THE Mayor of Bolton travelled back to his home county in Northern Ireland to pay tribute to his grandmother — and hundreds of others — who were buried in unmarked graves after dying in poverty.
Cllr Martin Donaghy laid a stone of remembrance at the site of paupers’ graveyard in County Newry, where people who died while in the Newry Union Workhouse were buried.
The body of his grandmother Annie Kelly lies somewhere in the grounds.
She died, aged 30, on December 30, 1924, after going into the workhouse on Christmas Eve with Cllr Donaghy’s mother Alice, who was only three years old.
Cllr Donaghy met the Mayor of Newry and Mourne, Daire Hughes, to unveil a memorial stone as a tribute to all who were interred, and said it was a day of “mixed emotions”.
Cll Donaghy said: “It was wonderful to be able to have an inter-denominational service in the paupers’ graveyard, and place a stone in memory of all those who lie there.
“At last they got the recognition that was denied to them when they died.”
He added: “It’s hard to say how many people are buried there. They were taken from the workhouse and unceremoniously dumped in shallow graves, in some cases without the benefit of clergy.
“It was almost a crime to be poor, a throwback to Victorian Ireland and Victorian England.“I think it would have been quite remarkable, given the background I came from, if I hadn’t followed a career in Labour politics — it would have been questionable!”
Cllr Donaghy said he is planning to locate the paupers’ graveyard in Bolton, where people from the Bolton Union Workhouse were buried, to give them the same recognition.
A delegate of 11 from Bolton went to Newry for the trip, which was hosted by the Newry Maritime Association.
The group sailed along the Newry Canal, visited the Stormont Parliament Building in Belfast and various industrial and enterprise areas.
Bolton delegates covered their own travel and accommodation costs, while the association, Newry and Mourne Council and business sponsorships covered the cost of visits.
- The inscription reads: “This stone was unveiled on the 10th August 2014 by the Mayor of Newry and Mourne, Daire Hughes, and the Mayor of Bolton, Martin Donaghy, as a tribute to all those who are interred here. Worthy Citizens of Newry and Mourne. Never to be forgotten.”