Work begins on restoring Carrick-on-Suir workhouse burial ground

Aileen Hahesy

Reporter:

Aileen Hahesy

Carrick-on-Suir Workhouse Burial Ground Restoration Committee members at the site of the workhouse burial ground.

A committee spearheading the restoration of an overgrown and forgotten workhouse graveyard in Carrick-on-Suir has appealed for donations of old gates, a cross and religious statues for the project. 

Work started just over two weeks ago on clearing and restoring the neglected burial plot located behind Clairin housing estate off the Clonmel Road in Carrick-on-Suir. 

The graveyard is where a large number of  residents of the former Carrick-on-Suir Workhouse are laid to rest. The Workhouse was located on the site of Treacy Park housing estate from 1842 to 1922 when it was burned down during the Civil War.  

The committee undertaking the task of restoring the burial ground was formed in August 2016 and comprises five local people under the guidance of archaeologist Dr Louise Nugent and environmentalist Catherine Keena of Teagasc. 

Committee Chairman John Connolly from Rathgormack said the burial plot was  left untouched for 96 years andwas   in a very neglected state. 

The graveyard, located on one acres of a 2.2 acre site, is on local maps and was found by Mr Connolly and Carrick-on-Suir writer and poet Michael Coady when they went on a field expedition in search of the site. It can be accessed by driving through St John's housing estate and walking to the end of the sports field there. 

"We discovered the concrete base of a cross that marked the burial ground. It was known as the overflow burial plot. The first burial plot to be filled from the Workhouse was behind Treacy Park. The residents of Treacy Park keep this plot immaculately," he explained. 

Mr Connolly said tracing the ownership of the burial site proved a big difficulty for the Committee to overcome. They eventually established the Co. Council took it over from the  Health Board in 1940. The Council has leased the site to the Committee for three years for a nominal fee. 

 The Rathgormack man teaches dairy skills at Kildalton Agricultural College in Piltown and some of the College's students are helping the Committee in clearing the  dumped rubbish and overgrown vegetation at the graveyard as part of a community leadership programme. 

Later in the spring they plan to treat the weeds on the site and plant new grass seed. 

Mr Connolly said the Restoration Committee is looking for donations of old farm, field or entrance gates that are not in use anymore and were originally made in a forge. 

"We will erect these at the first entrance and the inner entrance to the burial plot on the site and we will be leaving a 12 ft. wide gap at each entrance for a tractor and topper to get in later to top the grass at intervals when necessary during the years ahead.

"We are also looking for a large cross or Calvary to be donated and some outdoor holy statues. Some convents and religious order houses have closed over the last couple of years throughout the country, so it may be possible to come across what we are looking for and erect these on the burial plot."

Mr Connolly said the restoration work should be completed by the end of 2019. 

"It is planned to have an ecumenical service on the site annually when the restoration is fully completed. The Workhouse was home to people of all religions and none at the time."

The Committee has to date raised about €5000 to fund the restoration of the burial site. Iverk Agricultural Show donated €700 to the cause and funds have also been raised at church gate collections in Carrick-on-Suir in mid-Januiary. 

"We hope to have collections in Rathgormack, Clonea, Ballyneale and Grangemockler during this year to raise funds for the work we are carrying out. Local clubs and individuals have also contributed generously to the fund and we will be publishing names later."

Mr Connolly invited anyone wishing to contribute financially or donate items they are seeking for the burial ground to telephone  (087) 6337685 or (087) 2551789. 

"Your contribution will be acknowledged,” he said.