civil war

hours of darkness

There was scarcely a town of any size in Ireland that didn’t have a workhouse 150 years ago. Fine, well- constructed buildings. Many of them are standing to the present day, having been revamped and adapted to house various commercial enterprises.
I can never pass a workhouse without getting a strange, sad, cold feeling as I am reminded of their past and the terrible fate of their unfortunate inmates. The poor cottiers and small-holders, fathers, mothers and little children were starving when the potato famine hit in 1845-48 and rushed to the big work-house doors and felt lucky if they were admitted. It was just about the lesser of two evils, as the conditions obtaining inside were quite inhuman and they perished anyway.
Sufficient detail has been written about how the inmates were existing. It has been recorded that the Board of Guardians, in some cases, refused to fund the very essentials to even keep the poor, emaciated creatures alive. Each morning the poor, starved casualties were loaded up in the tipping horse-cart and dumped like dumb animals into long, communal pits – a nineteenth century Holocaust that evoked the humane responses of a tribe of American Indians and a Turkish leader who sent two ship loads of food and £1000. To her credit Queen Victoria sent £2000 – a pity she didn’t direct her Government to step in and increase Trevelyan’s corn sufficiently.

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