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Thurles Hospital Of The Assumption Graveyard Remembered 2010

May I first ask our readers to again refresh your memory in relation to the case of Mary Ellen Morris, Thurles, Co. Tipperary; the story of which can be located HERE.

Back in June 8th 2020 last, we asked if any of our readers could shed further light on those named in that story or indeed were any of you in anyway possibly related to either of these families named?

We still would love to hear from you, as indeed would family relatives living currently today, and who are actively tracing their Irish roots.

Back 10 years ago, in early September, the somewhat forgotten burial ground, which can be found to the rear of the Community Hospital of the Assumption, (once the Thurles Workhouse); had sad memories rekindled with the erection of a memorial headstone placed in this cemetery.

I recently unearthed my photographs of that same event, having been contacted by Morris family relatives, which I have now refreshed as a slide show to possibly aid further recollection. Alas, some of the congregation which can be seen back then have since passed on, but thankfully many others are still with us.

This monument was kindly erected by the local Sisters of Mercy Order of Nuns at a special Mass and blessing ten years ago in September 2010.

Sr. Mary Barry back then stated: “On behalf of the Sisters of Mercy, and the Staff of the Community Hospital of the Assumption, I extend a warm welcome to you all. Today, as we gather in the graveyard, we remember and pray for all those who are laid to rest here, down through the years. We trust that this headstone will now become a focal point where we can visit, pray and remember.”

The original old Thurles Union Workhouse, which many Thurles residents will well remember, had been originally built in 1840 under plans designed by British Architect, George Wilkinson. The building, designed to accommodate 700 paupers, like all such workhouses then erected, had the appearance of being a grim institution, with conditions inside and out, designed to discourage all but the destitute from attempting to seek refuge within. Nevertheless, it did made some contribution down through the years, especially to the saving of lives from starvation during that period of Irish history known as the Great Famine years, (1845-1849).

Over 15,000 persons were assisted with Indian meal (Ground Maize) in just one week, in 1848 and as many as 3,732 were housed here and in other associated rented buildings in the area back in 1850.

To give us some understanding as to the hardship then being experienced, we must look at primary sources still available. In the minutes of the Thurles and Rahealty Famine Food Committee book, 1846-1847; we can read a report dated 11th February 1847, sent to the British Association for the Relief of Extreme Distress in Ireland and Scotland, shown here as follows:

“Of the population of the united parishes of Thurles and Rahealty 8,000 are on the relief list. The majority obtain very inadequate relief by employment on Public Works. There are about 300 destitute families having no person to work, to whom gratuitous relief must be given; there are other families varying from 10 to 12 having only one member able to work, whose wages 10 pence a day, would not be adequate to the support of two persons at the present famine prices of food. The poor house (Hospital of The Assumption) built to accommodate 700 has now stowed within 940 and there cannot be any more admissions and groups, who cannot be admitted, are to be seen shivering in the cold and wet, anxiously expecting the fragments of cold stirabout, that remains after the inmate pauper meal. We have lived to see the poor sitting at the pauper’s gate, among the crumbs that fall from the paupers table. We have not had any deaths from actual starvation but numerous deaths have occurred from severe and long continual privation. The weekly average of deaths has increased fivefold.”

It was not until November 5th 1877, however, that four nuns from the Sisters of Mercy, set out from Doon, Co Limerick for Thurles town Co. Tipperary, to begin what was to become a long and beneficial association with this once workhouse. They came not to take charge, but to work under the Master and Matron of the Workhouse, Mr and Mrs Pat Russell until 1922, when the Order’s Sister Ita became the first nun to be appointed Matron. These newly arrived Doon Nuns were soon to raise hygiene standards by cleanliness through the scrubbing of floors etc. and bringing about other major change for good through leadership by example and through their rolls as both workers and carers.

Under the management of Sister Ita, the name of the workhouse was changed to “The County Home” and came under the jurisdiction of Tipperary Co. Council. In 1954 the name was again changed, this time to the ‘Hospital of the Assumption‘. Flower beds were introduced to enhance its still grim, grey looking facade, by Sister Baptist and her ‘men’, as she referred to them, latter her resident patients. Occupational Therapy for patients was also undertaken by Sister Bonaventure.

In 1960 the Health board under Mr P.J. Flynn, took on the responsible for the removal of the very high walls, which were in being, simply to keep inmates within the grounds. These were then replaced with railings possibly showing the true building facade to many outsiders for the first time.

Mr Larry Moloney Clerical officer, latter who died in 1970, was remembered at this event, 10 years ago, as being of tremendous help to the Mercy order. Mrs Betty Moore would be the first secular matron to be later appointed.

In February 2006 the old hospital building was replaced with the new present state of the art Community Hospital, which contains accommodation space for up to 72 patient beds.

The celebration Mass for the memorial ceremony 10 years ago was conducted by celebrant Rev. Fr. Jimmy Donnelly, ably assisted by Rev. Fr. Gerard Hennessey, then both in charge of Bohernanave Parish Church.

Music and song for the event was originally supplied by the wonderful Thurles Tenor, Mr Michael Molumby; Mrs Antonette Ruth; with the magical fingers of Mrs Mary Rose McNally on keyboard and violin.
Alas, no sound recording was taken on that day. However, thanks to the courtesy and generosity of The Cullinane Gospel Band, (Telephone 087 6729242), we have been permitted to use sound from a recent charity CD produced by them.

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