The workhouse (the site now occupied by Ballina District Hospital), provided for the paupers and destitute during the famine and was further expanded to meet the demands of the area. The boundary walls of the workhouse ran along today's Lord Edward Street and down the length of the road facing today's Convent School.
In its day, the workhouse was one of the largest in the country, built at a cost of £12,000. The foundations were laid in 1840 by local landowner, Edward Howley, of Ballina House. The first occupants were admitted on November 3rd, 1847.
The year 1847 was the peak of the famine in Ballina. Poor victims were buried without coffins in two pits and many of the corpses of the victims were black as a result of the fever. When Mercy Park was being transformed into a playground some years ago, many skeletons were unearthed.
In 1934 the Workhouse was demolished to make place for the new District Hospital at a cost of £30,000. One of the old Workhouse buildings still survives on the Crossmolina Road in the grounds of St Joseph's Hospital.
By Carmel Murphy