The Military and the Workhouse

The Military and the Workhouse

On a number of occasions during the late nineteenth century, as numbers in the workhouse dropped but the cost of running the building increased, it was mooted that Dungannon workhouse would be a suitable place for the military to be stationed. 

The Tyrone Artillery were stationed in Dungannon Workhouse in 1871 and occupied a portico of the building. The military drilled on a daily basis in a field nearby, while the workhouse also functioned as a recruitment depot for soldiers throughout this period. In 1873 a one-week training and recruitment camp again took place at the workhouse. A newspaper report in 1877 noted that the:

The officers, staff, and recruits [of the Mid Ulster Artillery] returned to their temporary quarters at Dungannon workhouse, on Saturday last, from Lough Neagh, where they had been since the previous Monday for gun practice. They had very line weather all week’.

There is evidence that in the 1880s a regiment of troops were stationed there, bringing much needed revenue for the guardians. In 1891 the master of the workhouse, Thomas Tackaberry noted in his journal that the ‘militia’ had lately occupied a portion of the Female Ward in the workhouse.

Again, in 1893 plans were in place for the army to be stationed in the workhouse and military officials accompanied by the District Inspector of the RIC, a Mr Smith there to check out the accommodation. The idea was supported locally as it was believed it would relieve the rates. However, as Reynolds Newspaper reported in April 1893: 

Troops for Ulster a Dungannon: Telegram to the exchange company states that Mr. Johnson of the Belfast Military District has asked the Dungannon workhouse authorities to provide accommodation for 500 troops during May this step has given rise to a feeling of uneasiness amongst the unionists.

These troops were obviously stationed there for in late September, the workhouse master reported that: ‘the rooms in the workhouse lately occupied by the militia have all been lime washed and scrubbed down’. 

Again, in 1915 during the First World War it was mooted that convalescing soldiers would be sent to Dungannon workhouse to recuperate, but the plan was eventually shelved.

This strong military presence would have suited some of the workhouse ‘inmates’ who were themselves veterans of wars including those in South Africa and India.