A few miles west of Cahir, County
Tipperary, on the N8 to Mitchelstown, one passes through the
townland of Tincurry. Like other townlands along the
Cahir-Mitchelstown road, Tincurry boasts attractive scenery,
with pleasant well-tended farmland giving way on the north
of the N8 to the woodlands of the Galtee mountains and
ultimately to the Galtee mountain itself. Tincurry is also
notable for some fine houses in the area. These days, it is
easy to pass along here without a care in the world and
imagine that things were always as peaceful as this.
However, this is an illusion brought about by the passage of
time. Tincurry was once a place of sadness, a place of great
distress, a place of misery. For here, in 1848, in the
middle of the Great Irish Famine, a children's workhouse was
opened to house the children of the Clogheen Union to
alleviate the overcrowding in Clogheen Workhouse.
Workhouses were built all over Ireland in
1840 and Clogheen was chosen as the site for a
workhouse for Clogheen Union. Part of the old
workhouse can still be seen in the hospital grounds in
Clogheen. This 'Union' was comprised of an area that included Cahir, Clogheen,
Ballylooby, Ardfinnan, Newcastle, Goatenbridge, Ballyporeen,
Araglin, Skeheenarinky, Kilbehenny etc. and all surrounding lands. In effect, it comprised
all the land between the Galtee and Knockmealdown mountains.
The Clogheen House was designed to hold 500
inmates if a crisis in food supply should strike the poorer
people of the locality but, in 1847-48, over 1500 starving
people were admitted there. Conditions in the
workhouses were deliberately harsh to prevent people from
applying too freely.
To cope with the numbers applying for
admission, the Board of
Guardians opened a number of auxiliary workhouses in
Clogheen village and, in 1848, decided to lease the old factory
at Tincurry from Mr. Walpole and convert it into a workhouse for
children. From the map below, it will be seen
that the Old Brookfield factory was situated in Poulacleare,
but as the main house was in Tincurry, the new workhouse was
called Tincurry Workhouse.
Top. Clogheen workhouse entrance building. Photo
taken in 1932 by Pete Weber of California while visiting his
mother's native Clogheen. The workhouse was burned in 1922
by Republican forces.
1840 O.S. Map showing Old
Brookfield Factory at Tincurry/Poulacleare
Margaret, Ruth, and Seanie Lonergan at the newly erected
stone at Tincurry.
TINCURRY CHILDREN’S WORKHOUSE
Extract from Famine in the Valley (Ed O'Riordan)
At the height of the Great Irish Famine, on 13th November 1847, the Clerk of the Clogheen Union, was instructed by the Board of Guardians to inform Mr. Walpole that his offer of the disused factory and twelve acres at Tincurry at a rent of £80 per year was acceptable to the Guardians. The premises would now be inspected by Samuel Barton, Lord Suirdale, and Joshua Fennell. This examining committee reported later that the house and the adjoining buildings could be made suitable for the 400 children and the officers of the house at little cost, and would cost approximately £192 per year to run.
One hundred paupers were sent over from Clogheen workhouse to assist in scouring the floors. Thomas Dobbins and Jeremiah Daly were hired to carry out the necessary repairs and the following appointments were made: Edmond O’Brien was to be the first Master and Mary O’Donoghue was the Matron. The job of Porter went to David Farrell. Rev. Henry Palmer applied for the position of Protestant Chaplain, but because there were no Protestants among the children, his request was turned down.
Furniture was soon put in place, including the beds from the now closed Ardfinnan Fever Hospital, which were to be used in the infirmary. On 23rd January
1848, the schoolmaster left Clogheen with the boys who were not at trades.
From the outset, the Master had trouble looking after “the boys of Tincurry”. They frequently went missing, most returning within a few days, others disappearing. On one of his periodic visits to the house, Mr Fennell, on calling the roll, discovered that Thomas Doherty and John Lonergan of Tincurry, together with James O’Brien, were missing. They returned shortly afterwards with ‘turnips in their possession’. Mr Fennell was very critical of the Master and the Porter and it was reported that the practice of stealing turnips was very prevalent in the neighbourhood.
It was decided that the boys would be punished, as corporal punishment was permitted under restrictions laid down by the Commissioners in Dublin. Later in the year, John Murphy was caught stealing turnips and it was directed that ‘he be well whipped by the schoolmaster.’ In March, the police notified the Guardians that paupers continued to stray about the country and that they had met with five of them on the previous night’s patrol at Scart.
By February 1848, the education of the boys at Tincurry was being looked after. An agricultural instructor was employed to teach them and to direct them in the tilling of the twelve acres. Boys as young as eight, using spades and mattocks with ‘short handles’ cleared furze, dug drains, trenched, double trenched and manured the land and planted crops. The Tincurry report at the end of February stated that they had begun to clear the land: “many of the boys are found to engage in it cheerfully, while others are lazy, idles and awkward …”
At one point the Master complained that some of the children being sent over from Clogheen Workhouse to Tincurry were dressed in rags and appeared unfit to have left the probationary ward. At the end of 1848, it was reported that there was a great falling off in cleanliness at the Tincurry Children’s Workhouse. The medical officer there reported a very malignant form of
scarlatina and requested that no more children should be sent there for the time being.
During these outbreaks of scarlatina and measles, numbers of children died, but in the measles outbreak of February 1849, in the last week of that month, 13 boys, 13 girls and 6 babies died. Some of these children died at Tincurry and some in Clogheen, where they had been sent to hospital. By 6th March 1849, Tincurry was home to 529. That week 11 boys, 9 girls and 6 babies under two years old died from measles. The site of the little cemetery is still pointed out by locals in the area.
GIVE ME THREE GRAINS OF CORN, MOTHER
Amelia Blanford Edwards 1831 - 1892
Give me three grains of corn, Mother,
Only three grains of corn;
It will keep the little life I have
Till the coming of the morn.
I am dying of hunger and cold, Mother,
Dying of hunger and cold;
And half the agony of such a death
My lips have never told.
It has gnawed like a wolf at my heart, Mother,
A wolf that is fierce for blood;
All the livelong day, and the night beside,
Gnawing for lack of food.
I dreamed of bread in my sleep, Mother,
And the sight was heaven to see;
I awoke with an eager, famishing lip,
But you had no bread for me.
How could I look to you, Mother,
How could I look to you
For bread to give to your starving boy,
When you were starving too?
For I read the famine in your cheek,
And in your eyes so wild,
And I felt it in your bony hand,
As you laid it on your child.
The Queen has lands and gold, Mother,
The Queen has lands and gold,
While you are forced to your empty breast
A skeleton babe to hold-
A babe that is dying of want, Mother,
As I am dying now,
With a ghastly look in its sunken eye,
And famine upon its brow.
There is many a brave heart here, Mother,
Dying of want and cold,
While only across the Channel, Mother,
Are many that roll in gold;
There are rich and proud men there, Mother,
With wondrous wealth to view,
And the bread they fling to their dogs tonight
Would give life to me and you.
What has poor Ireland done, Mother,
What has poor Ireland done,
That the world looks on, and sees us starve,
Perishing one by one?
Do the men of England care not, Mother,
The great men and the high,
For the suffering sons of Erin's Isle,
Whether they live or die?
Come nearer to my side, Mother,
Come nearer to my side,
And hold me fondly, as you held
My father when he died;
Quick, for I cannot see you, Mother,
My breath is almost gone;
Mother! Dear Mother! Ere I die,
Give me three grains of corn.