Case of Mary Ellen Morris, Thurles, Co. Tipperary

“We are not makers of history. We are made by history”.

[Above quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. American Christian minister and activist, who became the most visible spokesperson and leader of the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968.

The Sad Case of Mary Ellen Morris, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

Born May 11th, 1877; Mary Ellen Morris was aged in her 10th year, when she was admitted to the Thurles Workhouse, on November 29th, 1887. It is recorded that on her entry, to this same establishment, that she suffered from ‘sore feet’.

A map showing the now demolished outline of the Thurles Workhouse building, once situated at Castlemeadows, Gortataggart, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, now home to Thurles Hospital of the Assumption.

So far as we are aware, no other Morris family member is on record as having being admitted to the Thurles Workhouse.

We are aware that Grandfather Morris was an engineer with the mines in the Slieveardagh hills, at Earlshill, Thurles.

[We are also aware that here on October 20th, 1845, a person named as Martin Morris, an underground steward, was shot, presumably by contractors annoyed at the introduction of direct labour by the Mining Company of Ireland. Was he a relative?]

Grandfather Forde was a National School teacher, at Glengoole, Thurles.

Images of the former Thurles Workhouse, shortly prior to its demolition in 2005. Photography G. Willoughby

Mary Ellen’s father, William Bourke Morris died of Tuberculosis (TB) on May 23rd 1887, aged just 38 years old. William was formerly a colliery manager with the Irish Mining Co. situated at Earlshill, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Later, when he moved his family from Earlshill to Thurles town, in or about the year 1883; William worked for a time as an auctioneer, until his health worsened and he died.

Mary Ellen’s mother, Ellen Forde-Morris, now a widow, found herself with six dependent children under her care. A seventh child, a toddler, had sadly died six months previous to her husband’s death.

A decision was now made, possibly with the help of her father-in-law, Wm Morris, to emigrate to America, where she had two sisters living with their families in Providence, latter the capital city of the U.S. State of Rhode Island. Ellen planned to take her two eldest children with her; her sons William Joseph and Patrick Timothy.

Her three daughters, Barbara (8 years), Anna (6 years) and Florence (4 years) were sent to live with grandfather Morris and an aunt living in Tuam, in Co. Galway, where the latter managed a hotel.

Ellen’s father Timothy Forde had passed away in 1865 and her mother Mary Commons/Cummins-Forde in 1886.

This left only the aforementioned daughter Mary Ellen, aged 10, who was frail and possibly, either couldn’t make the journey to America for health reasons or pecuniary reasons or indeed because her grandfather and aunt already had accepted 3 other charges to their care.

For whatever reason, most likely due to Mary Ellen’s health condition, she was admitted to the Thurles Workhouse. Mary Ellen’s mother was overwhelmed, but she had no choice but to hope the infirmary and school at the Thurles Workhouse would take good care of her daughter.

On October 25th, 1893, Mary Ellen Morris, now frail, small, and aged 16, died (although report state she was only 14). On that day she was at school in the Thurles Workhouse and suffered a ‘seizure’ or heart failure, falling to the floor as she was reading her catechism.

Due to the nature of her death, an inquiry was commissioned and a report rendered. In this inquiry, it was stated that an inmate by the name of Mrs. Commons was in charge at the time of Mary Ellen’s death, as the teacher was outside of the room.
Mary Ellen’s mother, Ellen Forde-Morris passed away a year later in Providence, Rhode Island. She was aged just 44 years old and the doctor listed her cause of death, also, as heart failure.

Mary Ellen’s mother’s mother (her grandmother) was Mary Commons/Cummins-Forde, school teacher in New Birmingham/Glengoole and had passed away in 1886, in Graine, Co. Kilkenny.

Can any of our readers shed further light on those named above or indeed are you in anyway related to either of these families?
We would love to hear from you, as indeed would family relatives currently today, actively tracing their Irish roots.


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