On Saturday, 11th February 1843, the first adult and children ‘inmates’ were admitted to Carrickmacross Workhouse, which was built two years prior. Carrickmacross Workhouse
It was one of 130 Workhouses built throughout Ireland pre-famine, between 1841 and 1843. A further 33 Workhouses were built post-famine, between 1850 and 1851.


A Guided Tour tells the story of life, death, and emigration in Carrickmacross Workhouse during the 1840s Great Famine.
History is brought to life using an Animated Film, Interpretative Artworks, Information Panels, and Architectural Features. Visitors see an Original Children’s Dormitory that overlooks Mass Famine Graves.
Tour Guides provide one-hour Tours at 11.30am and 2.30pm from Mondays to Fridays all year. Group Tours are available by appointment on Saturdays, Sundays, and Bank Holidays.
Tours should be booked in advance either via Telephone or Email:
Telephone – 042 966 45 40
Email –


In the early 1840’s, the population of Ireland was almost 8¾ million – at least 2½ million of whom were destitute, primarily due to unemployment resulting in evictions by landlords.
Carrickmacross Workhouse was one of 130 Workhouses built throughout Ireland pre-famine, between 1841 and 1843, to house the poor and homeless; hence the Irish name of Teach na mBocht – The Poorhouse. A further 33 Workhouses were built post-famine, between 1850 and 1851.
People had to apply for admission to Workhouses, and successful applicants had to surrender their land to their landlords before entering (Gregory Clause/Quarter-Acre Clause).
The first adult and children ‘inmates’ were admitted to Carrickmacross Workhouse on Saturday, 11th February 1843.
Workhouse ‘inmates’ were subjected to a deliberately harsh regime – families were segregated and forbidden from seeing each other without permission; their diet was meagre and unvarying; difficult, and often pointless, work had to be undertaken; plus, physical punishments, including solitary confinement, were permitted. These punitive conditions meant that Workhouses became known as the Poor Man’s Jail, and people only applied for admission as their last resort.
In 1520, Roman Catholics, both Irish and Anglo-Norman, owned 100% of the land. However, by the 1800s, after 3 centuries of confiscations, evictions, plantations, colonialisation, and Penal Laws (against Catholics and Presbyterians), approximately 95% of the land belonged to English and Anglo-Irish landlords, with the native Irish as their tenants.
As tenants, they cultivated massive quantities of agricultural produce and livestock, which they had to sell to pay their rent to prevent eviction by their landlords. This left the majority of the native population solely dependent on potatoes for food, as they were cheap to purchase; could be grown in small plots of poor soil; and were high in nutrition.
Then, for a number of years from 1845, blight destroyed the potato harvest across Europe. The English Government sent at least 14,000 additional military to Ireland to protect the thousands of tonnes of vegetables, grains, and animals being exported by landlords for profit (e.g. over 3 million cattle, pigs, sheep, and poultry were exported between 1846 and 1850).
This resulted in The Great Hunger, An Gorta Mór, and the starving begged for admission to Workhouses.
Carrickmacross Workhouse was built to accommodate 500, however, by 1851, nearly 2,000 adults and children were documented in the building, plus auxiliary houses around Carrickmacross.
Due to the large numbers of children in Irish Workhouses, many of whom were orphaned during The Great Hunger, the English Government’s Secretary of State for the Colonies, Earl Grey, devised the Pauper’s Emigration Scheme.
Under this scheme, between 1848 and 1850, 4,114 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 were emigrated from Workhouses to Australia as wives and servants of the settlers and convicts there. We have discovered the names of 19 of the 38 girls sent from Carrickmacross Workhouse to Adelaide and Sydney – more information is available at
Death and emigration, (voluntary, assisted, or forced), gradually reduced numbers in the Workhouses until only the poor, sick, and elderly remained.
At their first meeting on 21st January 1919, the newly formed Dáil Éireann abolished the ‘odious, degrading and foreign Poor Law [Workhouse] System’.
An Gorta Mór, The Great Hunger, proved a watershed in Irish history, permanently changing our island’s demographic, political, and cultural landscape.
Within 10 years, 1841 to 1851, at least 1 million people died from starvation and disease, and at least 1 million others emigrated, primarily to America, Australia, Canada, and England. Mass emigration continued for decades, reducing our population from almost 8¾ million in the early 1840s to less than 4½ million in the 1901 Census.
By the 21st century, an estimated 70 million people worldwide claimed some Irish descent, and Ireland’s bond with her diaspora has been acknowledged since our second Constitution in 1937. Article 2 of Bunreacht na hÉireann states that, ‘the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.’
Carrickmacross Workhouse is now restored into a Visitor & Community Centre owned by Monaghan County Council.

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