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Hello there

I would love some help in relation to my GG Granny who was in the Mullingar workhouse during the Great Famine years.  Her name was Mary Jane Walsh (from Castlelost, Westmeath).  Along with her sister Eliza Walsh they were described as "Nursemaids" in the record of their emigration to Australia on board the Tippoo Saib in 1850.  What would have the job of "Nursemaid" entailed in the Workhouse environment at the time?

Many thanks in anticipation


Sue O'Leary


Thursday 24th Dec 2020, 05:49AM

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  • I probably can’t offer much more than the dictionary definition which is that a nursemaid was someone employed to look after another person’s children.

    If you read reports on workhouses in the 1800s, like the one below, you will find descriptions of the medical facilities. Usually there was a doctor and a very small number of nurses. Barely sufficient to give proper care to all the patients and in report after report you will find recommendations to employ more salaried nurses. In the meantime, what the workhouses did was use a few of their pauper inmates as “nursing assistants” you might call them. They could be responsible for non medical tasks like cleaning patients, serving and clearing meals, tidying the wards, and so on.  All workhouses had women with babies and young children and so presumably some duties may also have been around their welfare.

    A bit about Mullingar Workhouse here, plus the report of an inspection in the 1890s.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Saturday 26th Dec 2020, 09:18AM
  • Thank you so much Elwyn.  I had seen the Mullingar site but I will follow up the 1890s reports. I really appreciate the information you provided. 

    Many thanks again

    Sue O'



    Sunday 27th Dec 2020, 06:29AM
  • Who are ya Susan "O" & where located? 

    Don O'Leary - Indianapolis, Indiana


    Tuesday 22nd Mar 2022, 12:43AM
  • The role of a nursemaid during that time would have likely entailed taking care of the infants and young children in the workhouse. This would have likely included tasks such as feeding, bathing, and supervising the children. A workhouse during the Great Famine was very difficult and harsh. Living conditions were overcrowded and unsanitary, and the work was grueling. Your GG Granny and her sister's decision to emigrate to Australia in 1850 would have been a difficult one. If you're looking for more information on this topic, you might find it helpful to visit local archives in the area. And for more information on other job opportunities you can check out I hope this information is helpful to you.


    Monday 23rd Jan 2023, 04:09PM

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