Wednesday 30 November 2016

Grim Bastilles of Despair: a newly published study on Ireland's Poor Law Union workhouses

Grim Bastilles of Despair, by Paschal Mahoney, is a short study on the Poor Law Union workhouses in Ireland. It has been published by the Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in the USA as one of this year's Famine Folios, a multi-disciplinary series which presents new research in Famine studies.

The folio explores how, despite strong Irish resistance, the British authorities established the 'Act for the Effectual Relief of the Destitute Poor in Ireland', which was to become one of the most despised Acts ever to come into effect in Ireland.

The author, himself a Dublin-based architect, includes an account of the selection of the workhouse architect, George Wilkinson, and provides a short biography of his career, together with a detailed description of his model designs for the workhouse buildings which had been created to ensure that nothing short of total destitution would compel anyone to seek refuge there.

The ideology of segregation and confinemen, as well as the traumatic daily experience of the paupers who had been forced by eviction and starvation to enter these brutal institutions, is described and illustrated with drawings and photographs.

Published in softback, the 48-page study also describes the devastating impact of the Great Famine and how these flawed institutions imploded under the enormity of this great tragedy, causing almost one third of a million people to die within their grey stone walls during the Famine years of 1846-51.

The Famine Folios are available through Cork University Press. Price €11.95.

ISBN: 9780997837421