Although meant as a place of refuge and sanctuary for the poor, from the beginning the ethos of the Board of Guardians, and the
master, was to find suitable employment outside of the workhouse for those who were able to do so. Within the newly established Dungannon Poor Law Union, children were sent out to service, in neighbouring farms and houses. Between 1842 and 1844, for example, more than seventy-six children averaging in age of 12-13 years were sent out from Dungannon Workhouse to neighbouring farms.
The effects of ‘boarding out’ and of emigration greatly reduced the number of children in the workhouse in the 1850s, and
perhaps some schemes have gone unrecorded or little evidence survives of them. Males between the ages of 15 and 20 usually spent a year on average in the workhouse in the late 1850s, while women stayed longer – a year and 7 months. There were only 4 people in the workhouse in 1859 between the ages of 15 and 20 suggesting that the ‘boarding out’ scheme was in operation then.
An inquest held in Dungannon workhouse in the early part of the 20th century sheds light on the system of ‘boarding out’ and how it operated:
Yesterday evening an inquest was held in the boardroom of Dungannon workhouse by Mr. John Malone, county coroner, with reference to the death of a little boy named Joseph Ferrity which had taken place in the District Hospital on the previous evening from the result of a scalding accident. A woman named Annie Boyle of Akinduff was examined and stated that the deceased who was three years and nine months old and another child had been boarded out to her but the Dungannon board of guardians five months ago. She was paid 5 shillings per week for the maintenance of both. On the morning of the 4th the deceased was dressed and placed in a little chair. She had a pot of boiling gruel which she took off the fire and placed on the kitchen floor. She turned round to get the lid to cover the pot but hearing a shuffling noise she looked back and saw the child scrambling out of the pot. She wrapped him in a shawl and ran to a neighbouring house where sweet oil was applied and the child was afterwards conveyed to the District Hospital… Nurse McGaharan and Doctor Twigg having given evidence of the extensive scalds received, the jury returned a verdict of ‘death from shock; the result of burns accidentally received.
The practice continued into the 20th Century, and in the last two decades of its existence, a number of young people were ‘boarded out’ from the Dungannon workhouse.
**Note** Donaghmore Historical Society does not hold any records relating to individuals who were ‘boarded out’ from the Dungannon
Workhouse and are not in a position to offer advice on such. Please consult with the relevant public bodies in this regard.