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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.

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The following report is taken from the Carlow Sentinel at the same time.


In accordance with a resolution passed on the last Board day, the Board proceeded to receive applications from paupers for admission into the Poorhouse.

Mr. Lecky - The master and clerk of the Shilleiagh Union are in attendance, I think they have better be called in.

Colonel Bruen - Is it for the information for the Board of Guardiansor the master and clerk that those people arc brought here?

Mr. Davies - Both the master and myself thought their attendance necessary - they being acquainted with all the necessary forms of admission, &c.

The master Mr. Bate, and the clerk of Shillelagh Union were then called in.

Colonel Bruen - What are the necessary forms to be observed on the admission of paupers?

Mr. Bate - If you have reason to doubt the statement of a pauper, you are not bound to receive him. The usual way and the most correct is to require each pauper to bring a recommendation from a Guardian belonging to a district in which he lives.

Hugh Lee was then called in and examined by Mr. Bate, the master of Shillelagh Union. The following answers were given to the questions put to the applicant:

My name is Hugh Lee, I was married; my wife is dead: I am 48 years of age; I have no trade; I have been in the army: my usual occupation is that of servant; I have no family; does not know how to Labour.

He was then ordered to withdraw.

Colonel Bruen - I don't think that we ought admit such an abled bodied pauper; we ought first to admit the destitute, the aged, and infirm.

Mr Whelan - The shillelagh Board of Guardians would not admit him.

The application was refused, and on hearing other applications, none were admitted but those who were considered fit objects for charity.


The next applicant was a street beggar known by the name of Dick Shea In appearance he represented a mountain of rags, which were confined to his legs and body by several hay and straw ropes; on making his appearance he bowed very courteously to the chairman when the following amusing dialogue took place;

Chairman - What's your name?

Shea - O'Shea, your honour.

Chairman - How old are you?

Shea - How old do you think? (laughter). I'm old enough to remember the Rebellion.

Major Cooper - Perhaps you were engaged in it?

Shea – No, I was too young at the time (laughter)

Chairman - What religion do you belong to?

Shea -I generally say my prayers at the fire side (laughter)

Mr. Whelan - Do you go to church or chapel?

Shea - I you qualify me to go to either place, I'll go, but I suppose a man coming in here will be allowed the liberty of conscience (laughter)

Colonel Bruen - Were you ever in church?

Shea -I was and in chapel too. (loud laughter)

Shea being considered a fit object, he was accordingly admitted.

The applications were not numerous, and there were only fourteen admitted.

Wardens were appointed in January 1845 for the purpose of enquiry into claims for admission to the work house. In July Rev. Thomas Tyrrell was appointed Catholic Chaplin with Rev Joseph Jameson. Protestant Chaplin and George Wilson was appointed Revisor Valuator in September. The population of the workhouse that month was 259, with average expense of each inmate being one shilling and nine pence per week.

Also in the Month of September the undermentioned rate was struck in respect of financial year September 1845 to September 1846.

Name of Division Amount of Rate Probable ex. of same until Sept. 1846
s d
Carlow 1-3 1420 0 0
Grangeford 0-2fi 113 4 10
Tullow 0-5 274 7 0
Barragh 0-2fi 130 8 1fi
Myshall 0-2fi 81 5 1
Kiltennel 0-5 162 19 8
Borris 0-5 262 5 2
Bagenalstown 0-6 265 19 6
Idrone West 0 2fi 202 4 3fi
Kellistown 0-2fi 158 1 0
Fenagh & Nurney 0-2fi 157 4 5
Shrule 0-3fi 176 2 7
Aries 0-2fi 84 13 0
Graigue 0-5 201 15 0
Total to September, 1846 3690 9 8

The Guardians of the Poor were not long in existence when Parliament began to extend their functions beyond Poor Relief. In 1846 they were required to provide and equip hospitals and dispensaries for the sick poor. By the end of the year widespread hunger resulted in bread and soup depositories being opened at Chapel Lane and Cox's Lane by the Carlow Relief Committee. Relief Committees were constituted by the Lord Lieutenant in electoral Divisions of a Union under an Act for Temporary Relief of the Destitute Poor (10 Vic.c.7)

Soup Kitchens were established throughout the Union and many people sought admittance to the Workhouse. The Workhouse soon became overcrowded and the Guardians provided temporary sheds at the rear of the building which housed 250 additional inmates. Fever which began to make its appearance in January 1847 increased to an alarming extent; with the County Fever Hospital soon full to capacity and 200 inmates under medical treatment in the workhouse.

In April, I 847 the Guardians rented a Malt House, Property of Simon Clarke in Mill Lane as an extension of the workhouse for use as a temporary measure for their fever patients. This Building some time later became a recovery hospital for patients removed from the Fever Hospital. Inmates from the workhouse were also housed in the Building.

The following Month a Fever Hospital (Mill Lane) was established in extensive property adjoining the River Barrow owned by Thomas Fitzsimons which could accommodate up to 600 patients. While the Hospital was unconnected with the workhouse, the Guardians paid the rent and earned out any repairs required. Temporary Fever Hospitals were provided in Bagenalstown, Tullow, Leighlinbridge, Doonane, Borris and Kiltennel and funded partly by private subscription and grant out of the County Cess, with the Guardians giving support when required. Relief Committees were responsible for procuring and furnishing buildings as Fever Hospitals and appointing Nurses, Attendants etc. However, from 1 October, 1847 the Boards of Guardians became responsible for all costs and expenses relating to Fever Hospitals (10-Vie. C.22) and to a large extent took charge by way of appointing staff seeking tenders for food supply, and repairing these hospitals.

The impact and continuation of the famine accompanied by the appalling scale of fever, resulting in gross overcrowding in workhouses, compelled the Government to alter its attitude and introduce "The Poor Relief Extension Act, 1847" thereby enabling the Guardians to pay out-door relief to the poor. At a Meeting of the 12th August the following relieving Officers were appointed by the Guardians to administer the Act in the Carlow Union:-

Carlow and Kellistown Henry Campion
Barragh and Myshall William Kepple
Borris and Kiltennel James Kerr
Bagenalstown, Fenagh and Nurney John Corrigan
Idrone West William Scanian
Graigue James Wilson
Shrule and Arles Thomas May
Grangeford and Tullow Peter Twamley

In October the Master of the Workhouse reported that all the neighbouring Churchyards were so overcrowded that the persons in charge utterly refused permission to bury the Workhouse dead in them. The Guardians having failed to procure any place to hire or purchase (although repeatedly advertised for) agreed that the dead should be buried within the workhouse grounds.

At the meeting of January 1848 the following report was submitted to the members of the Board by the medical Officer.

No. of paupers in the workhouse last Board day 1548
No. admitted during the week  118
No. of external fever patients during the week  10
No. of paupers left house during the week 69
No. left house on outdoor relief do  65
No. discharged cured out of fever hospital during the week 6
No. of deaths in workhouse during the week 11
No. of deaths in fever hospital do 10
No. patients in workhouse, fever hospital, and boys dormitory, Mill-lane. 1505
No. patients in fever hospital 167
No. boys sleeping in Mill-lane dormitory 175
Total in workhouse  1163

[signed] James Porter, M.D.
January 6th, 1848


No. of individuals receiving out-door relief, and chargeable to the Carlow Union, up to Friday, the 7th January, 1848, viz:

Adults, male and female  940
Children under 13 years old 1208
Total  2148

Prior to the March Election of 1848, Ex-Officio Guardians were empowered to increase their number to thirty, thereby forming half the complement of the Board. The following is the list of those elected at the time.

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