Mass grave on site of old Dungannon workhouse lies unmarked

Part of the site thought to contain the remains of men, women and children who died at Dungannon workhouse
Part of the site thought to contain the remains of men, women and children who died at Dungannon workhouse

Despite the knowledge that hundreds are buried in a mass grave in Dungannon - the plot has never been officially marked out.

Speculation on the whereabouts of such a burial ground on the six acre site of the old workhouse on Carland Road has been rife since an article from The Pensive Quill said remains were found, stopping building works at a new housing development on April 24.

Planning agent for new housing scheme thinks this red square could be the site of the paupers' grave

Planning agent for new housing scheme thinks this red square could be the site of the paupers' grave

But a planning agent working on two applications for houses on the scheme said although he is “not involved on site” he has “not been made aware” of any such find.

Aidan Kelly told the Times a field to the back of where 44 houses are currently being built has been marked out as the possible location of the ‘paupers’ grave’ - and is the reason contractor Knockburn/ Sandale Developments Ltd has submitted two separate planning applications for a total of 49 houses.

The first application, which was approved by Mid Ulster Council in November, was for 44.

Nine objections were received, two of which raised the issue of the paupers’ grave - but council planners said in a report to the Planning Committee “that area has been excluded from the scheme” after consultation with the Historic Environment Division.

No excavation work has been carried out yet

Planning agent Aidan Kelly

Aidan Kelly said the area thought to contain remains is subject to a second planning application, which also seeks permission for an archeological dig.

“The next site is a site where we could expect to find remains,” he explained. “We have to do an investigation... but that hasn’t been done yet.”

In relation to the whole Earls Court development he said: “No excavation work has been carried out yet.”

And the same could be said of the whole six acres that once contained the workhouse - built in 1842 to house 800 ‘inmates’ and extended during the Great Famine.

South Tyrone Hospital

South Tyrone Hospital

But even though many lived and died there, Department for Communities which oversees Stormont’s historic buildings and monuments department said: “We are not aware of any licensed excavations at the site of Dungannon workhouse in the last 60 years.”

They said 19th century maps of the site were available from PRONI, but added that “it would not be possible to identify mass graves”.

We also contacted the Southern Trust to see if the Health Board commissioned any excavations when South Tyrone Hospital was built in the 60s.

A spokesperson said the workhouse was demolished in the 80s, adding: “There does not appear to be any evidence of human remains being found during this work.”

PRONI map of the workhouse site

PRONI map of the workhouse site

In Cookstown, Magherafelt and Armagh the sites containing their paupers’ grave have been left clear, but in Dunganon the only evidence many lived and died at the workhouse, and in the famine, is a plaque on Quarry Lane and a date stone from the former workhouse, which has been built into South Tyrone Hospital’s wall.

New map overlaid on old, no graves are marked

New map overlaid on old, no graves are marked