Wexford's Paupers' Graveyard belongs to the community
The Paupers' Graveyard in Coolcotts belongs to the community and it is important that the community takes responsibility and gets involved in its protection and maintenance, Helen Corish-Wylde, Secretary of Wexford Memorial Trust, said at the annual Patron there on Friday night.
'We are gathered here because we believe that every human being's life should be commemorated, as everyone of us makes a significant contribution to our community. Each one of us deserves to be remembered with love and respect. Each one of us has a legacy to pass on to future generations,' she said, urging people to be watchful and to report any damage to her, other members of the Trust to the council.
Ms Corish-Wylde said the Patron and those attending it, honoured the lives of the men, women and little children buried in this graveyard, the poor, the deprived, the destitute, the mentally and physically challenged and inmates of the former Wexford Union Workhouse.
'They received no obituary or proper funeral and with one exception, all were laid to rest without a headstone, as there was no money to pay for one. Large stones mark the graves, placed there by family members so they could distinguish their loved ones resting place.'
She said the only headstone is that of a young boy, John Brien, who died on December 2, 1904 aged 12 years. John was born and spent all his short life in the Wexford Union Workhouse. He had been suffering from Whooping cough and Tuberculosis like most children in the Workhouse. John's headstone compels us to ask questions about what it was like to live in the workhouse, under a strict regime, where your only choice was losing your freedom and dignity or possibly starving to death.
Dignitaries attending the Patron included Bishop Denis Brennan, Mayor Cllr George Lawlor, and County Council Chairman Cllr. Tony Dempsey.
Ms Corish-Wydle said the Trust was planning to erect a plaque at the entrance to the graveyard in the near future, giving a short history of written by Padge Reck, the outgoing Chairperson.
'This is a very special evening for Padge, as he is retiring as Chairman and committee member from Wexford Memorial Trust. He has worked tirelessly for more than twenty five years to perpetuate the memory of the men, women and children buried in this graveyard - to ensure that the Annual Patron takes place and that the Paupers' Graveyard is maintained and respected,' she said.
'It was Padge's idea to revive the graveyard which had been forgotten and overlooked for decades. Nobody seemed to care or were unaware of its existence.
'Padge was appalled when he saw this unattended and overgrown graveyard. It looked so lonely and forlorn.. his tenacity and determination is legendary when he believes in a cause! He was going to transform this shameful sight into a spiritual haven with an aura of peace and tranquillity. He succeeded with the help of co-founder Ray Nolan and his committee.'
She said it was a worthwhile legacy to bequeath to the community, in union with the poor forgotten souls buried in the graveyard.