Workhouses and Poor Law Unions
Bantry Workhouse
Co. Cork

Updated 28 March 2000

Submitted by Anita Sheahan Coraluzzi and posted here with her kind permission.

A map of the PLU

From 'Tracing Your Cork Ancestors'- "The Poor Law Act was passed in 1838 and it provided for the relief of the poor in Ireland by means of a workhouse system...... In practice, the boundaries of both baronies and parishes were ignored, and even those of counties were not always respected....Each union was to consist of a market town--in which the workhouse was to be built--and all the territory within a fifteen mile radius of a town..... County Cork contains 15 Poor Law Unions wholly within its borders, but three more are shared with the adjoining counties of Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford..."

The PLU's where workhouses were established (before 1849) were: Skibbereen, Bantry, Midleton, Bandon, Mallow, Fermoy, Macroom, Kanturk, Kinsale, Dunmanway (then after 1849-->) Clonakilty, North Cork[city], Skull, Mitchelstown and Youghal.

It seems the workhouse in Mallow almost wasn't in Mallow, as most of the Guardians had preferred it to be in Buttevant, but by one vote won out to be established in Mallow. This forced the townland of Charleville to be included into the Kilmallock (Limerick) PLU.

I've been reading a couple of articles from different volumes of the Mallow Field Club Journals, and one article written by Seamus Crowley (1997) ... "One often hears that the famine was not as bad in this area or that because of whatever circumstances. It appears to be accepted in the general folk memory that the areas which suffered the very worst consequences of the famine were some areas in West Cork, partciularly Skibbereen and Bantry." Mr. Crowley has included in this work quite a few tables of statistics to back this up.

It seems as though the Guardians also attempted to educate the young and set up some kind of schooling at the workhouse in Mallow. Here is a brief list of some children's names registered in the workhouse school: Name, age and when admitted:
Miles Sullivan, 7, 17 August 1842
Thomas Haly, 7, 19 August 1842
Margaret Shea, 8, 7 April, 1843
Ellen Upton, 8, 28 July 1843
Nanno Hally, 8, 24 August 1844
Daniel Callahan, 8, 12 October 1844
Peggy Horrigan, 7, 9 June 1843
Ellen Quinlan, 8, 1 February 1845
Norry Casey, 8, 7 February 1845
Catherine Dinan, 8, 27 December 1844
Denis McCarthy, 4, 9 September 1842
Timothy McCarthy, 4, 19 January 1845
Michael Casey, 4, 7 February 1845
Daniel Kelleher, 3, 15 November 1844
Timothy Leahy, 4, 20 January 1843

I have difficulty understanding how children would be expected to learn if their bellies were empty, although, the point of the workhouse was to help feed, cloth and house them. The inmates received 2 meals a day, one at 10 AM and the other at 6 PM. The children's diet consisted of:
Breakfast: (for children from 2 to 9 yrs.), 2 lbs. of potatos and 1/2 pint of milk
Dinner: (same ages as above), 2 lbs. of potatos and 1/2 pint of milk
Supper (this age group were the only ones it seems who received this extra), 4 ozs. bread.

It appears that the bulk of this information about the Mallow workhouse is in records, both in the Guardian minute books, and on microfilm in the Cork Examiner, held at the County library in Cork. I'd like to have a look at some of these if possible. I'll have to poke around and see what other records might be held at other places in Cork also.

Submitted by Laurel Baker and posted here with her kind permission.

I have a little info on the Bantry Workhouse during The Famine from "A Bay of Destiny" by Michael Carroll, (ISBN 0-9519415-2-6) which says, "The workhouse itself was built in 1845, and could accommodate about six hundred people. It was funded by the Poor Law rates which were levied on all building and lands with the Bantry Union. This covered the area from Dursey Island to Sheep's Head in the south, and had a population of approximately 50,000. The next nearest workhouse was in Skibbereen".

Mr. Carroll goes on to discuss some of the area soup kitchens which were located
"1. Near the present West Lodge Hotel, for those coming from Muintir mBaire, Durrus, Colomane, Caheragh and the Skibbereen direction.
2. At Newtown, near the present Wagner factory, for those coming from the north, which would include Kealkil, Coomhola, Glengarriff, Adrigole, Castletownbere and even Kenmare.
3. Near the present schools at the Black Bridge for thos making their approach from Drimoleague, Castledonovan and lands to the east", and
"Other minor soup kitchens were also set up by the Board of Works near Dunmanus Castle, Caheragh, Durrus, Drimoleague and Ballydehob, but these were unable to cope with the vast numbers seeking relief, and the people soon had no option but to journey further to the now overflowing workhouse at Skibbereen, or else head for Bantry".

"To cope with the vast numbers now seeking assistance, a number of annexes to the workhouse were opened by voluntary helpers. These were situated at Main Street and Donemark mills, and there were two on the quayside...In January 1847, a fever hospital adjoining the workhouse was opened. It was designed to hold twenty-six patients, but within weeks there were one hundred and twenty people withing its craped confines...At this time the workhouse at Skibbereen was overflowing...With no hope of assistance, the people there began to head for Bantry, which was already the only centre of relief for the population stretching from Dursey Island through to Keimaneagh, Castledonovan and the Durrus and Muintir mBaire area that stretched from Glandore to Dursey Island".


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