Saturday 1 October 2016

Sting's ancestor died in the workhouse a lonely pauper

Joe McCabe

Published 12/04/2015 | 02:30

Sting
Sting
Carrickmacross Workhouse in which Singer/Singwriter Sting's maternal ancestor died in 1881 and behind which she is buried.

Rock star Sting made an emotion-charged visit to Co Monaghan last week - to see the old workhouse where his maternal ancestor died a widowed pauper and is buried in an unmarked grave.

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The 63-year-old musician, whose real name is Gordon Sumner, made the private visit following his participation last year in the American-produced Finding Your Roots programme, which aired late last year in the US.

Programme researchers traced Sting's maternal origins to Inniskeen - also the birthplace of poet Patrick Kavanagh. The research prompted the private visit by the singer-songwriter to Carrickmacross on Thursday.

Sting's great-great-great grandmother, Mary Murphy (nee Goodman), is recorded as "a widow and pauper" who died in the workhouse from illness aged 68 in 1881. All her children had either emigrated or died.

During his visit, Sting spent time in quiet reflection at the site of one of three mass graves associated with the workhouse.

Carrickmacross Workhouse manager, Yvonne Marron, said the visit on Thursday was kept low-key at the musician's insistence. Sting was on his way to Belfast where he played that night with Paul Simon. The duo had played Dublin's 3 Arena on Tuesday night.

The former Police frontman was given a tour of the workhouse building, which contains a fully restored famine-era children's dormitory, as well as historical and famine related exhibits. He was then taken by coordinator Kevin Gartlan to view the workhouse's three mass graves and burial areas to the rear of the building where Mary Murphy is known to have been buried in 1881 - but in an unmarked grave.

Kevin Gartlan said: "I also showed Sting the actual building where Mary Murphy would have lived and died."

Yvonne Marron added: "I think he was quite overwhelmed by it all - he stayed here for more than an hour."

Sting also met members of the Murphy and McHugh families from nearby Inniskeen to whom he is related and he was shown a number of genealogy records relating to his ancestor Mary Murphy.

Carrickmacross Workhouse is one of only a handful of restored workhouses in Ireland. Sting's visit was arranged by Arts and Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys.

Sunday Independent

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