Teach na mBocht Chora Droma Rúisc aka Carrick on Shannon Workhouse (built in 1841) was declared fit for the admission of paupers on 1st July 1842 (and admitted its first inmates three weeks later). Carrick-on-Shannon Poor Law Union served 8 electoral divisions in north Co. Roscommon and 7 in Co. Leitrim:
Co. Leitrim: Carrick-on-Shannon, Drumreilly, Drumsbambo, Drumsna, Kiltubbrid, Keskcarrigan, Leitrim.
Co. Roscommon: Aughrim, Creeve, Elphin, Gillstown, Killglass, Killukin (Boyle), Kilmore, Tumna.
During the famine years, Carrick-on-Shannon suffered greatly. By the end of 1846, the workhouse was bursting at the seams, with the inmates lacking food, clothing, proper sanitation, and having only straw for bedding. Diseases such as dysentery and typhus were rife and a dozen deaths a week were occurring (full account here). At the end of 1846, the Quaker James Tuke visited a number of workhouses and reported:
I have already stated that owing to the want of funds, great difficulty exists in many Unions in providing for the inmates. The worst which I visited was that of Carrick-on-Shannon (which opened in 1842); it is in a miserable state and the doors were closed against further admissions; and although built for 700 had but 280 inmates; gates were besieged by seventy or eighty wretched beings who in vain implored for admission. Numbers of them were in various stages of fever, which was terribly prevalent in the neighbourhood, and the fever-shed overcrowded. Two months before my visit, the doors of the workhouse were opened and the inmates expelled, entailing upon them the most dire misery.
The workhouse building is still extant. It continued in its role as a refuge for the destitute until the 1930s, then became a geriatric hospital aka St Patrick's Community Hospital.
In 1997, the Carrick-on-Shannon and District Historical Society commemorated the 150th anniversary of the depths of the famine, when soup kitchens were introduced to try and help relieve the starvation conditions. They renovated the adjacent famine graveyard and recreated a small part of the workhouse in one of the hospital attics which has survived virtually unchanged since the nineteenth century...
Workhouse Attic Memorial
An evocative reminder of the famine era workhouses, the Workhouse Attic Memorial is part of the St. George's Heritage and Visitor Centre. Both are located Carrick-on-Shannon, a gold medal winner in the 2010 Entente Florale awards.
From the St. George's Heritage and Visitor Centre on Main Street, which also houses an interesting display and DVD show on local history, follow the brass plaque trail to the Workhouse Attic Memorial.
Introductory displays recall the role of the workhouse during the famine era. Some 1896 famine victims were recorded as living in these small, white washed quarters. A famine graveyard in the grounds is another legacy of this poignant chapter of Irish history.
The adjacent reading room provides an opportunity to look through reproduced copies of the Carrick Workhouse Board of Guardian's Minute Books (1843 - 1850) and to browse other evocative items of interest, including a selection of local emigration records.
Access to the workhouse attic and reading room is by guided tour which can be arranged with the St. George’s Heritage and Visitor Centre staff.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.
- Leitrim County Library, Main Street, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim. Holdings: Union minute books (1843-1919, some gaps); Rough minute books (1854-55, 1899); Accounts (1843-94, major gaps); Abstracts of rates: (1896-98).
- The Workhouses of Ireland by John O'Connor (Anvil Books, 1995)
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