The new entrance to St Francis' Paupers' Cemetery in Carrick-on-Suir
The Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, Rev Victoria Lynch of the Church of Ireland and local clergy will lead an ecumenical service at St Francis Paupers’ Cemetery in Carrick-on-Suir at 3pm this Sunday, September 12 to mark the completion of the burial ground’s restoration.
The cemetery, located behind Clairin housing estate in Carrick-on-Suir, lay in a state of wilderness for over 90 years since the last burials took place there but it has been painstakingly restored over the past five years under the guidance of a local committee.
John Connolly of St Francis Paupers’ Cemetery Restoration Committee said the bodies of men, women, and children who had nothing in life and died in Carrick-on-Suir’s Workhouse and fever hospitals are buried in the cemetery.
Carrick Workhouse was situated where Treacy Park housing estate on the Clonmel Road now stands. Also buried there are the bodies of beggars, itinerants and misfortunates taken from the River Suir.
He recounted that Carrick-on-Suir was a different place in the mid-19th century. Poor sanitary conditions, open sewers and no running water all led to disease being rampant in the town.
Medical services to the workhouse were never adequate leading to some cases of mothers dying during childbirth, Overcrowding was a common feature of most Irish workhouses, which were mainly built before the Great Famine.
Mr Connolly pointed out that any records kept of burials were destroyed in a fire at the workhouse in 1922. Before they began restoring the cemetery, the evidence of burials at the site was several mounds of clay all over the surface of the graveyard.
He said a decision was made to include as many old artefacts as possible from Carrick-on-Suir in the cemetery during the restoration project.
“The entrance pier caps came from the entrance piers to the Burke Asylum in the town (1868-1964). The gates were once the entrance gates to Kilkieran Cemetery at Skough near Carrick, which dates back 1,200 years ago and was the site of a monastery in the 9th century.
“The cemetery’s statue of St Joseph came from the former St Joseph’s Domestic Science School in the town (1891-1993). Some pieces of pitch pine timber salvaged from the roof of St Molleran’s Church were used to make a large cross and seat placed in the infants’ plot.
“The old original iron roof brackets which were made initially in Carrick many years ago and used to support the timber beams in the church roof, now form the legs of the seat in the plot.
“The centrepiece in the cemetery is the original iron cook pot used in Carrick Workhouse which was donated originally by the Quakers,” he continued.
“It fed many thousands of meals to the occupants from 1842 to 1922. A mixture of corn, beef and vegetables were cooked in the pot daily. The food was often watered down to keep costs at a minimum. Most of the workhouses in the country ran at a deficit because landowners and business people failed to pay their dues, which were used to run the workhouses.
“An iron cross was discovered during restoration, the only marking of the graveyard. This is now on its original concrete base and stands beside the cook pot.”
People attending the ecumenical service are asked to bring a fold away seat. There will be a collection to help defray the cost of the restoration. Current Covid guidelines will be in place. A booklet with interesting historical articles relating to the cemetery and its history will be available at the service.
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