1916: From the GPO to the Somme

1916: From the GPO to the Somme

The 1916 Easter Rising and events in Ireland during this period divided communities, as it did in the Dungannon Workhouse. Politics was no doubt discussed in the workhouse amongst ‘inmates’ and staff alike.

When the Easter Rising broke out, republican suspects across the country were rounded up. Among them was Harry Harte, who was the tailor in the workhouse. Arrested and deported to Frongoch prison camp in north Wales, Harte informed the Dungannon Guardians that he would return to his duties when released.

Not all sympathies were the same as Harte’s. In September 1915 the Dungannon Board of Guardians discussed the prospect of guardians volunteering for service in the British War effort, as the Great War continued: 

At the Dungannon guardians meeting yesterday Mr. James Harkin JP in the chair, a letter was read from the War Office recruiting department asking what steps had been taken by the board in regard to the local government boards letter of 16th of April last as to the release of eligible officials to join his majesty’s forces. After a heated discussion it was decided to keep open the position of any official who volunteered, to pay half a salary during his absence and provide a substitute. An amendment that the position of an official volunteer be kept open, but no salary paid him being defeated by ten votes to five. During the discussion several members objected to the cost of paying the official half salary, but the chairman reminded the board that so long as it was only a matter of pounds shillings and pence and they were not doomed to a similar fate to that Belgian, they should be content

In the same year, Miss McGranahan, head nurse at the workhouse, was called up for the Red Cross and sent to the war. In July, following the involvement of Irish soldiers at the Battle of the Somme, the Dungannon guardians were said to have ‘acted in a very patriotic manner…with the election of their workhouse master. The guardians appointed Mr C.K.S. Roberts of Aughnacloy, who lost his left arm at the Battle of Ypres in November 1914 while serving with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment.

1916 was also notable in Dungannon workhouse because of a fire which broke out during the same week as the Easter Rising when the roof of the workhouse was discovered to be on fire. When the slates were broken through it was found that the rafters, which had been built into the chimney were on fire. However, the outbreak was quelled, and the building and its inhabitants saved.