The Importance of learning about The Workhouse in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo.

By Ellen Finnerty

Reception/Administration building at the site of Ballinrobe Workhouse currently used as an enterprise centre. Photo by Averil Staunton

My children went to St Joseph’s P.S., which is the local Primary School here in Ballinrobe town. One of their favourite subjects was history – local history in particular. They often came home with a list of questions to be answered about older buildings and ruins that are around this local area. They enjoyed researching and doing projects about them and of course I was often involved myself, bringing them to the library here to look up information and books, taking photographs or going to meet older people who had first-hand knowledge or first -hand experience of living or working in whatever place we were finding out about.

It is a great thing to awaken the curiosity of children and awaken their interest in the older buildings and ruins around the area. It gives us adults, teachers and older members of the community a chance to tell the younger generation what we know and most of all, let them know where to find any information they are looking for.

As inquiring adults, it is important that we have a way of continuously gathering, storing and displaying the information that is there about various important landmarks and buildings. The Historical Society in Ballinrobe and a few authors who have written historical books and researched for years to find maps, documents and records, then published information that we can now access easily, deserve a big thank you and also to have their hard work recognized. People like this keep the interest in local history alive and the information is there to be accessed by Primary, Secondary or Third level students when doing class projects, as well as people from the area or abroad doing family or historical research.

The workhouse in Ballinrobe, is one such building with a story to tell.

A story that starts around 1840 a couple of years before the Great Famine, An Gorta Mór and continues to the present day.

The workhouse was a very distinctive landmark in Ballinrobe from 1840 when its construction commenced, right up to the year 1922 when it was almost completely destroyed in the civil war. All except for two stone buildings that still remain.

These two buildings and some of the high stone boundary walls stand there today, in the shadow of a very distinctive modern landmark in Ballinrobe -the two Water towers on the Kilmaine Road.

**To show that we do indeed remember and honour, the people who were forced by circumstance to enter the workhouse; who lived and worked there , and also to remember the many who died and are buried in grounds of where the Workhouse was; Memorial Corner has been created. To go there:

See the signpost saying ‘Ballinrobe Workhouse’, walk along and pass the Scouts Den and The Men’s Shed. Keep walking until you come to a stone wall and see a path. Walk on the path, go around the corner by the fence, walk in through a gateway and come to the Memorial Corner.

Sit on the stone benches there, read the inscription on the headstone and remember…


Course: Remembering our Heritage – Ballinrobe Workhouse

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