Tales From The Workhouse – Episode 2
Out of the 163 Workhouses which once stood in Ireland, many of them have been restored and are in use today. Most however, are crumbling and hanging on to the last pieces of mortar with a deaths grip. Ironic isn’t it! Tales From The Workhouse – Episode 2, will introduce you to the Photography of Suella Holland of Forsaken Ireland. Her Facebook Page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/ForsakenEire/
Suella has been documenting the remaining Workhouses for the last number of years and has a unique way of capturing the finer details. Leaving the viewer to assess the scene – and their own gut reactions to it. Suella delivers an opportunity for a self-led examination of our history. Poignant and moving photographs of times gone by. Crumbling walls, worn flagstone steps and a glimpse into how vast these building were … They always tended to run over the recommended capacity of inmates. Buildings which were literally thronged with the starving people of Ireland.
Virtual Spectres of our sad history, these Workhouses are a stark reminder that life was not always so easy here. We do have a relatively easy time of it now in comparison to those who lived here in the mid 1800’s. Starvation, destitution through homelessness, abject poverty leading to malnutrition and disease – life expectancy was low.
The Workhouse was the last resort for those who were utterly desperate and with no choice. It saved them from imminent death from exposure and starvation but often killed them with disease and a slow deterioration from lack of adequate nourishment or heat. The slow death option at least provided them with time, an opportunity for things to improve – the last hope of a miracle.
The Workhouses which have remained standing are a living monument to the dark history of Famine Times. They are mostly in dangerous condition, leaky roofs and rotting floors make them dangerous to visit. For this very reason, the trustees of these Buildings often refuse visitor access.
A lucky few are granted permissions for visits like these. The purpose is to record them for posterity so as the decay that will eventually claim them, does not do so completely. Images will remain. Evidential images such as those taken by Ireland Deserted, Forsaken Ireland, Derelict Ireland and Forgotten Lives, to name a few, provide us with a better insight into the layout of the Workhouses and how the system was operated.
It’s actually amazing how many artifacts have been left behind after the bleak famine years. Stretchers which were used to remove the dead from the dormitories in the morning, giant cauldrons, washing mangles, even bones! Those which are in a repairable state are mostly being used for other purposes or are under renovation. Each remaining Workhouse requires a board of trustees or a committee of fundraisers and advocates. Without the intervention of those who care and local councils, they would have long since vanished.
If there is a Workhouse in your area, you may be interested in offering a hand to protect the structure, carry out repairs or offer professional expertise to those looking after it. When these buildings crumble and fall, that will be the last tangible link to our sad Famine History which is as much a part of our heritage as the Irish Reel.