Tales From The Workhouse – Episode One
The Starving Irish
Addressing the uncomfortable history of an Irish Workhouse may not be the expected article from us on a given Monday. With the influx of applications to http://www.birthsdeathsmarriages.ie from the International Community of Irish Descent, we have decided to introduce some Irish Artists and their work to you all! In the Spirit on education and debate, we are going to share with you the Irish History little understood these days. Tales From The Workhouse will be publishing the work of Irish Photographers, Artists and Songwriters in a bid to educate those who don’t already know this sad tale.
An article that comes to mind is one I saw on several International pages in the aftermath of the Centenary of the 1916 Rising. Written by the Social History Photographer Stephanie Daly, of Ireland Deserted. Whatever your opinion of the Famine Years, what cannot be denied is the enormous suffering of the Irish under the Laissez-Faire Policy supported by the British Crown. The policy resulted in all Irish Livestock and Crops being shipped to the Colonies which put Britain on a better stage in the World Markets…. But Irish people were starving to death at the time.
Ports were guarded by British soldiers as ships were loaded with the food necessary to keep the Irish people alive, anyone who tried to interfere with the shipment was shot. An Gorta Mór or The Great Hunger, is often now referred to as a Holocaust. Personal opinions on the technical accuracies of that statement are as plentiful as sheep on Donegal roadways. We all have an opinion, is any one more right than another? Often the technicalities of the statement are neither here nor there … Your opinion will be largely judged by your moral compass!
An except from an Album depicting the remains of a Workhouse clearly shows the depth of feeling the artist has about this subject, she writes:
“The Irish people suffered immeasurable suffering under British rule and the pain of our history is still felt acutely in the hearts of Irish men, women and children, even now. This is one of the last remaining Workhouses in the country which is still as it was when the most destitute and starving people of Ireland came here to die. They died from malnutrition and disease on Cocoa sacks stuffed with straw, separated from their loved ones who had been corralled like cattle into different buildings”
There are several opinion pieces available on the Ireland Deserted Facebook Page in relation to the gruesome history of Ireland but also some thoroughly heart warming stories of days gone by. Having visited many of the remaining Irish Workhouses and walking in the footsteps as the unfortunate Irish of the time, it is obvious what the Artists personal opinion is. Do you agree with her? This story pushes emotional buttons, it is difficult to be a human and not feel the effects of these images. Taken in a Workhouse which is not open to the Public, it is requested that it’s identity be kept private. This is to ensure the safety of potential visitors to a building which is crumbling and in the early stages of a mammoth restoration project. It will eventually welcome visitors, the ambition is to fund a restoration of the remaining buildings as a memorial to those who lost their lives and are buried in a mass grave on the site.
The article can be read here:
We do intend to cover the most emotive of Irish stories here so watch out for other articles to follow!