Workhouse 5


By the end of June 1849 the Master reported that during the last eighteen months 3,265 paupers had received one night’s lodging with supper and breakfast: also that 946 people remained (with relieving officers’ tickets) for the last nine months in the probationary wards, awaiting admission by the Guardians on Board day. It was resolved at the meeting of 23 June 1849 that except for the sick, infirm or those washing or cooking, all women’s shoes and stockings be taken from them. Likewise for all boys, who also lost neckerchiefs. All paupers who require it were to have close cropped hair-cuts.

If the aim was to clear the workhouse of these categories, it failed. By 18 August 1849 it was resolved to give outdoor relief for just one week longer.

Things changed over the next – some say, the last Great Hunger – year.




  [Christine Kinealy, acclaimed authority, Fellow of Liverpool University and author of This Great Calamity {Gill & Macmillan 1994} and Great Hunger in Ireland {Pluto, 1997}] begs to differ and argues the emergency continued to 1852 at least].

Read moreWorkhouse 5

19th century reflections


Mary Feeney, one of eleven children born in Newry to Sarah and James Feeney, recounts anecdotes told to her by her mother about life in Newry close to the end of the nineteenth century.

‘My granny and grandfather moved to Newry from Belfast, where they lived above Hennessey’s Butchers in Bridge End Street. They had three children there and six more were born in Newry. My grandfather got a job in Newry Mineral Water Co which is what brought them all to Newry.

The family settled in Monaghan Street. My mother remembered Parnell coming to town. Her father played in the brass band that turned out to welcome the great leader of the Irish Party.

During the winter when fuel was hard to come by, they used to erect an Aunt Sally in their back garden. The GNR railway men when their train was passing by used to sling coal lumps at it to try and knock her over. All us children would gather up the coals after they left. Free coal!! Mum said the slogan then was, “Home Rule and Free Coal”.

She remembered the mummers (Wren Boys, she called them) coming round at Christmas.

“Hell’s Row, Bell’s Row, Riddell’s Row

The Devil’s Row

Three Straws across the well

Monaghan Row beats Hell”.

It went something like that! The people she remembered and spoke about included McCrinks, Willis’ Bakery, the first Milestone John Quinn, Flunkey Fegan and the O’Hare’s – that is probably the Commission Agent, Betting Shop family.

She used to go into the bakery and ask for a halfpenny bun. When the man behind the counter was not looking, she would turn on the treacle on top of the bun, and then run like hell’s blazes. Her mother sent her one night to the chemist’s for flea powder. The shop was closed so she shouted through the letterbox at the owner, telling him what she wanted. He shouted back at her, “Go home and let them bite you tonight, and come back tomorrow when we are open!”

She remembers going to Dempster’s Field to hear the British Army Band playing. Newry was a British Army garrison town in those days. History is repeating itself, says you!

She and her brother James went on a railway bogie to the scene of the Tynan Railway Disaster, when an excursion train full of children crashed and rolled down an embankment. Many lives were lost. She saw the bodies of little children being laid out on the side of the track.

Her brother James was educated at the Newry CBS and I have his Leaving Certificate dated 1894. it was signed by Brothers Brady and Nalet. He should have received a Royal Humane Certificate if they were being issued at that time for, according to my mother, he jumped from the viaduct to save the life of a young boy, and for his reward, he got sixpence. He fought in Mons in the Great War and came through unscathed but he died in Havana in 1927 after a dockside accident. He is buried in a Convent graveyard in Havana.

My mother died in 1968 aged 86 years. Her stories could fill a book.”

Workhouse 4


Mr Forster, the first Clerk, died before the Workhouse opened and was replaced in 1840 by Mr Smith.  His salary was increased in February 1843 from

Surgeon Savage was employed for three months from 1 February 1848 for

Newry in early 20th century


A  scribe of recent yesteryear reflected on Newry of old, in the form of scenes from an imaginary walk through our fair streets then. I consider his musings worth repeating.

‘Let us first, in the company of a group of other wanton boys recently released from the stern discipline of Brother Dempsey at the Carstands School, disport in the waters of The Rampart. We wander through Pighall Loanan and over the Bishop’s Hill, vying with one another as to who will first dive into ‘Track Line’.

On the Downshire Road a bazaar for the benefit of local churches is being held. There are contests in music, drawing and many domestic arts. There is, particularly a Flute Band Contest with entries from Belfast and other towns. Michael Magill conducts St Joseph’s Band with Terence Ruddy and John Loy distinguishing themselves as instrumentalists.

A solemn procession leaves Dromalane House and passes along Dromalane Road, through Bridge Street and High Street to Meeting House Green, commemorating the funeral, a decade ago of the patriot John Mitchel. His widow Jenny Verner Mitchel, is just recently deceased in New York.

The mud heaps in Doyle’s Field have been levelled, grass sown and a road cut through its centre, for the Lord Lieutenant is soon to open an exhibition in the Needham Street Market. He will arrive by Edward Street railway station and we must clean up the ‘front door step’.

It’s Regatta Day in Newry. The Middle Bank is thronged with visitors and a goodly crowd is enjoying sports day in Greenbank. In the track event a bicycle race is about to start. The local riders, Dierson, McKnight, Graham and others, resplendent on their high velocipedes, are lined up when the appearance of a new entrant on a contraption with both wheels the same height, creates a laugh! Amid the general mirth a few strangers are circulating the crowd offering wagers that the Dublin stranger will win. The sporting elements among the townsfolk take the bets. It was Newry’s first sighting of a safety bike and the strangers reaped a rich harvest as it easily won. The local sports are sadder and wiser.

I pass, with some difficulty, through Monaghan Street. Both sides of the street, from Lamb’s Corner on the west to Magill’s Corner on the east, are lined with wagons that are full with groceries from the shops of McKnight and Renshaw and Dromgoole, and from Dickson’s provision store, adjoining ‘The Chestnuts’. The farmers standing in groups on the footpaths are jostled by laughing and carefree workers on their way to dinner from Dempster’s Mill, Wilson’s Mill, the Newry Foundry in Edward Street and Lupton’s Mill and Henry’s Brewery in Queen Street.

Coming to the Godfrey Bridge I stand and look north towards Sugar Island. A vessel opposite Beatty’s mill is discharging a cargo of Indian corn. A lighter is being loaded, further down, at the Salt Works, between the canal and the tidal river. Opposite Edward Street a vessel is discharging wheat for Felix O’Hagan’s Mill at the junction of Catherine Street and Edward Street. A little to the south a lighter is supplying coal to the yards of Mr Greer. Further north still, identifiable only by the familiar but distant sounds, another vessel is pouring out its load of golden wheat to be ground into flour in the fine brick mill of Mr Sinclair.

And now I turn south and look towards the Ballybot Bridge and the Buttercrane Quay. The scene is one of even greater activity. Opposite the premises of Carvill and Company, one of their own fleet of vessels is discharging a cargo of lumber, hewn in its own forests in the New World. The roadway along the canal is strewn with slate, sand, cement, and with steel for the manufacture of spades and shovels; wagons awaiting entrance to the yards are lined up as far as Magill’s Corner. Redmond and Company has a similar scene outside.

I walk south along the Quay. Again I am impeded by the milling crowds intent on purchase, and by mill hands from Dempsters and Wilsons, with those from the weaving factory on the Dublin Bridge and the Dromalane Spinning Mill, all returning for the afternoon’s work. My ears are dinned from the clang of iron and steel fabrication from Lucas’s Foundry on the opposite bank. Near the Dublin Bridge an overhead crane dips its steel buckets into the wheat-filled hold of a steamer and carries it aloft, across the street and into the maw of Fennel’s Mill. Another vessel is doing the same for Walker’s Mill in Mill Street – one of the first establishments of Europe, it is said, to have electric light of its own generating.

I cross the Bridge and come to Albert Basin and the sheds of the Dundalk and Newry Steampacket Company. A steamship lying at the wharf is taking on, by means of a gang of busy quay porters, a miscellaneous cargo with which the bulkhead and sheds are plied. There are slabs of granite and paving blocks, hewn from the Newry quarries that are destined to build the mansions and pave the streets of England; raw hides; finished leather from the many Newry tanneries; distilled spirits in cask, keg and bottle, from the warehouses of Matt D’Arcy and Company and Henry Thompson and Company; crated fowl and livestock for the Liverpool Market; bales of linen and linen yarn and other commodities manufactured in and near the town.

Further down the Basin, Spanish sailors, ear-ringed and swarthy, are swabbing decks of a barque that has brought sherry grapes from Malaga and other Iberian delicacies for McBlain and Company, Martin, Nesbit and Irwin, Kinnear and Lang, the Golden Teapot and The Golden Cannister.

Leaving the Basin and walking through William Street and up Hill Street – passing on the way the coach factories of Bannon and of Lawson – and then through Margaret Street and North Street, I find the same state of active business that was presented elsewhere. ‘

Newry was then a busy and thriving town, and mainly a manufacturing town.

Thomas Dunne


Thomas Dunne Society of Rostrevor has a most eminent patron, President Mary McAleese and a hugely talented director, Suibh


As mentioned in other articles here, the Yeomen Volunteers fulfilled the role of a home guard towards the close of the eighteenth century when England‘s numerous wars and military commitments required her troops to be abroad. These Volunteers were mainly Protestants, their officer corps being almost exclusively so. The commander of the Warrenpoint district of the corps of yeomen based at Narrow Water Castle was Major Hall (be it recorded that today’s Major Hall is a true and charitable gentlemen who permitted his estate to be often used by Newry’s Concern group to raise funds for the world’s poor!). 


That the local United Irishmen were mainly Protestant (though Presbyterian, and thus despised as dissenters by militant proponents of the established Church) did not in any way cause the Yeomanry to mitigate the severity of their repression in the aftermath of the 1798 Rebellion. Though the Major Hall of the time tried to exercise restraint, he was often absent and those under him who then took command gave free rein to their savagery. 


A spy divulged the name of Thomas Dunne, as a member of the Society of United Irishmen, to one such second officer. He marched his yeomen through a stormy night in order to wrench the hapless peasant from his cottage home (close to today’s Kilbroney Cemetery). The cries and appeals of his young wife and family were ignored. 


At a military court the next day held in the military barracks at Cherry Hill, Dunne was court-marshalled and convicted of sedition. He was offered a free pardon and financial recompense if he would name all the members of the United Men of Kilbroney Parish and give witness against them in court. His alternative fate was made known to him. Thomas resolutely refused to sell the lives of innocent men.


Thomas was sentenced to 250 lashes of the cat-‘o-nine-tails at the triangle on Cherry Hill. He was to be made a public example of. All local people were rounded up and forced to witness the punishment. Many fainted at the sight of what followed.


Though an account, passed on in oral tradition, exists, it is much too harrowing to relate the details of this punishment, laid on with enthusiasm by two burly soldiers. The 250 lashes had been almost completed when Major Hall returned on the scene and ordered a halt. The victim was close to death and, indeed, died soon after despite medical efforts to revive him.


The historical evidence of the reputed worldly retribution later exacted on the perpetrators is sketchy. It is said that the second officer was later piked to death in an encounter with the United Irishmen. The principal scourger, we are told, later lost the power of his (offending) right arm, and his nights were haunted by the vision of Thomas Dunne’s mutilated body.


[P.S. Similar savagery was witnessed throughout the country. The High Sheriff of Tipperary, one Thomas Judkin Fitzgerald, as a Yeoman Commander was particularly barbarous. His exploits are recounted in such histories as Canon Burke’s History of Clonmel and William J Hayes’ Tipperary in the year of Rebellion 1798. 


Fitzgerald too, it appears, failed to prosper thereafter, and was despised and downtrodden even by his imperious and overbearing wife up to his early death in 1810. This fact at least is documented, though hardly proof of the vengeance of providence.]

… Charter of Newry: The Context …