31 October 2012 - €187,000 for Irish Workhouse Centre
The recently opened Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna has been allocated €187,000 by Galway Rural Development Ltd. under the "Conservation and Upgrading of the Rural Heritage" measure of the National Rural Development Programme (LEADER) 2007 – 2013. This funding has been allocated to re-develop Block A, which housed the board room, the waiting room, probationary wards, clerk's office and girl's dormitories. The funding will allow for conservation and redevelopment of this block ensuring that excellent visitor facilities will be in place for 2013. These facilities will also be available for local use. The ground floor of Block A will be redeveloped to allow for a canteen and meeting room, a presentation/audio-visual room, conservation of the original waiting room/entrance room and visitor reception. Toilets will also be provided. The building has already been re-slated. Under this phase, the roof will be insulated. All original forty four windows will be restored and the external render repaired. The project promoters are committed to implementing best conservation practice, using ecologically sound methods and materials where appropriate and practical, making the buildings as accessible as possible and improving the energy efficiency of the buildings.
The Irish Workhouse Centre, Portumna is managed by South East Galway IRD, with the help of many local volunteers and participants on the Rural Social Scheme and TÚS Programmes. The aim of the project is to tell the story of the Irish Workhouse and find new sustainable uses for the site. In so doing, it hopes to attract visitors to the area and provide employment locally. During 2012, its first year of operation, more than 3,000 people visited the site. Three people are employed full-time on the project with five working on a part-time basis. In addition, during the past year, employment was given to two local contractors, who carried out window restoration and re-roofing. Tour guiding is carried out by paid staff and 20 local volunteer guides. The Centre is now closed to visitors and will re-open on 1st May, 2013.
The funding allocated by Galway Rural Development Ltd. is greatly welcomed by the project promoters, who must also make a contribution to the conservation and re-development costs. People wishing to support the project can do so by becoming Friends of the Irish Workhouse Centre. Friends give €2 per week to the project. Friends' names will be placed on a plaque beside each window. Friends also receive free admission for up to 10 people in any given year, are acknowledged in the Friends Book and also on the website. New guides will also be needed for 2013. Full training is given and guides work one day a month for six months. For more information on the project: tel: SE Galway IRD at 090-9741867 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
03 September 2012 - Pride of Place
Galway County Council has nominated the Irish Workhouse Centre, Portumna for the All Ireland Pride of Place competition, Cultural Tourism category. The adjudicators are arriving next Thursday, 6th September at 11 a.m. to learn about the project. All welcome. We do need to know numbers, so anybody wanting to come along should contact the IRD office on 090-9741867.
13 June 2012 - Vintage Car Display
A Vintage Car Display will be held at the Irish Workhouse Centre, Portumna on Sunday next, 17th June from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Up to 80 vehicles are expected. All are welcome to come and view the cars and vehicles. There is no charge. This event is organised as part of the Eyrecourt Vintage Club Run in aid of Galway Hospice. Note also that the Irish Workhouse Centre is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with last admissions at 5 p.m.
01 April 2012 - Irish Workhouse Centre Re-opens
The Irish Workhouse Centre, Portumna re-opens on Sunday, 1st April and will be open seven days a week,
until 30th September. This centre, which received the Overall Galway County Heritage Award in 2011, is the only centre in Ireland dedicated to telling the story of the Irish Workhouse. It is located in a real workhouse in Portumna, one of the best preserved workhouses in the country, with all seven main buildings intact.
At the Irish Workhouse Centre, people can take a guided tour through the original waiting room, the girls' classroom, the matron's quarters, the nursery, the women's dormitories and the laundry. A short film explains life in the workhouse. There are toilet facilities and parking. The centre is a conservation and re-development work in progress. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with last admissions at 5 p.m. The tour takes about one hour. Admission is €5 for adults, €3 for seniors and students and €12 for families with no limit on the number of children. There is no need to book in advance. However, it is advisable for groups of 20 or more people to book. This is a non-for-profit initiative and all admission fees go towards the project.
For further information see www.irishworkhousecentre.ie or tel: 090-9759200.
08 February 2012 - Job Vacancies
SE Galway IRD has two vacancies, one full time and one part time, for people to work as tour guides at the Irish Workhouse Centre and to assist with various aspects of the Workhouse Project. Anybody interested in applying should first contact the IRD office to get a full job description and details. Note that the closing date for applications is Thursday, 8th March. SE Galway IRD Ltd. Abbey St. Portumna, Co. Galway 090-9741867.
31 January 2012 - Irish Workhouse Centre Receives Overall County Heritage Award
The County Heritage Awards 2011 were held in the Meadow Court Hotel on Thursday, 26th January. People gathered from all over the county to the awards scheme, which recognises the positive efforts and contribution of individuals and communities who have furthered the goal of heritage throughout the county.
The Irish Workhouse Centre, Portumna, which opened its doors to the public for the first time in 2010, received to overall County Heritage Award. Speaking on behalf of the Judging Panel, Mr. David Burke, highlighted the uniqueness and the scale of the Workhouse project. Few workhouses remain in Ireland today. This is a sad part of our heritage, but a part of our heritage nonetheless.
Accepting the award, on behalf of all involved, Ursula Marmion, project co-ordinator, thanked those organisations who had supported the project; Galway County Council, the Heritage Council, Galway Rural Development, the Rural Social Scheme and Tus. She stated that the project was headed up by SE Galway IRD, a local development company set up by members of the community in 1997. The project, she continued, would not be possible without the help of the many local volunteers, and in particular the volunteer guides.More guides are needed for 2012, as the centre will be open from 1st April to 30th September. She concluded by thanking Marie Mannion, Heritage Officer with Galway County Council and Mayor of the County Michael Maher, who presented the awards.
Anybody looking for further information on the project or wishing to volunteer can contact the IRD on 090-9741867. See also the website on www.irishworkhousecentre.ie.
All going to plan, the Irish Workhouse Centre, Portumna will be open to the public for July and August 2011.
The basic idea of the Workhouse System was that families in dire poverty could enter the workhouse and work for food, thus avoiding death from starvation.
163 workhouses were built in Ireland from 1840 to 1858. This was the single biggest building project undertaken in Ireland ever. The workhouse system was an English solution to an Irish problem. It failed
Portumna Workhouse opened in 1852. It operated as a workhouse from the time it opened until the early part of the twentieth century.
The Portumna Workhouse complex is reasonably intact. All the original main buildings (7) survive. SE Galway IRD approached the Health Service Executive, who own the complex, to see if the site could be developed in a way that would benefit the community.
It has been decided to use a number of buildings to house the Irish Workhouse Centre and also to find sustainable uses for the other buildings.
For generations, the workhouse was barely spoken about. The voices of the nineteenth century destitute were mainly unrecorded. And so at the Irish Workhouse Centre, the story of life in the workhouse and society at that time will be told.
While the workhouse represents the life of the "ordinary folk" at this time, in Portumna, one can also visit the Castle, where the landlord lived and so see both sides of the story.
There is another dimension to the Irish Workhouse Centre. In finding new sustainable uses for old buildings, it is an exciting conservation and redevelopment project.
Work carried out on the Project to date includes: the development of a Masterplan; the removal of damaging ivy growth from the buildings; the re-roofing of three buildings and the conservation of 18 original windows. At all times, best conservation practice is adhered to. This work was carried out with the help of Galway Rural Development Ltd., Galway County Council, the Heritage Council and the Department of the Environment. A short documentary was made with the help of the Galway Film Centre and a dedicated project website is currently being prepared.
Participants on the Rural Social Scheme are now working on the Project and carrying out great work in clearing out all the buildings and tidying the site in general.
If you would like further information or to get involved in this exciting Project, contact:
Ursula or Eric
The Irish Workhouse Centre
c/o South East Galway IRD
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