Cork Ancestral Archive &  Genealogical Research


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Some thirty years after the "Act of Union", 1800, Westminster instituted a series of reforms in the governance of Ireland. A range of government-sponsored inquiries were undertaken in the 1830s into various aspects of Irish life, including that of Municipal Corporations. One key strategy was to take responsibility for local administration out of the hands of local gentry and the church, to establish Boards of Commissioners to run such services. Most significant in this context were the reorganisation of the Board of Works in 1831 and the establishment of the Commissioners for National Education in the same year. On the 25 September 1833 a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the condition of the poor in Ireland. This extensive report, generally known as the "Poor Enquiry", with a large number of detailed appendices, setting out the evidence that had been collected, was presented to parliament and debated in May 1836. The report contains a great deal of local data for all parts of Ireland and is probably the single most important historical source for social conditions in Ireland before the Famines. Then by the 31st July 1838, as a response to widespread poverty, an Act 'for the more effectual Relief of the Destitute Poor in Ireland' was passed, closely modelled on the England and Wales system, and with the same Poor Law Commission governing its operation. These Unions were to be formed based on electoral divisions which in turn were composed of Townland. One third of each local Board was to comprise unelected members, most commonly local Justices of the Peace. Each poor law union area had a workhouse and was supervised by a Board of Guardians. The Poor Law Commission (and later the Local Government Board) in Dublin was the central authority for the Poor Law Unions. ‘Poor Rates’ were collected in each Union to fund relief for the local destitute poor.

Midleton Poor Law Union was formally declared on the 16th February 1839 and covered an area of 227 square miles. The new Union workhouse was erected in 1840-41 on a seven-acre site, the gift of Viscount Midleton, at the north of Midleton. Designed by the Poor Law Commissioners' architect George Wilkinson, and based on his standard plans to accommodate 800 inmates. Its construction cost; £6,853 with an additional £1,347 for fitting out. The workhouse was declared fit for the reception of paupers on 15th June 1841, and received its first admissions on the 21st August. An entrance and administrative block, now replaced, stood at the west. It contained a porter's room and waiting room at the centre with the Guardians' board room on the first floor above. The main accommodation block had the Master's quarters at the centre, with male and female wings to each side.During the famine eras, an extra wing was built and stables appropriated to accommodate 200 extra inmates. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 32 in number, representing its 21 electoral divisions as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Aghada (2) Clonmult Dungan Kilmahon
Ardagh Clonpriest Ightermurrogh Lisgood
Ballyoutragh Cloyne (3) Imogiely Midleton (4)
Ballyspillane Dungourney Killeagh Templenecarriga
Carrigtwohill Garryvoe Kilmacdonough Youghal (6)

The Board also included 10 ex-officio Guardians, making a total of 42. The Guardians met each week at 11am on Saturday.

By the end of 1841, one hundred and thirty Irish Unions had been formed. A decade later, between 1848 and 1850 in the wake of the Great Famines of 1843 & 1852, a further thirty-three Unions were created, predominantly in the west of Ireland. This was achieved by subdividing some of the existing Unions, together with some additional boundary adjustments where necessary. Again these buildings followed Wilkinson's typical layout.

By 1863, a vacancy occurred for a School Master for the workhouse. The Board of Governors eventually appointed William Roche, a native of Midleton. Records proved that his appointment resulted in a marked improvement of the educational standards, where an inspector’s report states; "he discharges his duties with great zeal and efficiency".

In November of the same year of William Roche’s appointment, an inspector’s report for Mary Daly of the adjoining Female school states; "The excellent answering of the girls and the remarkable progress of many of them to higher classes, reflects the skill and energy of this young teacher". Mary had been appointed Schoolmistress on the 15th January 1861, having been trained as a monitress at Midleton’s Presentation Convent. Here she remained for almost ten years. Upon her departure Mary was presented with a Prayer book. On the inside cove may be found the following dedication;

"Presented to Mary Daly by the Nuns of the Presentation Convent Midleton as a mark of their esteem and approbation of her extreme good conduct while at this school." "Feast of the Purification 1861."

A mere twenty seven years earlier, 1834; the Presentation Order was brought to Midleton by Parish Priest, Stephen William Coppinger, nephew of Bishop William. Born, 04 January 1803, and known simply as Stephen, was the son of cousins, Stephen William Coppinger & Joanna Coppinger, Rossmore, Carrigtwohill. He died 21 October 1851, and rests alongside his Presentation Sisters in their beautifully laid out burial ground of the convent which is now unfortunately no more. All were exhumed and reinterred during rebuilding which took place over the original convent cemetery

On the 29th October 1869, William Roche addressed the following note to the Board of Governors; "With respect, I beg to state that I consider it my duty to inform you that I intend to get married to Miss Daly, Schoolmistress, on next Sunday, with your approval." Midleton’s Marriage register confirms the date as being, 31st October 1869.

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