 2 children of servants, 1 the widow of a mendicant, 1 a girl crippled from childhood, 1 a shoemaker, 1 a (female) dealer, 1 the wife of a policeman.

(2) 1915: 70 deaths were registered in Corofin Union, 14 of which were recorded as happening in Corofin Hospital. Again, deaths happening at various dates in a particular month were all reported on one day and well within the time limit.
Of the 14 deaths in Corofin Hospital, 4 were farmers, 1 the wife of a farmer, 1 the son of a farmer, 1 a labourer, 1 the wife of a labourer, 2 were servants, 1 a dressmaker, 1 a carpenter, and two had no occupation (one an infant). I noticed that four people died of Pulmonary Tuberculosis, one aged 16, one age 18 and one aged 23.

I will have another look at Corofin to see when it began to be called a hospital.

Sheila

Sduddy
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Re: Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by Sduddy » Tue Jun 18, 2019 10:26 am

Well, Ive been reading about Corofin Poor Law Union and Workhouse in The Parish of Corofin: a historical profile, by Michael Mac Mahon (2013), starting at p 253. He writes of the setting up of the Workhouse, the appointment of rate collectors, the dispensary districts, the employment of workhouse staff (including a Miss McFeely from Belfast, “a competent embroideress” who was employed for six months to instruct the girls), the sending of orphan girls to Van Diemen’s Land, the sacking of a matron for keeping some of the money meant to outfit the girls, and then, on page 266, he writes of the changes to the workhouse which, in time, removed the awful dread of the place:
In 1895, Corofin was visited by a ‘commission’ from the British Medical Journal investigating conditions in Irish workhouse infirmaries. Their report suggested a number of improvments: the provision of two trained nurses, one being a midwife. Also recommended were more comforts for the patients such as improved bedsteads and bedding, improved cooking to make the food eatable and appetising, the provision of running water, and improved sanitary facilities throughout the workhouse.
Long before this time the role and function of the workhouses had changed considerably. They were now more or less fulfilling the role of homes for the old and infirm and were becoming less and less the dreaded institutions of death and disease that they once were. The report states that there were no able bodied paupers in the house in 1895. In September 1903 nuns of the order of the Sisters of Mercy, Ennis, took charge of the nursing administration at Corofin.
Mac Mahon then goes on to describe other major changes to the Irish Poor Law system.

The 1911 census shows two Order of Mercy sisters and one lay sister in Corofin Workhouse:
Jane Nolan (from Co.Tipperary), Order of Mercy, is Matron; Margaret Geary (from Co. Limerick), Order of Mercy, is Day Nurse; Anne Hogan (from Co. Clare), Lay-Sister of Mercy, is Night Nurse.
Mathew Waters, Master of the Union, is aged only 25. The remaining two members of staff are Anne Howley, Poor Law Union Teacher, and Kate Callinan, Night Nurse, both of whom were already in those positions in 1901.

Looking at the death records, I note that the Workhouse is recorded as “Workhouse Hospital” from about 1909, and recorded as “Corofin Hospital” from about 1914.

Sheila

kbarlow
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Re: Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by kbarlow » Wed Jun 19, 2019 1:21 am

Thank you Sheila & Murf for your historical sleuthing. This information is really important for our understanding of the death records & I will be passing it on to my family history students here in Oz.

Kerry

Sduddy
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Re: Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by Sduddy » Fri Jun 21, 2019 10:14 am

I mentioned above that, in 1901, the Sisters of Mercy are living beside the workhouse in Kilrush (house No. 2.3, Ballyarra townland). There are 6 nuns, all employed as nurses. In 1911, the Sisters of Mercy are living in house No. 7.1, Ballyurra townland.

The Sisters of Mercy also came Corofin Workhouse (see above), and to Ennis Workhouse and Ennistymon Workhouse, but do not seem to have come to Ballyvaughan, Kildysart, Scarriff, or Tulla.

Ennis: The 1901 census shows 7 Sisters of Mercy accommodated in part of Ennis Workhouse (house No. 24.2, Lifford townland, Ennis Rural).
The 1911 census shows 6 nuns there – the name of the order is not given, but must be Sisters of Mercy.

Ennistymon/Ennistimon: The 1901 census shows that staff were accommodated in Ennistimon Workhouse (Lehinch townland) and some of these are Sisters of Mercy. In 1911 the staff are living in house No. 14, close to the workhouse.

Ballyvaughan: The Sisters of Mercy did not come to Ballyvaughan Workhouse. In 1901 a matron and a nurse are accommodated there, both of whom still there in 1911.

Kildysart: The Sisters of Mercy did not come to Kildysart. The 1901 census shows staff accommodated in the building, and among these is a nurse (Alice Molony). In 1911, Alice Molony is nurse and Jennie Honan is night nurse.

Scariff: The Mercy Sisters did not come to Scariff Workhouse. The 1901 and 1911 censuses show that many of the employees were living in part of the building and among these were some nurses. I see, in The Annals of the Poor: Scarriff Workhouse Union Counties Clare and Galway 1839 – 1851 by Gerard Madden (East Clare Heritage, 2017), that, on Friday, 10 June, 1921, the inmates were removed from the building before it was deliberately set fire to. They were taken to the schoolhouse and Mr MacLysaght of Raheen later took some of them in. Raheen house became a hospital at some point, but I don’t know when.

Tulla: The Sisters of Mercy came to Tulla in 1883, but I don’t think they came to help in Tulla workhouse. An article in Tulla Reaching Out 2016 (p 23) gives an 1883 newspaper report of the event (great rejoicing, banners, green boughs, Tulla brass band, fife and drum bands, speeches). But they seem to have come to teach, not to nurse. The 1901 census shows seven Sisters of Mercy living in house No. 128, Tulla, (Tulla DED). Their occupations are not given, but the 1911 census shows that the nuns living in house 61, Tulla Town (Tulla DED), are all teachers.
There is a photograph of the Workhouse in the journal (p 22). I haven’t seen a photograph anywhere else. By 1911, Tulla Workhouse had closed. There is some information on it here: http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Tulla/

Sheila

murf
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Re: Workhouse Infirmaries

Post by murf » Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:59 am

Here are a couple of newspaper reports of interest to this discussion.
The first describes some early impetus to the employment of the Sisters of Mercy in workhouse hospitals.
The second report gives some insight into the state of the Kildysart Workhouse in 1905.
WORKHOUSE HOSPITALS
Our readers are aware that the Hospital of the South Dublin Union Workhouse has within the past
few days been placed in the charge of the Sisters of Mercy. It had been several times previously
proposed that this should be done, but the proposition was scouted by an anti-Catholic majority.
The important duty of properly attending to the wants of the sick poor was so shamefully neglected,
that it became apparent that such a state of things could be no longer hoodwinked, and Mr
Guinness and three other Protestant gentlemen resolved to visit some of the principal workhouse
hospitals in charge of the Sisters of Mercy. In pursuance of this wise resolution they went to
Limerick and three or four other localities, and after a minute and searching investigation, they
returned to the metropolis impressed with the conviction that their previous ideas on this subject
were erroneous. They adopted a course which reflects credit upon them, they trampled their
prejudices under foot, and reported to the Board that the only means to get out of the difficulty was
by the employment of the Nuns as nurses for the sick poor. Their co-religionists on the Board
accepted this wise counsel, and henceforth, the sick and infirm inmates of the South Dublin Union
Workhouse, will have the consolation and happiness of being tenderly cared for by these devoted
ladies, who have resigned all earthly enjoyments for the sake of Him, in whose sacred footsteps they
tread.
Sligo Champion, Saturday, September 18, 1880
KILDYSART WORKHOUSE
AN IMPORTANT REPORT
From Local Government Board's Medical Inspector
(FROM OUR CORESPONDENT.)
At the last meeting of the Kildysart Board of Guardians, Mr S Eyers presiding, the Local
Government Board forwarded the following report of their Medical Inspector, Dr Smyth, in
connection with his recent visit to the Kildysart Workhouse. Tbe total number of inmates in tbe
workhouse was 77, and 55 of these were included in the Weekly Medical Return Book, This list
should be enormously reduced; 17 of the 55 were not patients. Tho males occupy one ward of tbe
infirmary building, and two wards in the workhouse block, 40 yards distant. The walls of the latter
wards are unplastered, the ground floor is stone flagged and the floor overhead is unceiled. With
proper classification all patients could be accomodated in the infirmary. This would make a great
saving for the benefit of those who really require hospital treatment. The infirmary showed
evidence of the medical officer's efforts to raise the standard of its condition. The floors of the
wards were waxed and cleaned ; the fireplaces were fitted with Teale's hearth fires, which added
very much to the comfort and appearance of the wards, and were, the medical officer stated,
admirably suited for the burning of turf. The infirmary walls require to be newly washed and
coloured; they were last coloured five years ago. Outside the kitchen door the surface channel
requires some attention, and means should be provided for the proper disposal of the slops so as not
to cause a nuisance. The medical officer should revise the dietary scales for tbe infirmary. A
revision of the dietary and of the medical return, with a corrected classification would effect a very
large saving for the infirmary. The structural provision for the isolation and treatment of infectious
fevers is not sufficient or satisfactory. There are two wards with windows on one side, only both
wards communicate at the eves; between them is an apartment six feet square which was formerly
used as an attendant's sleeping room, and is now used as a bathroom. The walls are unplastered, the
grate in one ward is in ruins and in the other ward the grate is not so bad. There is no separable
washhouse nor boiler for boiling infected clothes. When a fever nurse was last required she slept
and cooked her food in one of the two wards. The dead-house should be cleaned up and put in
decent order.
Limerick Leader, Wednesday, November 15, 1905

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