Improvements in the workhouse in the early 20th Century

Towards the end of the 19th century a number of changes and alterations were made in order to improve the quality of life in the workhouse, and also to make it more efficient. Few changes had been made in the half century since it had been built and many of the rooms and wards were in need of overhaul. 

Some of the changes were of a practical nature but greatly improved the efficiency of the workhouse. These included the purchase of a clothes wringer and mangle for drying clothes, owing to the limited number of women in the workhouse in the 1890s who were capable of doing this work. Water closets were added to the fever hospital in the 1890s and were said to have made a significant difference. 

In 1892, Thomas Tackaberry, the master of the workhouse informed the guardians that:          

‘he has opened a sewer in the cellar, under what was formerly the Female Infirm Ward….he is of the opinion it should be piped with 9 inch pipes to the east end of the girls yard and there connected with the town sewerage pipes’. 

The laundry and privy rooms were also greatly overhauled, while water closets were also installed in the fever hospital.  In 1913-14, owing to the rising numbers of patients in the hospital suffering from Tuberculosis (TB), Dungannon House was acquired for use as a sanatorium where thirty beds were gathered. 

Other improvements made life somewhat easier for workhouse officials and included the purchase of a ‘modern motor ambulance’ which was ordered by William McGuffin, the clerk, n 1940. 

Some more practical improvements were suggested to be made to the workhouse in light of tragedies. In January 1894 Tackaberry noted the sad death of man named Hugh Moohan which had occurred at the gates of the workhouse 

 The master begs to report that on Monday last at an inquest was held in the boardroom on the body of Hugh Moohan, hackler who died about 8:30 o’clock on Sunday morning. Moohan was found about an hour before he expired lying in the snow in a dying state in the Quarry Lane about 30 yards from the workhouse gate. One of the witnesses stated in his evidence that he saw Moohan in the square Dungannon about 15 or 20 minutes past ten o’clock the night before and he was then on the influence of drink. The verdict of the jury was that Hugh Moohan came to his death on the 7th of January 1894 from cold and exposure outside the workhouse gate and some better means of communication should be provided between the entrance gate and the workhouse, that a lodge should be erected at the front gate for a Porter to reside him.