By Imelda Hughes
It is the responsibility of the living to remember with reverence and respect our heroic ancestors, the men, women and children who died in Ballinrobe Workhouse during the famine, 1845-52 and thereafter.
We, The Ballinrobe Writers’ Group, when doing a history project some years ago, became aware of a burial ground close to the workhouse, a field surrounded by a high wall in which stood a lone tombstone with a faded inscription commemorating those who died.
The field was overgrown with briars and weeds and many people did not know of its existence or that it was sacred ground so, as a group, we decided to take responsibility for a small corner, to clean it up, erect a new memorial, plant flowers, and so create a peaceful place for remembrance, prayer and reflection.
In this endeavour we were aided by local sponsorship and Mayo County Council funding and work schemes. The Memorial Corner is covered with bright stone chips and bordered by a wooden fence and tall oak trees where nesting crows are always loudly singing! In the area beyond the fence we planted daffodils, symbols of hope and resurrection.
The destitute who were driven to Ballinrobe Workhouse by fever and hunger were looked upon as idle and lazy and the thinking of those in power was that they should be punished for the crime of being poor. They were harshly treated, a decent dignified burial was denied them, they were to be erased from history, fade into oblivion.
Every single man, woman and child lying in Ballinrobe Workhouse Graveyard must never be forgotten as we prayerfully reflect on how they lived, their talents, how they suffered and how they died of needless hunger and neglect.
Let us give thanks for the rich cultural legacy they bestowed upon us, the music, the songs, the dancing, the language, and the laughter.
In solidarity with the millions dying of hunger in the world today let us hope that hearts and minds will be concentrated on finding a rapid solution to this shameful crime against humanity.