October Short Story Winner

Deаr Diаry: December 1st 1850
by Bernadette Murphy

Horrible! Horrible! I lost аnother tooth lаst night. Thаt’s the fifth one now. So my two front teeth аre gone. No more smiling for me. Not thаt I hаve much to smile аbout here аnywаy. Everywhere is gloomy. I hаven’t heаrd lаughter since I got here. I hаven’t heаrd singing either. Whаt bothers me most аbout my teeth is thаt I sort of whistle when I tаlk аnd some of the others teаse me аnd mаke а hissing noise when I speаk. I feel so аshаmed. My biggest feаr is thаt I will lose аll my teeth like poor old Gertie in the infirmаry.I’m glаd the food I get doesn’t need to be chewed. Thin stirаbout аnd soup every dаy or ” slop” аs my friend Grаcie cаlls it. It’s so thin we don’t even need spoons, it’s just аs well becаuse we don’t hаve аny cutlery аnywаy. We’re so hungry by the time we get the food we drink it strаight from the mug. Some of the people try eаting with their hаnds but it dribbles down their chins onto their clothes аnd those “in …

It's Shorelines Time Again!

Shorelines has taken over Portumna. The festival has once again filled the town with lots of thought-provoking, quirky, and just plain enjoyable arty-type stuff. The Irish Workhouse Centre has not been spared and we are delighted to be jam packed with delicious art in all shapes and forms. Once again we are all reminded what a great gallery space the workhouse is, and for those of you who wonder how cultural events fit in with the history of this site, here is some food for thought.

The workhouse was originally meant to provide help and support to their immediate localities. They failed massively in this duty of care, but we can now readdress this balance using the same site. Heritage spots like ourselves, can and should be embedded in their local communities, providing something for everyone. Let's not keep making the mistakes of the past.
Arts are the succour of the soul. The most heart-rending fact I learnt from tour guiding at the workhouse is that paupers, though half-starved…

Irish Workhouses and Genealogy (Part 2)

-Parliamentary & Civil Records-
Not all records relating to Irish Workhouses were generated in-house. In fact, much of what survives today are records created by the government.  A great government record is the 1901 and 1911 Census. This census lists all the inhabitants and staff of the various workhouses. Please note that the paupers are usually listed by initials.
We can also use newspapers as a surprisingly full source of information about workhouse inmates and staff alike. If you are lucky you may even find information given about a pauper's family or the conditions leading to their admittance to the workhouse. The Freeman’s Journal, 27 August 1864 for example, refers to a man named Howard, commiserating with his fate and his diet, ‘…the horrid stuff miscalled “bread”, on which he was fed was unlike anything with which the paupers were fed before’.[1]
In the case of Portumna Workhouse the most useful set of records are those of the civil death registers. These are kept at th…

Workhouse Personalities-Kitty and Mary Madden

In light of the recent Madden Gathering at the Workhouse, we have been looking at the Maddens admitted here over the years. The most riveting case we have found revolves around Mary Madden and her mother, Kitty. 
Mary Madden was born about 1834. She was paralyzed, blind and suffered from seizures.It was reported that Kitty Madden carried on caring for her daughter until the elderly lady could no longer even take care of herself. After admission to the workhouse, there are reports of another inmate in the workhouse, Judy Solon, taking care of Mary Madden on occasions. However, the story of Kitty Madden and her daughter does not end here.
Kitty is mentioned in newspaper articles after appearing as a witness in a workhouse inquiry. The inquiry looked into the mistreatment of paupers and their allegations of substandard food. It was stated that the Indian meal used in the workhouse to make bread was ‘blue mould and musty’. After Mary was fed the bread, she vomited three times. 
Outside the w…

All the Falling Stones

I am always amazed by the sheer volume of talented artists and crafts people I get to meet as part of stocking the Workhouse Gift Shop. Just when I think I've seen everything, a new product or approach comes along and I have to resist buying one of everything!

All the Falling Stones is a series of atmospheric prints by photographer Claire Loader. The prints are fixed onto wooden blocks so that the prints can be free-standing as well as wall mounted.

Claire is originally from the 'other' Westport, a coastal town on the South Island of New Zealand. After meeting her husband in China, she took the plunge and moved to Ireland. That was 9 years ago and the New Zealand photographer has been enchanted with Ireland ever since. Like many visitors to Ireland, Claire has never gotten over the amount of castles and abbeys, pure history, often just sitting out in a field somewhere. Immune to steady drizzles, muddy boots and even the odd unfriendly bull, Claire has set about explorin…

Irish Workhouses and Genealogy (Part 1)

In-house Records
The workhouse system in Ireland is an often overlooked treasure trove of names, personal histories and local business names. It takes some time to find this information but it is well worth the effort.
At the time of their operation, from 1840 up to the early 1920s, vast quantities of records were kept by each workhouse. These records were created by The Board of Guardians (the group of men in each individual Poor Law Union which formed the administrative core of a workhouse), or the workhouse staff such as the Master, Medical Officer, and Clerks. 
The Board of Guardians
This group of men were very interested with statistics and how their Poor Rate was being spent. To this end they discussed tenders for workhouse supplies and posts within the workhouse, salaries of staff and the suggestions of Poor Law Inspectors.
From the minutes of the Board of Guardian meetings, we have a roll call of the board itself and there is evidence that the concerns of the rate-payers were not…

Heritage Week Plans for 2018

August is always an exciting month for the Irish Workhouse Centre as we celebrate National Heritage Week. Running from August 18th to 26th, Heritage Week will again be a major focus here. The aim of National Heritage Week is to preserve our folklore, ancient legends and archive the stories of our past in our minds. It is an event tailored to people of all ages and represents every facet of the Irish identity. This year, the theme of Heritage Week is ‘connections’. We encourage people to get involved and ‘make a connection’ to their heritage. Our heritage belongs to us, and it is important that we preserve and cherish it.
We will host ten events over the nine days, will hold ten events off-site, and are providing nine free publications over the nine days.  No centre or museum in the county holds as many events as the Workhouse. Perhaps, some of these events might interest you...
Saturday, August 18th
Beginning our Heritage Week celebration with a bang, Saturday sees us on the road to Balli…