When did the Workhouse close?

By Averil Staunton

There were 59 people in Ballinrobe Workhouse in the 1911 census however, only their initials were recorded, apart from the names of the staff. 

Boards of public health and assistance were set up under the provisions of the Local Government (Temporary Provisions), Act, 1923 to handle the closure of the workhouses. However, before moving patients to the County Home in Castlebar, disaster struck Ballinrobe workhouse and hospital.

Despite serious opposition by the local community, part of the workhouse and hospital were burnt down in the Civil War. This was  reported in the Connacht Telegraph on the 25th August, 1923. The community were disheartened at this turn of events as some had actually attended Mass in the lovely chapel there on Sundays (personal interview with attendee). Monsignor D’Alton the local PP commented on the destruction of the workhouse at Mass the following Sunday in August 1923.

This was a great loss to the Ballinrobe community as we may have had a hospital in Ballinrobe otherwise. There was a dispute about the hand that sprinkled the paraffin on the altar and who was actually responsible for this action, as can be seen from an article originally reported in the Irish Independent in August, 1923. The building was never rebuilt and according to a member of Mayo County Council the stone was sold for the building of the Asahi Plant, a North Mayo factory; yet another building wiped from the Social History of the Ballinrobe community.

As we all know to-day with the various revelations over the years, the spirit of suppression did not die out with the workhouses. Single pregnant women, continued to be treated most sternly by Irish society. Over 30,000 young pregnant women were confined in Magdalen laundries. These laundries were designed to profit from a free workforce similar to the workhouses where the unfortunate inmates had to work for their bed and board. These Magdalene laundries became part of a structure of patriarchal suppression continuing until recent times.

Regarding the story of Ballinrobe Workhouse, silence reigned within our social history until recently. Mentioning the workhouse was discouraged as it still evoked bad memories of horrific and shocking times in our local history.

This project hopes to focus attention on those who lived and died in Ballinrobe Workhouse and honour their memory together with highlight the information available about its history and buildings. 

There will be an exhibition in Ballinrobe about the Ballinrobe Workhouse in August 2023 during Heritage Week.

Connacht Telegraph 23rd August 1922


Course: Remembering our Heritage – Ballinrobe Workhouse

Course instructors