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!! Ballina Chronicle; Feb 6, 1850 "Catastrophe"

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  • Cathy Joynt Labath
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2005
      Ballina, Mayo, Ireland
      Wednesday, February 6, 1850

      It is our painful duty to record the particulars of a fatal and melancholy
      casualty which took place last night at Clare-street, auxiliary workhouse, by
      which 27 human beings lost their lives and 28 were seriously injured. - Between
      eight and nine o'clock, shortly after the inmates, 500 females, had retired to
      rest, on the lofts of the store set apart for sleeping apartments, a false alarm
      of fire was given by one of the women, whether with an idle intention of causing
      annoyance, or by design, is unknown; but so electric was the panic created, that
      almost instantaneously the females on the first loft leaped from their beds, and
      in the darkness rushed in a body to the staircase, or ladder, leading from that
      portion of the building to the ground floor. The strenuous efforts of all to
      gain access to the ladder, upon which several had crowded together, necessarily
      caused a crush and confusion, until ultimately the paupers on the other lofts
      congregated in the narrow passage, when the ladder broke and numbers were
      precipitated to the ground from a height of more than ten feet.
      The scene that ensued is almost indescribable - the shrieks form below
      induced those above to press more eagerly towards the staircase and as they came
      to the verge of the passage, down they fell in crowds over each other! For some
      time all remonstrance was unavailing to dissuade the paupers from rushing
      headlong to ruin, and before the surprising nerve and exertion of the matron
      Mrs. Sleeman and assistant master, Mr. O'Shaughnessy, had effect, twenty-seven
      females were killed, or rather suffocated from falling on the top of each other!
      The occurrence having become widely known outside numbers of the citizens
      proceeded to the auxiliary establishment to render assistance. The Roman
      Catholic clergy congregated also, as there could not have been less than 20
      present. The city police, with the mayor, were also in prompt attendance, and
      all united in relieving the sufferers, and extricating the dead bodies from
      beneath the half suffocated group that lay struggling on the ground. The scene
      was truly appalling, as the relatives and friends of those who were located in
      the workhouse, crowded before the house, and as each dead body, or dying
      sufferer, was brought out for conveyance to Barrington's hospital, the progress
      of the carriers was violently stayed to catch a glimpse for recognition. At ten
      o'clock the number of dead bodies received into Barrington's hospital, was
      twenty-seven, and a more heart-rending spectacle never presented itself - there
      lay, side by side, the livid remains of these unfortunate creatures who a few
      hours before were in the prime of life! The majority were young and well-looking
      females- indeed, some had the smile of innocence on their youthful countenances,
      and seemed as if in a dream of joyful ecstacy. Dr. Gore was the first medical
      officer in attendance at Barrington's hospital, and aided by Dr. Cavanagh,
      resident apothecary, made every proper arrangement for reception and treatment
      of the wounded and accommodation of the dead. Drs. Geary, Brodie and Keane, were
      also at the hospital, and saw the patients who were brought taken care of. The
      number received into hospital seriously injured was twenty-eight and of these
      there are three not expected to recover. No blame is attached to the officers of
      the institution, as the melancholy occurrence originated with the paupers
      themselves.-- Limerick Chronicle.

      Cathy Joynt Labath
      Ireland Old News
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