Bawnboy Workhouse

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William Keaveney
Letter to An Taoiseach
by Rev Patrick Brady
Mary Ann Darcy
Report by
Kelly & Cogan

Letter to An Taoiseach Brian Cowan

The Bawnboy Workhouse complex is an extensive property, built in 1852, and standing on 12/13 acres of land. While some of the buildings have been vandalised, and several of the slated roofs have already collapsed or are in danger of doing so, I feel that the buildings are worth restoring, primarily because they are an necessary reminder of an important period in our national history, i.e., the Great Famine.

While some 50 additional Workhouses were built after 1850, many of them have been destroyed (or only partially preserved), as also happened with the earlier 130 Workhouses. This is an unfortunate situation for our people, as in another hundred years or so there will be little to relate to future generations, the abject poverty and suffering that was endured by so many of our ancestors. There will be little use then in having fine roads, if there is little to see of local history when visitors arrive at a location!

The value of this site is that despite the decaying state of the buildings, it is still a whole Workhouse. All that it needs is to be preserved and restored, but if it is to be saved, action is now urgently needed. And though funds may not be available at the moment for restoration, perhaps some imaginative scheme could be organised so that the fabric of the various buildings could be protected, thus permitting later restoration.

An additional reason for considering the restoration of this particular Workhouse, is its location close to the Border, and the fact that it had a connection to both sides of the religious/political/cultural divide. In the circumstances, could not the preservation of the Workhouse, and its possible utilisation as a facility to cater for public needs in the area, not be suggested to one of the cross-Border bodies, such as Co-Operation North, as a project worthy of support and likely to help promote and enhance cross-community and cross-Border relations?

Although I have no connection with the Bawnboy area, I strongly commend the restoration of this Workhouse to you. A native of Glenamaddy, Co. Galway, and a retired member of the Garda Siochana, I have experienced the regret over the destruction of Glenamaddy's Workhouse, which was built in 1853. While researching a history project, I became aware of the existence of this Workhouse, and of its neglected state, through the co-operation of Oliver Brady, who has devoted much of his life to recording the history of the Bawnboy area.

With best wishes and thanking you for your attention,

Yours faithfully

William Keaveney

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