Returning 'inmates' to Dungannon Workhouse

Returning 'inmates' to the Workhouse: The case of John Cassidy

One of the key principles of the workhouse system in Ireland was that the guardians were not permitted to supply relief to people from outside the declared area of the poor law union. During the Famine this was often overlooked, while at other times it was hotly contested by poor law guardians, and no doubt in different unions it led to mortality and increased hardship for families and individuals.

Likewise, it was often the case that guardians in British workhouses and institutions sought to remove people and send them back to their local poor law union in Ireland. This is what happened John Cassidy in 1868 when with his wife and four children, he was taken in handcuffs and delivered from Glasgow to Dungannon workhouse. The treatment of Cassidy and his family were deemed to be severely harsh and formed part of a number of government inquiries. In one inquiry, Cassidy’s wife, Margaret outlined their case:

Deposition of the said Mrs. Margaret M’Culloch or Cassidy, wife, who being duly sworn deposes—That I am wife of the said John Cassidy, who is forty-one years of age. I and the children receive relief from the parish of Barony. Children are all lawful. Relief got in November’, 1867. Husband got relief then also. He again got relief four weeks ago, when he was removed into Gortnavel Asylum. We are all still in receipt of relief. My husband was born in Dungannon, county Tyrone, Ireland. I have been married nine years February, 1867. After marriage we went to reside in Main-street, Calton, four years. Then to England for fourteen months. Then to Main-street, Calton, where we have resided since. Before our marriage my husband was in Neilson-street, City parish, for six months, and previously in Graham’s-square, City parish, for a number of years. He got no relief till November, 1867. All which is truth.

What became of Cassidy and his family is unclear.

In the 1870s Agnes Adams, a native of Dungannon, suffered a similar fate when she was removed from Glasgow but sent to Thomastown workhouse in county Kilkenny in what appeared to have been a clerical error.