Wednesday 17 October 2018

Last man to be buried in Bully's Acre

THE Poor Law Union Act was first introduced to Ireland in the year 1838 and each Union had its own workhouse, which was built for the relief of the poor and distressed.

The Drogheda union workhouse was erected just off the Dublin road on land that was leased from a woman named Heaney, with the lease dating to April 1840.

The Drogheda workhouse was similar in plan to many of the other institutions that were erected in Ireland at this time. It was designed by the English architect, George Wilkinson and consisted of a reception to the front with the main workhouse situated some 130 meters to the rear of this building.

During the worst year of the famine, which was that of 1847, the union workhouse at Drogheda often contained some 900 inmates in a place that was constructed to hold only 800 and, in many instances almost one quarter of those inmates were children under the age of 15 years old.

During the period of the great famine the union workhouse at Drogheda had no burial ground of its own and so the inmates who had passed away inside this building were buried in the Cord Road cemetery and, on some occasions they were also interred in the old cemetery at Stagrennan on the Mornington Road; the union workhouse burial ground, known locally as Bully`s Acre, did not come into use until the mid 1850`s.

The workhouse continued up until 1924 when, under the new formation of the Free State, it became a District Hospital: the foundation stone of the workhouse bearing the date, 1841, may be seen outside the entrance door to Millmount Museum.

The last known pauper to be buried here was in 1928 and was witnessed by a local lad of 11 years old, who later recalled:

'I took a short cut across the railway past Bully's Acre and I saw this vehicle coming under the railway bridge. It was a low vehicle with glass sides.

' There was a man leading a brown pony with a plain coffin inside the small carriage. Another man was walking behind carrying shovels and I believe that these two men were inmates of the `Spike`.

'I followed the hearse into Bully's Acre and the coffin was taken and put into a grave and covered up. There were no clergy there, so I said a prayer. I asked one of the men who the dead person was and he told me that it was a man from Annagassan'.