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The Plague Year - 1. Cold Dawn of ’49
By 13 January 1849 the number of inmates had risen to 2,751. The Poor Law Commissioners wrote to the Guardians on 23 January asking them to reduce the numbers in the Workhouse to that recommended by the Medical Officer. The Guardians replied that they had just taken a store in Abbeyside which would alleviate the pressure on space in the Workhouse.
Towards the end of January the Guardians received a notice from the Lords of the Treasury to pay £4,372.12.6 owed by the Union. The Guardians had neglected to pay instalments on loans received for building the Workhouse. The Guardians were dismayed at this request explaining that they did not have that amount in their account and if they paid it the rates would have to be increased. They explained that they were having difficulty collecting the rates, especially with the large number of deserted tenements in the towns and rural districts:
’Many of the farmers and landowners will cease giving the employment which they do at present on the grounds that they cannot continue to pay wages and meet the heavy and rapidly increasing demands of the poor rate...a greater and more permanent evil will be caused by having a great breadth of land thrown out of cultivation...by striking a rate at present it will have the effect of increasing the emigration at present going on amongst the farmers and shopkeepers and those classes at present paying rates, and upon whose minds the conviction is daily forcing itself that their only hope of safety is in flight, and that if they remain at home they will be shortly overwhelmed by the universal deluge of pauperism which is daily overspreading the entire country.’
The Guardians decided that they could only repay the loan to the Treasury at £150 per week if they had sufficient funds to meet it.
By the end of January the number of inmates had increased to 3,028.
The minutes of 1 February record that the bodies of five men were brought to the Workhouse by the police to enable an inquest to be held. One of these was an unidentified homeless man who had been found suffocated in a lime kiln at Barrack Lane in Dungarvan. Another of the men was identified as Cornelius Flynn from Stradbally who had died from exposure in the haggard of Thomas Power at Knocknagranna. He had been discharged from the Workhouse on 26 January.
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