CARNDONAGH workhouse 1869 etc.

The Colgan Heritage Week-end will have a special talk on the Great Famine to be given by Mr Goodbody, whose family was active in famine relief in the 1840s in the county. As the famine waned, life in the workhouse improved. For Easter Sunday 1869, the Guardians treated the inmates to a celebratory Easter lunch consisting of fresh meat, with liberal amounts of ale and a ration of tobacco for those who wanted it. Breakfast was wholesome with boiled eggs, tea and bread. Numbers had dropped from a peak in 1847, when fever raged, to 165 in 1869. The youngest was 65 and three were over 100, including Anne Doherty from Glentogher who was 106. Two of the inmates were long-stay patients and had been there for 22 years. Free bibles and prayer books were available in the chapel and there were ministers for the three main denominations available. 

Life in Carn has changed in other ways too. As the country heads for a referendum, the town has the appearance of a normal working day. This is in contrast with election day in October 1890 when William O’Doherty drew packed crowds into the Diamond and every window glowed with candlelight. There was a  huge platform beside the market house (now demolished) and Fr Philip O’Doherty was one of the key speakers. They were all assembled in support of the  Independent Irish Party which was led by John Redmond. The rabble-rouser MP, Frank Hugh O’Donnell (nicknamed Frank the Crank)  sent a telegram – “Stand by O’Doherty – kick the intruder out”. 

It is sad to see the slow but steady decline in industrial activity in the town over the last 100 years. At one time, the town had its own creamery but it closed shortly after the war. In 1928, attempts were made to revive it but economic difficulties prevented a local committee from taking action. The Department of Agriculture was offering three quarters of the cost of the building. Farmers would hold shares based on payment of £1 per cow. It was estimated that the creamery could be built for £4,500. The economic war of the 1930s and the advent of World War 2 brought hardship to the land and several decades would elapse before the co-operative movement would take steps to inject some life into the local economy. Sean Beattie (the day before the referendum) PS the “reply ” button is not working on this site. 

Carndonagh Workhouse Rifles

As the county was flooded with arms by 1917, nationalists were faced with problems of storage. The RIC became more active following the 1916 executions. The Irish National Volunteers were meeting regularly throughout Inishowen. The Culdaff branch objected strongly to house raids and military intervention at a meeting in August 1917. Sinn Fein established  a new branch in Desertegney and the United Irish League held meetings in Culdaff, Clonmany and Carndonagh in support of John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party. Home Rule was still on the horizon but nationalists were becoming frustrated by delays. 

In Carndonagh, members of the Irish National Volunteers knew that their homes were in danger of being raided as the RIC knew who they were and were under instructions to go in search of illegal weapons. Consequently, no member was prepared to risk storing weapons on his own property. At a meeting in the town, it was proposed to use the workhouse as a weapons dump as the facility was mostly empty and it would be difficult to press charges. The secretary of the Carn branch of the Volunteers was Edward Quigley and he was a porter in the workhouse. He knew there were locations which would be suitable for storing guns and if the police raided the workhouse, they were unlikely to arrest the paupers. Most of the guns in the area were brought to the workhouse and Quigley arranged for storage. But shortly afterwards, police activity saw more houses being raided, and he got cold feet. He contacted a constable he knew and handed over 30 guns to the RIC. No action was taken against him. It was  deadly blow for the Carn branch but the guns were soon replaced by arms dumps from outside the town. Drilling continued apace but few could have anticipated what lay ahead. 

Ironically this was not the first time the workhouse was used for military purposes. When the workhouse was built in 1843 and before it was opened for inmates, a regiment of soldiers was stationed in the workhouse in anticipation of an outbreak of violence when the repeal movement was active. The workhouse closed down in 1922. One wing still remains standing and is used as the James Connolly Hospital.