CARLOW HISTORY

 

Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)


Carlow Poor Law Union

The Early Years


Written by Sean O'Shea and previously published in CARLOVIANA December 2003. No. 52. Pages 28 to 35.

Carlow Poor Law Union

The Early Years

Poor Relief in Ireland hardly existed as a system before the nineteenth century. An Act of 1635 projected a scheme of County Houses of correction for the "keeping and correcting and setting to work of rogues, vagabonds, sturdy beggars and other idle and disorderly persons". The first effort of the Irish Parliament to care for the poor was the provision of a workhouse in Dublin under an Act of 1703. This institution gradually evolved into a foundling hospital, and a similar venture was launched in Cork by an Act in 1735. County Infirmaries were established under the County Infirmaries Act 1765.

During the early nineteenth century, the poorer section of the population depended on potatoes as their main source of food, and unfortunately the potato crop is estimated to have failed, partially or totally fourteen times between 1816 and 1842. Hunger was frequent, leaving people particularly vulnerable to fever, which from time to time swept through their cabins and cottages during these years.

With the social and economic problems prevailing, it was understandable that poor relief became a national question. The introduction of a Poor Relief Bill was mooted by the eighteen thirties which was to be the first statute in Ireland to provide a system of Poor Relief and to be financed by way of a poor rate levied on occupiers of houses, land and other rateable property. While the majority of the clergy including Bishop Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin favoured the poor relief proposals, landowners and Daniel O'Connell were opposed principally to any kind of compulsory rate financing the system. In any event the Poor Relief (Ireland) Act 1838 became law on the 31 July, in that year.

The Act provided for the establishment of Boards of Guardians with responsibility for operating the Poor Relief System, particularly the superintending of workhouses. The areas in which Boards of Guardians exercised their duties were known as Poor Law Unions. The Act made no provision for outdoor relief. However it took a number of years before the Act came fully into operation, as work houses had to be provided. (118 workhouses were ready for occupation by 1845).

Carlow did not escape periods of distress and particular distress was experienced in the months of June. July and August 1840., due to the high price of provisions and the scarcity of work. At that time a Poor Fund Committee, financed by way of public subscription was in existence (this supplied the poor with coals at half price during the winter months) and now due to the severity of the crises was obliged to retail oatmeal at half price to those in need. The Committee reported that for eight weeks, large boilers were erected at the old court house and upwards of a thousand quarts of rice were distributed daily, which were sold at a halfpenny per quart. However three thousand quarts were distributed weekly, gratuitously, to a large number, who were in utter destitution.

On the 23 July, 1840 a meeting was convened by R. M. Muggeridge, assistant Poor Law Commissioner (one of four Assistant Commissioners appointed to bring the Poor Law System into operation in Ireland) took place at the Courthouse, to advise property owners of the Plan contemplated to give effect to the formation of a Poor Law Union in Carlow vis:

The area of the Poor Law Union was to consist of "the entire Baronies of Carlow, Idrone East and Idrone West in the County of Carlow and of the Barony of Slievemargy in the Queen's County also of the whole of the Barony of Forth (with the exception of a part of the parish of Barragh) and of the parishes of Tullowphelim. Fenagh and Ardristan in the Barony of Rathvilly and of four Townlands in the County of Kildare".

The Union was to be divided into electoral divisions, eleven in County Carlow and three in the Queen's County.

Landlords and Cess Payers (later the Poor Rate Payers) were entitled to vote at election of Guardians.

A system of plural voting was to be introduced whereby cess payers could have up to six votes, depending on amount of cess paid. Landlords could have a maximum of twelve votes.

Guardians had to be cess payers within the union.

Legislature also prescribed that a number of Magistrates would be Ex-Officio Guardians and should be one third of the number of Guardians.

Subsequently, a meeting of Magistrates to elect cx-officio guardk took place in the Court House on Thursday 24 September. Col. John Staunton Rochford chaired the meeting. Ten Guardians were to elected. Each Magistrate submitted a list of the ten Candidates supported. The result was as follows:

Candidates

Votes

Sir Thomas Butler, Bart.

24

Robert Clayton Browne

23

Henry Faulkner

21

William Fishbourne

21

Pilsworth Whelan

20

James H Eustice

20

Henry Bruen

19

James Butler

19

Harmon Herring Cooper

19

William Duckett

19

John Nolan

3

Thomas Haughton

3

Thomas Tench Vigors

5

Walter Blackney

3

Dr. White

1

Col. Rochfort then declared the following duly elected as the ex-officio guardians of the Carlow Union

Ex-Officio

Guardians

Sir Thomas Butler Bart.

Henry Bruen

Robert C. Browne

James Hardy Eustice

Henry Faulkner

James Butler

Willaim Fishbourne

Harmon H. Cooper

Pilsworth Cooper

Wm. Duckett, Esqrs.

The election of Guardians took place on the 15th October, when thirty Candidates were elected to represent the fourteen electoral divisions in the Union. The following was the result of the poll as declared by the Returning Officer. Edward L Alma.

State of the poll at the close

 

 

 

Conservatives

Landlords Votes

Cess Payers Votes

Total

Elected

W Fishbourne

392

481

873

Elected

Sam. Haughton

401

465

866

Elected

W. R. Leckey

383

389

772

Elected

Simeon Clarke

385

384

769

Elected

Radicals

 

 

 

 

Thos Haughton

148

467

615

Elected

Thos T. Vigors

150

463

613

Elected

John Nolan

123

443

566

Elected

John Byrne

124

416

540

Elected

Jas. Brennan

14

67

81

Elected

Grangeford division

Conservatives

Thomas Elliott - Landlords votes 106 - Cess Payers 126 - Total-232.

Liberals

John Hanlon   Landlords 124 - Cess Payers 209 - Total 333 -Elected

Tullow division

Conservative

John Whelan - Landlords 157 - Cess Payers 436 - Total 593 - Elected

Hardy Eustice - Landlords   156 - Cess Payers 371 - Total 527

Liberals

Thomas Doyle - Landlords 91 – Cess Payers 448 - Total 539 –Elected

Robert Hanlon - Landlords 90-   Cess Payers 424-Total 514

Barragh Division

Conservatives

Thomas Tomlinson - Landlords 105 - Cess Payers 117 – Total 222

James Kepple - Landlords 105 - Cess Payers   109 - Total 214

Liberals

Patrick Kehoe - Landlords   31 - Cess Payers 322 - Total 353 - Elected

Sylvester Donoughoe -Landlords 31 - Cess payers 318 – Total 349 - Elected

Myshall division

Conservatives

A B. Feltus - Landlords  80 - Cess Payers - 323 - Total 403 –Elected

J B. Brady - Landlords 78 - Cess payers - 205 - Total 283

Liberals

Peter Fenlon - Landlords 18 - Cess Payers - 295 -Total - 313 - Elected

Luke Nolan - Landlords 18 - Cess payers 292 - Total - 310

Kiltennal Division

Conservatives

Henry Newton - Landlords 115 - Cess Payers 667 - Total 782 - Elected

Arthur Fitzmaurice - Landlords 115 - Cess Payers 670 - Total 785 - Elected

Liberals

William Maher - Landlords 1 - Cess Payers 54 - Total 55

John Kearney - Landlords 1 - Cess payers 50 - Total 51

Borris Division Conservatives

John Rudkin - Landlords   83 - Cess Payers 455 - Total 538 - Elected

George Whitney - Landlords 83 - Cess Payers 420 - Total 503 - Elected

Liberals

John Murphy - Landlords 40 –Cess Payers 211-Total 251

Edward Donoughoe - Landlords 40-Cess payers 203 - Total 243

Bagenalstown division

Conservatives

B. B. Newton - Landlords 139 - Cess Payers 419 -Total 558- Elected

Thomas Singleton - Landlords 139 - Cess Payers 417 -Total 536 Elected

Liberals

Darby Donoghoe - Landlords   14 - Cess Payers 63 - Total 77

James Murphy - Landlords   14 - Cess payers 63 - Total 77

Idrone West Division

Conservatives

Wm. R. Stewart - Landlords 166 - Cess Payers 499 - Total 665 - Elected

James Thomas - Landlords 126 - Cess Payers 325 - Total 451

Wm. Fishbourne-Landlords  125 - Cess payers 327 - Total 452

Liberals

John Cummins - Landlords  72 - Cess Payers 492 - Total 564 - Elected

Edward Lyons - Landlords    74 - Cess Payers 486 - Total 560 - Elected

Pat Foley - Landlords 51 - Cess Payers 422 - Total 473

Kellistown Division Conservatives

Samuel Elliott - Landlords 190 - Cess Payers - 308 - Total 498-Elected

Liberals

Luke Nolan - Landlords 62 - Cess Payers – 317 - Total 379

Fenagh and Nurney Division

Conservatives

Henry Gary - Landlords - 189 - Cess Payers 540 – Total - 729- Elected

John Watson - Landlords - 195 - Cess Payers - 511 - Total - 06 - Elected

Liberals

James Murphy - Landlords -18 - Cess Payers - 228 - Total 246

Edward Cullen - Landlords - 18 - Cess Payers - 207 - Total 225

Divisions Declared Without a Contest

Shrule - Peter Gale and Joseph Fishbourne

Graigue - John Haughton, William Butler and Robert Farrell

Arles - Wm. C. Cooper, Denis Kelly

Summary of The Whole Conservative Guardians

Ex-officio       10

Guardians elected by Cess Payers          20

Total  30

Liberal Guardians

Total returned out of the whole Union of the Liberal party  10


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