There was also a piggery. The intention was as far as possible to be self-sufficient in food.
But there was no internal manufacturing enterprise. Women worked at cleaning, cooking or in the laundry. Girls ‘in the family way’ were very temporary residents.
Around the turn of the century the Sisters of St John of God offered to work there and organized the senior staff of the Hospital – but not the Workhouse. They were efficient and settled some problems.
The man who administered outdoor relief in Newry Urban and Newry Rural was called Digney, and the relief was so called after him. He was seen as a strict and harsh man who didn’t like giving out money. The outdoor relief officers for
At one time Mickey Griffin was Chairman of the Board of Guardians; his son Gerry was employed as wardmaster. He worked with the able-bodied men. Kathleen Cunningham, daughter of William T Cunningham [one time Councillor and important personage in Newry’s history – soon to feature in Characters herein – and mother of many of Newry’s personalities including Gerry (of musical fame) Morgan and Mary, wife of Chris Loughran of Champagne] remembered being brought as a visitor to the workhouse sometime in those last years. She was distressed to see young girls, rejected from their families because they had got pregnant out of wedlock, labouring all day over workhouse and hospital laundry while their innocent babies rested in orange boxes by their side. The last workhouse master who served from 1937-1948 was Francis Brooks.
By the 1940’s the role of the Workhouse in the community had altered drastically from its designated one of a century before. The Poor Law system was designed specifically to remove the poorest from the streets where they would beg, spread disease and bring distress to the regular population. By then, the provision of a night’s lodging to such people had become a major role. For resident paupers, strict discipline was still enforced – as it had to be – but husbands and wives and brothers and sisters were no longer permanently separated.
Nancy Ferrier told me about working in the office in the 1940’s. The able-bodied women amongst the inmates helped with the cleaning of the office (
The paupers were not then mainly from the Newry area. Most were of rural upbringing. A few were unmarried mothers who had their babies there and would be kept on for a year or two. Then they would have to leave and find their own way in life. The majority of paupers then were long-stay. They were friendless and pathetic and knew no other life.
One day in 1948 the inmates were ordered to pack their few miserable belongings and board two buses which drew up outside. The Workhouse was closing. These poor creatures were totally distressed and disorientated. They were unhappy at leaving the only home they knew. There was nobody to say goodbye to them. They were told nothing. They didn’t know their destination. (
One or two went to Dromalane House, like Frank Sloan. He had acted as messenger in the Workhouse. Another man named John McClennaghan, walked bent over from a physical deformity. He had served as a messenger occasionally too. He wept openly on the day he was sent away.
There is no further record of the workhouse’s last inmates.
Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Poverty in
Minutes of Boards of Guardians of Newry Union
Various Census Reports
Parliamentary Gazetter of
Devon Commission into land tenure in
Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of
John Mitchel, ‘Jail Journal’
Newry Mendicity Association Annual Reports
P.F. Speed, ‘The Potato Famine and the Irish Emigrants’ (1976)
‘The Open Window’ 1901-2
Vice Regal Commission of Inquiry into Irish Poor Relief 1903
Mitchell and Deane, ‘Population & Growth in the
Paul A Hoben, ‘The
Text notes and their references
1 Quoted in G
2 Ruth Dudley Edwards, ‘Atlas of Irish History’,
3 Quoted by M E Collins in ‘
4 opt. cit.
5 K H Connell, ‘The Population of
6 Christine Kinealy, ‘This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-1852’ (Gill & Macmillan) 1994, p13
7 opt. cit. p23; cited from Instructions to Committees of Relief Districts, extracted from Minutes of the proceedings of Commissioners appointed in reference to the apprehended scarcity 1846  xxxvii, p2
8 Michael Farrell, ‘The Poor Law and the Workhouse in
9 Kinealy p 13
10 Seamus MacManus, ‘Story of the Irish Race’,
11 Jonathan Bardon, ‘A History of
12 Quoted in R Rees, ‘Sources of History (
Some images are not of Newry Workhouse but are similar enough to convey an impression to the reader of original workhouse conditions.