The Limavady Union Workhouse
The Roe Valley Hospital
|The Roe Valley Hospital|
During the first half of the 19th century, most people in the Roe
Valley - as indeed in the whole of Ireland - were extremely poor and
just about managed to scrape the means of an existence by seasonal work,
labouring on plots of land too small to feed a family or begging. But a
beggar in the land of the poor will not make much money of course.
If illness or bad economic conditions or old age made this hard lot
even worse, starvation would ensue. There was no hospital in Limavady
and any illness whatsoever was generally treated by the internal and
external application of whiskey. As a cure this was presumably not much
worse than being bled by the doctors of that period - and presumably
tasted a lot better.
To cope with these problems, Ireland followed the English example of establishing Poor Law Unions which raised funds to set up workhouses. These were meant to be a last resort for those in need. They were deliberately harsh and unfriendly, with poor food, worse treatment and a near military discipline. Many people would rather starve than become an inmate of the poor house!
The names of the board of guardians of the Newton Limavady Poor law Union are a list of the few rich and hence powerful names in the area. Names like Boyle, Hunter, Ross and Barber still sound familiar, as does the name of their chairman - a certain Mr. Marcus McCauseland. This is of course no surprise. The poor law was financed by the rate payer, and only the reasonably comfortable off could afford to pay high rates - hence they also had a major say in how these rates were to be spent.
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