Sunday 8 December 2019

'Forgotten Ones' remembered

Fr Aquino Thomas, Guardian of the Friary, gives a blessing
Fr Aquino Thomas, Guardian of the Friary, gives a blessing
Mayor Jim Moore lays a wreath

Anna Hayes

The annual patron at the Pauper's Graveyard in Coolcotts attracted a large crowd as many gathered to pay their respects to 'The Forgotten Ones' who were buried there from 1852 to 1939.

The patron was first held in 1990, organised by former councillor Padge Reck, Ray Nolan and a number of other members of the Wexford Memorial Trust committee. At the recent event, wreaths were laid by a number of people including the Mayor of Wexford, Cllr Jim Moore and various local organisations.

Mary Gregan laid a wreath in memory of her sister, the late Chris Hassey, a community representative of the Trust committee. Maire Gately laid a wreath in memory of her brother Monsignor Lory Kehoe, who was a great supporter of the Trust. Finally, District Manager of Wexford Borough District Angie Laffan laid a wreath in memory of John Brien, Sarah Higginbotham and her infant son Thomas, and all of those buried in the graveyard.

Helen Corish Wylde, chairperson of Wexford Memorial Trust, explained that many of those buried at the graveyard had been inmates of the Wexford Union workhouse which, she said, was a harsh existence and one that only the truly destitute applied to. Only one grave in the Pauper's Graveyard was marked with a headstone, she said.

'John Brien, who died on December 2, 1904 aged 12 years. John was born and spent his short life in Wexford Union Workhouse. Thanks to her great-great-grandson, we now know that Sarah Higginbotham and her infant son Thomas are buried in The Paupers' Graveyard. Sarah died on May 14, 1886 in Wexford Union Workhouse, aged 40 years. Her infant son Thomas died shortly afterwards on October 7, 1886 aged nine months.'

She explained that the Trust planned to erect a memorial in the future, on which they could inscribe the names and details of people buried in the graveyard as they were identified. She said it was difficult to find names as the admission and discharge registers had not survived from any of the County Wexford workhouses.

The yearly ceremony, she said, forced people to face the past and ask how society could allow something like it to happen:

'Could history repeat itself in the future? We know too well that it can. Therefore we must demand that this very sad passage of our history is forever enshrined in the annals of the history of Wexford.'

Wexford People

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