Famine Heritage of MacDonagh Junction | Kilkenny Tourism

Famine Heritage of MacDonagh Junction

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MacDonagh Junction Shopping Centre 
Dublin Road
Kilkenny

Web: www.macdonaghjunction.com

Famine Heritage of MacDonagh Junction

The historic nature of the MacDonagh Junction site is well documented. On the site was the former Union Workhouse built in 1842 to accommodate up to 1,300 local poor. When the potato famine began in 1845 the Poor House quickly became the City Famine Workhouse.

The workhouse system was a shining beacon for the Victorian belief in inspiring the poor to better themselves by making the alternative a brutal and degrading experience. Only the most destitute entered the Workhouse.

It was, at the time the fifth largest workhouse in Ireland. It served as a City famine workhouse between the years of 1845 - 1852. During that time it housed at one stage a staggering 4,357 local men, women and children at the height of the famine in 1851 in the worst living conditions imaginable. The Workhouse only accepted orphans, complete families or the very old and infirm. Women and men were segregated upon entry and rarely saw each other again. The gross overcrowding meant that the spread of infectious disease, and consequential mass deaths, resulted in further logistical and economic challenges to the workhouse institution.

In 1872 the Sisters of Mercy were invited to come to the assistance of the people and of the Workhouse, which they did in 1875.  The 'paupers' as they were so described now became patients and they numbered about 600. The Workhouse subsequently became part of the Central Hospital System in 1921 and was run as such up to 1942 when it was replaced by St. Luke's Hospital which opened on the Freshford Road.

Over 800 skeletal remains from the Great Famine of 1847 were discovered at the site during a specialist Archaeological dig, prior to construction works.  These were taken into care for analysis (under the authority of the National Museum of Ireland).  These remains were respectfully re-interred in the Famine Memorial Garden at Goods Shed Square in 2010.

The Workhouse buildings have been sensitively and beautifully restored forming an integral part of the retail element of MacDonagh Junction. Visit the Workhouse Square to see the old structure merged with modern award winning architecture, visit the memorial garden at Goods Shed Square and take time to read the Heritage display boards near Quigleys Café.