Donaghmore Workhouse

Donaghmore Workhouse

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Name Donaghmore Workhouse County Laois Nearest Town Rathdowney Access Road R435 About Donaghmore is a small village in County Laois.

It is located in the south of the county, near Rathdowney on the main R435 road and on the River Erkina, a tributary of the River Nore.

The village is a pretty well-manicured place which disguises a terrible past by the presence of Donaghmore Workhouse.

Donaghmore was originally associated with an early medieval church and later with an early Norman fortification.

It became an extensive and shameful industrial complex in the 18th and 19th centuries.

To the northwest is the headquarters of Donaghmore Co-op, built as a workhouse in the 1820s.

During the Great Famine, some 10% of the local population sought refuge here.

Donaghmore Workhouse was opened in 1853 to house the most impoverished and desperate people in County Laois.

It was made as unattractive as possible, so that only those who had lost all hope would burden the taxpayer.

Once inside, the inmates had to give up their personal clothing and don rough workhouse uniforms.

Families were split up; males from females, children from their parents.

Once inside, the poor slept on mattresses of straw and rags; toilets were large tubs in the dormitories.

Inmates worked during the day and then were fed.

Meals were eaten in total silence.

When Donaghmore Workhouse opened most of the poor of the County had already perished from starvation or emigrated.

It is thought the Workhouse was only full for a few years prior to its closure in 1886.

Now restored, visitors can see the original dormitories, kitchen and waiting hall and gather some appreciation of what the inmates went through in times past.