Ancestry UK

Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary

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Borrisokane was one of the new Poor Law Unions created in Ireland between 1848 and 1850. Borrisokane Union formally came into existence on 7th June 1850. It was created from the northern part of the Nenagh Union and the south-western part of the Parsonstown Union, and occupied an area of 128 square miles. The population falling within the Borrisokane Union at the 1901 census was 8,532. In 1905, it comprised the following electoral divisions:

Co. Tipperary: Aglishcloghane, Ballingarry, Ballylusky, Borrisokane, Cloghjordan, Cloghprior, Finnoe, Kilbarron, East Lorrha, West Lorrha, Mertonhall, Terryglass, Uskane.

The Guardians met each week on Monday at noon.

The new Borrisokane Union workhouse was erected on a nine-acre site half a mile to the north-east of Borrisokane. Designed by the Poor Law Commissioners' architect George Wilkinson, the building was intended to accommodate 600 inmates. Its construction cost £6,550 plus £1,330 for fittings etc.

The site location and layout are shown on the 1903 OS map below.

Borrisokane workhouse site, 1903.

The building was somewhat different to Wilkinson's earlier designs, and was a similar size and layout to the workhouses at Castlecomer, Clonakilty, Urlingford and Mitchelstown which were built at around the same time. The front of the site at the south had a central entrance, flanked by a long two-storey block at each side.

Borrisokane western front block from the south-west, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

Borrisokane eastern front block from the north-east, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

To the rear, the main buildings had a T-shaped layout. The wing to the south probably contained the dining-hall and kitchens. The two main accommodation wings, one for men and one for women, were three storeys high.

Borrisokane eastern accommodation wing from the south-east, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

A two-storey hospital block stood at the north of the site.

Borrisokane hospital block from the north-west, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

Borrisokane general view from the north-east, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

At the 1901 census, the population of the Union was 8,532 including 6 officials and 100 inmates in the workhouse.

Early in the morning on Saturday 3 December 1904, a disastrous fire occurred at the workhouse. It resulted in the loss of three lives and considerable damage to the workhouse building. The matron was awakened from her sleep by smoke, and found that the casual ward was on fire. She at once gave an alarm, but before assistance arrived the flames had obtained a firm hold and quickly spread to the children's and maternity wards. Eventually a block of buildings 260ft. by 30ft. was completely enveloped and gutted. Efforts were made to rescue the inmates of the casual ward, but to no avail, and when the fire had burnt out the charred remains of two female tramps, Winifred and Mary McDonagh, together with the infant daughter of the latter, were found. The outbreak was believed to have been caused by one of the tramps smoking in bed.

The former workhouse site is now occupied by a local community college.


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  • The Workhouses of Ireland by John O'Connor (Anvil Books, 1995)


  • None.

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