Historic Carrick-on-Shannon is the venue for a unique ‘living history’ experience when 30 individuals voluntarily sign themselves in to The Workhouse to feel first hand what it was like for the poor, sick and destitute during An Gorta Mór, The Great Hunger.
Celebrating 400 years since its incorporation as a Royal Borough in 1613 by King James l, heritage-rich Carrick-on-Shannon has one of the few remaining Workhouses in Ireland (now a part of St. Patrick’s Community Hospital), the Attic
sleeping quarters of which have been sensitively restored to original condition with an added Reading Room containing historical documents by the Carrick-on-Shannon Heritage Group which identifies and manages the town’s heritage amenities. The Famine Attic Experience is a joint initiative with the pro-active Carrick-on-Shannon & District Historical Society.
Thirty individuals are invited to participate in this very special project over the May Bank Holiday weekend. Particularly encouraged to attend are those from abroad who are thinking of coming to Ireland for The Gathering. Participants will enter the Workhouse on Saturday evening where they will be greeted by the Master and given the rules and regulations. In keeping with historic information, the ‘inmates’ will spend the night in the unheated Attic on straw bedding in dim lighting. Readings from historical documents will be given by the Master or the Matron, and story-telling will be encouraged before lights out at 10 pm. Upon an early rising on Sunday, the inmates will hold a memorial service for all those who died under such terrible circumstances, before having a typical Workhouse breakfast of porridge and a hot drink.
Inmates will assist with the ongoing construction of a Survivors Cairn (descendants of those who survived) in the grounds of the adjacent Famine Graveyard Garden of Remembrance, into which a time capsule will be placed. Materials for the air-, moisture- and water-proof time capsule are being collected during 2013 before the cairn is closed permanently at the end of the year. Already in hand is a document from Uachtaráin na hÉireann Michael D. Higgins and scrolls from local school children. Items to be interred include a scroll listing the names of the participants and information about the living history project, and other items relating to Carrick-on-Shannon and its 400 years as a town. In a tip of the hat to modern times, some material will be included on USB devices. The public is invited to suggest suitable items for the time capsule that would interest generations of the future.
Importantly, the organisers are hopeful of receiving at least one stone (shoebox size) for the Survivors Cairn from people in all 32 Counties of Ireland. It is envisaged that a log of the locations from whence the stones came will be included in the time capsule, the idea that the stones used for the cairn represent descendents of those who survived. People are welcomed to bring the stones in to St. George’s Heritage Centre in Church Lane (opposite the Bush Hotel) or to the Carrick-on-Shannon Local History Centre in the Market Yard at any time before 3rd May.
After official release of the ‘inmates’ from The Workhouse, a celebratory public event is planned on Sunday evening in the Bush Hotel, during which the living history project participants will be honored and all attendees and guests will partake of a supper of authentic ‘Quaker Stew’ and entertainment to bring this historic project to a conclusion.
An information pack for those interested in participating (over age 18) is available from the website www.carrickheritage.com. Expressions of interest have already been received and, since the project is limited to 30 participants, the deadline for receipt of a registration form by March 29 is fast approaching.