Tuesday 21 November 2017

Memorial plaque for workhouse dead

March, 1984

In March, 1984 a memorial plaque was erected on the boundary wall of St. Oliver Plunkett Hospital on the Ardee Road to commemorate the many who died from want and disease in the former workhouse over the years.

It was in 1847 that the Board of Guardians in charge of Dundalk Workhouse decided that they needed a burial place within the workhouse precints.

In the wake of the failure of the potato crop in 1845 and the 1846 epicemic of typhoid described as the 'Handmaid of the Famine', that swept the country, fever took countless lives in Dundalk and the workhouse.

Deaths were occuring in the workhouse at the rate of five a week, and the Guardians felt it necessary to mark off a plot of gound in the wouth west corner of the workhouse property do that burials could take place on site.

Cholera followed in 1849 and the rate of deaths rose considerably. During the month of June and July that year, 162 patients died and were burial in the little cemetery. It was then nearly full and the Guardians had to set about looking for a new burial gound.

They negotiated the purchase of a site nearby in the townland of Killeally - known locally as Sidella - but they did not commence burials there until 1852 and continued until 1906 when all who died in the workhouse were burial in the new cemetery, St. Patrick's in Dowdallshill.

The little graveyard in the workhouse became a garden and its original use became lost in most people's memory.

Then in 1983 the Old Dundalk Society felt that the many who were burial in the workhouse should be remembered and Cardinal Tomas O'Fiaich agreed to unveil a plaque to their memory in 1984. A Day of Rememberance was also held during which Mass was offered for the deceased and local children presented projects on the life of the workhouse.

The Argus

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