Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The early history of Athy's Workhouse

The first meeting of the Board of Guardians of the Athy Union was held in the Courthouse, Athy on Thursday, 29th April 1841 (the Court room at that time was located in the Town Hall).  Present at that meeting were Lord Downes of Bert House, Sir E.H. Walsh of Ballykilcavan, Sir Anthony Weldon of Rahinderry, W.H. Cole of Moore Abbey, Monasterevin, Benjamin Lefroy of Cardenton and Edward Bagot of Kildoon.  They were ex officio members of the Board, as was B.A. Yates of Moone Abbey and George Evans of Farmhill who were not present at that meeting. 

Those attending also included the following guardians who had been elected to the position.  Patrick Cummins, Athy; Gerald Dunne, Snugboro; P.C. Doran, Castlemitchell; John Butler, Athy; Thomas Fitzgerald, Kilberry; Robert Cassidy, Monasterevin; Edward Conlan, Monasterevin; John Hyland, Ballitore; Patrick Maher, Kilrush; William Pelan, Ballindrum; James Caulfield, Pilsworth, Castledermot; Joseph Lyons, Moyanna, Stradbally; Thomas Budd, Timogue, Stradbally; Michael Dowling, Inch, Stradbally; Francis Roberts, Stradbally; Thomas Kilbride, Luggacurran; John Hovenden, Modubeagh and John Kehoe of Ballylinan.  Elected guardians who were absent included Daniel Browne, Ashgrove, Monasterevin; John Dowling, Kildangan; Andrew Dunne, Dollardstown; William Caulfield, Levitstown; Major E.H. Pope, Carlow and William Tarleton, Stradbally [the last two representing Ballyadams].

At that first meeting of the Board George Evans was elected Chairman, William Caulfield Vice Chairman while Patrick Dunne was elected Clerk to the Board at a salary of €40 per year.  Arrangements were made for the Union area to be surveyed and valued for the purpose of fixing rates to finance the running of the Workhouse which would open in Athy in January 1844. 

At its next meeting on 27th May it was agreed to admit the press to board meetings and to divide the union area into eight vaccination districts, with vaccination stations located at Athy, Castledermot, Monasterevin, Stradbally, Luggacurran, Nurney, Ballylinan and Moone. 

On 20th July 1841 the Board received an order from the Poor Law Commissioners directing it to raise or borrow the sum of £6,700 for the building and fitting out of a workhouse in Athy. 

On 10th March 1842 the Board met to decide applications from persons claiming the right to vote at the annual election for members of Athy Board of Guardians scheduled for 26th March.  The only change following that election was the replacement of John Butler by John Peppard.  The outgoing chairman, George Evans, retained his position following the first meeting of the newly elected Board when defeating Sir Anthony Weldon by one vote.  However, his name is absent from the record of all subsequent meetings and on 11th October 1842 the Board unanimously agreed to elect Sir Anthony Weldon as Chairman of the Board of Guardians on the proposal of Lord Downes, seconded by Captain Lefroy. 

In July 1842 the salaries for the various officers of the workhouse were fixed by the Board.  The Workhouse Master was to be paid £40 per year with furnished apartments, fuel and candles and a limited quantity of house provisions.  The Matron was to receive £20 a year, with similar allowances, while the workhouse porter was granted £10 a year and allowances.  The workhouse schoolmaster and mistress were to be paid £20 and £15 respectively in addition to the earlier mentioned allowances.  Their duties were to include ‘assisting the master in the management of the workhouse.’  The medical attendant’s salary was fixed at £50 a year and his duties included the ‘compounding of all necessary medicines.’  A ‘nurse teacher’ was to receive £10 a year with the agreed allowances.  However, the Poor Law Commissioners took issue with the Board of Guardians decisions and directed that the fixing of salaries was premature and consequently refused to sanction any appointments. 

The dispute between the Board and the Commissioners was eventually resolved and on 7th February 1843 the Board proceeded with appointments of various officials to Athy Workhouse.  William Bryan was appointed Workhouse master, with Elizabeth Quinn as Workhouse mistress and James Butler as the porter.  The appointment of the Workhouse medical attendant appears to have been the only appointment which necessitated a vote, even though there were several applicants for each position.  Dr. Ferris, Dr. Kynsey and Dr. Clayton submitted their applications and the position went to Dr. Kynsey who received 16 votes to 13 votes cast for Dr. Clayton.  The hapless Dr. Ferris received no votes. 

A rate of five pence in the pound was levied on all rateable properties in the Athy Poor Law Union area to fund the operation of the local Workhouse and John Mulhall was appointed to collect the poor rate in the Athy and Kilberry districts.  Collectors were also appointed to the other areas of the union.    As the opening of the Workhouse in January 1844 approached the preceding months were taken up with arrangements to purchase equipment, clothing and food products for which local businesses were asked to tender. 

……………………………………….TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK………………..

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