Friday, June 10, 1994

Board of Guardians Protest 1887

During the Luggacurran Evictions which commenced in 1887 Athy Board of Guardians granted what they considered to be necessary outdoor relief to the evicted tenants. The cheques in payment were signed by the Board's Vice-Chairman Daniel Whelan of Barrowhouse. During a subsequent audit of the accounts the Auditor disallowed the payments and surcharged Mr. Whelan in the sum of £136. The Board of Guardians immediately met and agreed to recoup this money to Mr. Whelan and a cheque was drawn on the Board's account and signed by M.J. Minch, J.W. Dunne and James McLoughlin. All three men were subsequently sued for the recovery of the money by the Local Government Auditor at Athy Petty Sessions in January 1888. The case against them was dismissed. In June 1888 the entire Board of Guardians were dismissed by the Local Government Board and two Vice-Guardians were appointed in their place. Charles Fitzgerald D.C., Castlebar, Co. Mayo and William Burke J.P. of Headford, Co. Galway were each paid the sum of £250 a year out of the rates of the Union while acting as Vice- Guardians for Athy Union.

A public meeting was called for the Town Hall, Athy, on Monday the 25th of June at 7.00p.m. to protest against the action of the Local Government Board and to support the local Board of Guardians. On the following day a large crowd congregated in Emily Square shortly before 1.00p.m. About one hour previously the two newly appointed Vice-Guardians accompanied by Mr. Robinson, Local Government Board Inspector arrived at the Workhouse. A strong force of police under the command of County Inspector Locke had arrived in Athy on the morning train and with the local constabulary were put in charge of the Workhouse. The resident Magistrate, Mr. Kennedy, was also in attendance. The Workhouse Porter received strict instructions not to admit anybody to the building.

Shortly before 1.00 o'clock the dismissed Guardians formed into processional order outside the Town Hall and accompanied by about 1,000 of the townspeople marched to the Workhouse. They included J.W. Dunne, former Chairman, M.J. Minch, M. Hickey, T.P. Lacey,
James Dolan, P. Cleary, P. Walters, James McLoughlin, John McLoughlin, T. Orford, Richard Lawler, William Murphy, T. Dunny, Edward Neill, J. Toole, John Brennan, J. Julian, John Nowlan, Stephen Hayden, John Gannon, Michael Doyle, D. Whelan, Vice Chairman and Michael Treacy.

Also marching with the Guardians were two local Curates Rev. J. Staple C.C. and Rev. J. Carroll C.C. Arriving at the entrance gates to the Workhouse Mr. Dunne addressed the Porter who stood behind the closed locked gates
"As Chairman of the Board I demand admittance for myself and my brother Guardians. We are the elected Guardians and as such the representatives of the people."

Refused admission Mr. Dunne penned a note which read
"The Guardians having arrived to transact the business of the Board find the gates closed against them and in the charge of a force of police. Kindly explain the reason why. Signed J.W. Dunne, Chairman of the Board."

The Porter accepted the note and brought it to the Workhouse Master Mr. Hyland who in turn brought it before the Vice Guardians and the Local Government Inspector. A reply was penned and handed to the Master, it read
"Mr. Hyland is to inform the late Board of Guardians that the Vice-Guardians are at present engaged in transacting Union business and cannot therefore now authorise the admission to the Workhouse or Board Room of any persons who have not got legal business to transact."

The dismissed Guardians returned to the Town Hall where a protest meeting was held. They were to remain out of office until the next scheduled elections for Guardians to Athy Union.

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