The workhouse diet

Evidence from parliamentary reports throughout the nineteenth century suggest that the diet of ‘inmates in Dungannon workhouse was slightly better that that of the other Tyrone workhouses: Clogher, Gortin, Omagh, Cookstown and Strabane.      

By the late 1880s the dietary of the inmates reflected their class and whether or not they were deemed to be healthy. Workhouse ‘inmates’ were divided into a number of categories which included: Working females; males and females above 15 years, not working in infirm and idiot wards; boys and girls above 9 and under 15 years; children above 5 and under 9; children 2-5 years; infants, whether healthy or sick, and children under 2 years.

The daily consumption of food in the workhouse consisted of: Working males above 15 years of age received 6 ounces of meal and ½ quart of buttermilk for breakfast; 12 oz white bread and 1 quart of soup for dinner five days a week; 3lbs of potatoes and ½ of buttermilk on other two days for dinner; 5oz of meal and ½ quart of buttermilk for supper. Meals consists of half oat and half Indian. Soup to consist of 4oz barley to each gallon; 12 pounds of oatmeal, 9 pounds of beef, pepper, salt and vegetables for 100 inmates Tea was provided for those who were sick and, in the proportion, 2oz to a gallon of water, with 8 oz of sugar.

There was trouble in the early part of the 20th century with members of staff quarrelling over the dietary needs of the ‘inmates’. In 1911 an inquiry was ordered, the result of which found that:    

The result of the inquiry into the complaints made by Nurse Watt against Head Nurse McGaharan was read Dungannon guardians meeting yesterday after dealing in detail with the different charges made in n investigated the report concluded as follows:         the board considered that the hospital arrangements require the careful consideration of the board of guardians with a view to improvement. So far as diets are concerned the board believe the action already taken by the guardians with reference to the new dietary and the ordering of extras in the way of food would render mistakes and irregularities less likely to occur in future but measures should be adopted to remedy the other defects which have been shown to exist in the management of the Infirmary.