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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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Henry Bruen, Esq., M.P.; R Clayton Browne. Esq., Sir Thorn Butler, Bart.; C. H. Doyne. Horace Rochford, John B Brady, Butler, William Duckett, Samuel Elliott, James H. Eustace, HUJ Faulkner, W. M. C. Bunbury, M.P.. Beaucham, B. Newton, J. Nob James F. Sweeny, Henry Waters, John James Leckey, Thomas Vigors, James Eustace, Richard Ellis, John L. Watson, Clement Wolseley, Hardy Eustace, T Haughton, John Gray, Edmund Hager, William C. Cooper, H.H. Cooper, William R. Fitzmaurice, and Peter Gale, Esqrs.


William Fishbourne, sen., William R. Lecky, Samuel Haughton, Simon Clarke, Edward Burton, Arthur Downing, Robert Hank John McLean Baily, Wm. P. Butler. Benjamin B. Feltus, Peter Fenlon. Henry Newton, Arthur Fitzmaurice. John Rudkin, George Whitney. P. J. Newton, Thomas Singleton, William Fishbourne. Wm. R. Steuart, Thomas H. Watson, Thomas Elliott, Henry C John Watson, Joseph Fishbourne. John Edge, William Edge, Robert Farrell, Samuel Edge, Adam Jackson, and William Simmons, Esqrs.

The number of inmates occupying the workhouse and Fever Hospital in May, 1848 was 1684, and 5869 persons were receiving out door relief. With some improvement in conditions by early September and the number of inmates considerably reduced in the workhouse the Guardians were instructed to cease payment of out-door relief. Recipients were informed accordingly and told that ample accommodation was available in the workhouse if required. This resulted the virtual ending of out-door relief, as families declined to accept the offer, leaving 16 people only in receipt of out-door relief at end of the month.

However, by mid-January, 1849 wide spread hunger had again broken down resistance to the workhouse, which quickly became over crowded. Vast crowds assembled seeking out-door relief, with local constabulary having to attend to preserve order. This resulted in the Guardians perceiving the necessity of maintaining the principle of out-door relief and requiring them to meet daily for a month to attend to the crisis. In the meantime the outdoor relief system in Union had changed considerably. Instead of money, the relieving officers gave tickets for meal to those requiring relief. The following report of the 22 February, 1849 sets out the scale of the crisis, the Guardians having to provide a number of auxiliary Work Houses to meet the demand for in-door relief.

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
No. in house last Board day 2273
No. left workhouse 81
No. died in fever hospital 2
No. died in house 7 = 90
No. Workhouse patients in fever hospital 76
No. men in Mill-lane House  72
No. ditto sleeping at Nursery House 158
No. hoys at Mr. Dunne's Stores 276
No. Women do at Brewery House 275
No. girls sleeping at Graigue House 243 = 1100

Also at the February Meeting The Guardians approved recommendation of Dr. Porter to "Appoint inspectors of nuisances, with power to remove nuisances which were tending to endanger the health of the inhabitants." It was hoped that with a Sewerage Scheme being provided in the town this together with the removal of nuisances would help to relieve the fever epidemic. The following inspectors were appointed under the "Nuisance Removal Act'

Tullow John Prosser
Leighlinbridge Edward Hayden
Borris ~ Geoghegan
Bagenalstown Thomas Ditcher
Carlow and Graigue James Harold

The Clerk of the Union, Robert Davies retired at this time and was replaced by Andrew Geo. English. Burrin Street, Carlow.

The Guardians in August, 1849 for reasons best known to themselves gave directions to the relieving officers to "strike off numbers receiving out door relief." At that time the number of families in receipt of this relief in the Union at large for each electoral division was as follows: Carlow (289), Grangeford (37), Tullow (163), Barragh (54), Myshall (72), Kiltennel (99), Borris (124), Bagenalstown (32), Idrone (174), Kelliastown (39) Fenagh and Nurney (187), Shrule (164), Graigue (183), Arles (153). By the end of September five families only were in receipt of out-door relief. During the months official returns show that the numbers of inmates in the work house and Auxiliaries had greatly reduced from (3185) in mid July to (1464). At the end of September Cholera had almost disappeared from the Leighlinbridge area and the fever hospital there was closed. Borris and Kiltennell fever hospitals had already been closed earlier that year.

However conditions again changed, and while cholera was somewhat waning, destitution again increased at an alarming rate and by early January 1850, the number of inmates in the workhouse and auxiliaries had increased to 2331 and continued to rise.

In August, 1850 following a Boundary Commission Report, alterations were made to Poor Law Unions throughout the country. Carlow Union had portions of the Athy and Shillelagh Unions added to its area, with areas of the Carlow Union being transferred to these Unions. The Union itself was changed from fifteen electoral divisions (Idrone West having been previously sub-divided) to forty five. Also at that time the complement of the Board was increased to seventy, with thirty five members being elected and thirty five ex-offlcio guardians. The first election, following alteration of Union Boundaries, and electoral divisions, held in March 1851 was uncontested in the Carlow Union, as reported in the Sentinel on 8th March, 1851.


The following is a list of the elective guardians for the ensuing year. No nomination took place for the Division of Turra, comprising ten townlands in the Queen's County, but the omission is of little consequence, as the Queen's County portion of the Union will be efficiently represented:

William Carter Rossmore & Ardough Arthur M. Downing Rathornan & Ridge
William Edge Arles William R. Lecky Kellistown & Ballinacarrig
Joseph Fishbourne Shrule & Ballickmoyler Robert Hanlon Tullowbeg
Adam Jackson Graigue William Young Tullow
William Hovedan Ballylehane & Farnans Douglas Hamilton Rathrush
Benjamin J, Edge Doonane Henry Newton Rathanna
John Edge Newtown Henry Gary Nurney
George Whitney Borris William R Butler Ballintemple
Garret Nolan Ballyellen John McClean Bailie Ballon & Kilbride
Thomas Singleton Bagenalstown Edward Burton Burtonhall & Johnstown
Samuel Haughton Carlow John Watson Ballymoon & Fenagh
Thomas C. Butler do John Newton Augha & Templepeter
Simon Clarke do Thomas H. Watson Old Leighlin
Lorenzo Alexander Clogrennane John Rudkin Slyguff & Corries
Arthur FitzMaurice Kiledmond Thomas Elliott Grangeford
William Richard Steuart Leighlinbridge  John W. Bathe, Esqrs Garry hill
Benjamin B. Feltus Myshall  Mr. Peter Fenlon Shangarry

There will be no contest in any Division of the Union


The following are Ex-officio Guardians, being Justices of the Peace within the union. In this list no change has taken place since the past year:

Henry Bruen, M.P. Sir Thomas Butler Bart. R. Clayton Browne, Horace Rochfort, Thomas Kavanagh, W.M.C Bunbury, M.P. Wm. C. Cooper, William Fishboure, William Duckett, Charles H. Doyne, John B. Brady, James Butler, Samuel Elliott, James H. Eustace, John Nolan, William R. FitzMaurice, H.H. Cooper, John D. Duckett, Hugh Faulkner, J. F. Sweeny, Clement Wolseley, Henry Waters, John James Lecky, Walter Newton, John L. Watson, P. J. Newton, Thomas Haughton, John Gray, Edmund Hagarty, John H. Keogh, Hugh Blackney, Hardy Eustace, John C. Vigors, James FitzMaurice, Peter Gale, Esqrs.

In April 1851 the Town Gas Supply was extended to the Work House and eighty two lights were provided in the building. The following report sets out the number of inmates in the work house, auxiliaries, and fever hospitals at the time.

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