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Connacht Tribune

Mystery of the missing workhouse master

Judy Murphy

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David Broderick at the grave of Henry and Mary Jane Ogle in Woodlawn, New York. Painstaking research led David to the final resting place of the former Master of Portumna Workhouse who disappeared without trace in 1865.

Lifestyle – Historian David Broderick has delved into the history of Portumna Workhouse and its strange Master, Henry Ogle, in order to give a voice to those forgotten people who were forced to seek shelter in this unforgiving institution. JUDY MURPHY hears about Ogle’s mysterious absconsion from Portumna and how David tracked him to his final resting place in New York.

Some people’s passion for history is ignited by dates and battles but it’s the stories of ordinary people – many of them long forgotten – that drive David Broderick.

They’ve inspired his first book, Finding Ogle: The Mystery of the Disappearing Workhouse Master, an account of the life and mysterious disappearance of Henry Ogle, who served as Master of Portumna Workhouse from 1850 until he absconded from his post and Portumna in June 1865.

Workhouses were harsh and hated institutions, the last resort of the penniless and starving. And, under Ogle’s watch, Portumna’s was one of the worst-run anywhere in the British Isles.

The building now houses the Irish Workhouse Centre and David, from nearby Lorrha in North Tipperary, spent two summers working there in 2017 and 2018.

While his day job is as a sports therapist, David is “an avid historian” in his spare time and has a Diploma in Local History from Maynooth University.

His interest stems from childhood. David grew up beside a 12th century tower house, Lackeen Castle, and it piqued his interest from youth.

“But we never knew who lived there; we knew nothing about it,” he says. That frustrated him, but on the Maynooth course, he learned about the resources available to people interested in researching local history.

His time as a guide in the Irish Workhouse Centre was a great experience, but David felt something was missing.

Large parts of the imposing and austere building, which officially opened in 1852 have been restored, giving visitors an insight into conditions in which inmates lived. However, when it came to information about those people, little was available.

“We have the building and a general history of workhouses in Ireland but we don’t have many of the records available to us,” he says referring to the records of the Poor Law Unions – the boards that ran the workhouses.

David researched newspapers of the day for accounts of inquests and inquiries relating to inmates – one of the most moving is that of Bridget Corbett, a 72-year-old widow who took her own life by falling from the top floor of the women’s block to the yard below, dying some days later.

It was “incredible” to read her story at first-hand, he says.

David has documented that and similar stories, thanks to his fascination with Henry Ogle, whose sudden disappearance from Portumna in 1865 left the area baffled.

“I zoomed in on Ogle because I felt through him, I could tell the smaller stories of people who had been less significant in terms of being recorded,” he explains.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Limited go-ahead for marts

Francis Farragher

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Marts: Individual sales to be allowed.

MART managers and staff across the county are busy this week preparing operating protocols for approval by the Dept. of Agriculture that will allow for the limited sale of livestock during the current COVID-19 emergency.

On Tuesday, the Dept. of Agriculture confirmed that they would be allowing marts to handle livestock sales in a limited way – marts will liaise with buyers and sellers; arrange for the weighing of the animals; and process payments.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, said that the Dept. had issued guidance to marts for ‘a very limited range of essential services’ that would not require people to assemble: the transactions would include calf sales, the weighing of livestock, and an online or brokerage service.

Ray Doyle of ICOS (Irish Co-operative Organisation Society) this week thanked the Government for their announcement, adding that ‘it was reasonable’ for a form of trading to continue to alleviate the current economic burden on farmers.

He pointed out that only mart staff would handle the animals; the buyer and seller would not have contact with each other; each could observe the weighing data; the buyer could view the animals from a distance; the sale would be completed electronically; no visitors or members of the public would be admitted; full sanitisation protocols would be observed; with the sale to be completed electronically.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Self-isolation success staves off Covid-19 surge – for now

Dara Bradley

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Anaesthetic Registrar Dr Robbie Sparks with Clinical Facilitator Claire Lavelle simulating an intubation of a patient with COVID-19 in the ICU at UHG. (Photo supplied by UHG because of visitor restrictions)

The predicted surge in Covid19-related admissions to Galway’s hospitals has been delayed – for now – giving much-needed breathing space to ramp-up preparations and increase Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity and beds for when it does hit.

But hospital management remains concerned in particular with the ‘significant’ number of staff in the West who have been taken off the frontline because they are ill from coronavirus, or self-isolating as a precaution after coming in close contact with an infected person.

And as the latest figures show 86 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Galway – seven times the figure from a fortnight ago – the HSE has conceded that local testing for the virus was suspended Sunday due to a shortage of testing kits. Limited testing resumed on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, although hospital chiefs in the West insist they have sufficient levels of personal protective equipment (PPE), nursing homes across Galway are facing a shortage of basic equipment such as masks, and many have appealed to the public for donations.

Chief Clinical Director Saolta Group, and consultant cardiologist, Dr Pat Nash, said UHG, the main Covid-19 hospital in the West, has experienced increased activity but ‘not a huge surge in admissions’.

“The hospital still has significant capacity available both on wards and ICU,” he said.

But Dr Nash stressed there was no room for complacency and the public needed to continue to observe social distancing, stay at home and practice hand hygiene.

 

See full story – and 23 pages of coverage on the Covid-19 crisis in Galway – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or available to buy as a digital edition via our website www.connachttribune.ie. The Tribune can also be ordered as part of your shopping delivery from most outlets now.

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Connacht Tribune

Loan sharks prey on families hit by pandemic

Denise McNamara

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Moneylenders have been targeting working class areas in Galway where hundreds of people have lost their jobs in the lockdown, encouraging them to take out loans with exorbitant interest rates.

Deputy for Galway East Sean Canny said he had received several reports of estates in the city where leaflets had been distributed recently by legitimate loan sharks.

“These people are licensed so they are not doing anything illegal but I do think it’s immoral in these times and my advice is to ignore money lenders,” he stressed.

“We have credit unions where people can go to for advice and for loans and we have MABS [Money Advice and Budgeting Service] which can provide advice that maybe they don’t need more money but may need to manage their budget better.

“People don’t make the best decisions when they’re stressed but I would really urge them not to go down this road because they can charge interest rates of 187% which is really fleecing people.”

Paul Bailey, Head of Communications at the Irish League of Credit Unions, said they have also been getting reports of leaflets being dropped by moneylenders in working class areas.

 

See full story – and 23 pages of coverage on the Covid-19 crisis in Galway – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or available to buy as a digital edition via our website www.connachttribune.ie. The Tribune can also be ordered as part of your shopping delivery from most outlets now.

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