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Lunatics of Ireland

It is important to keep in mind that ‘lunacy’ in days of old, and in our ancestors time, did not necessarily mean that those classified as lunatics, were all ‘stark-raving mad’. As recently as the 1940’s people were committed to asylums simply because they suffered from, what is now known as, ‘depression’. ‘Epilepsy’ was a diagnosis categorized within the terms of the ‘lunatic’, as well. Many people who had been placed in the lunatic hospital, did in fact, recover, and were then released, and some were ancestors, leaving descendants.

Until the erection of the lunatic hospital in Omagh in 1847, people suffering both, curable and incurable lunacy, were sent out of the county of Tyrone. Some may have been cared for by their families, many were sentenced to the gaols, (jails), and others were housed in the local work-house. In a Government report on the lunatic asylums, published in 1847, the ‘conditions of patients’ were – the ‘curable and incurable paupers’; ‘curable and incurable lunatics’; ‘idiots and imbeciles’; and the ‘epileptics’.

The reported causes of lunacy were said to be;
-Predisposing Causes
-Hereditary predisposition
-Defect of intellectual development
-Premature or natural old age

Physical Causes of lunacy;
-Cerebral congestion or hemorrhages inducing paralysis, or delirium
-Epilepsy and convulsions
-Efforts of menstruation critical period of life
-Consequences of parturition
-Abuse of spirituous liquors
-Poverty and destitution
-Syphilitic disease
-Misconduct and debauchery

Moral causes of lunacy;
-Domestic distress
-Reverses of fortune
-Disappointed love

A total of 67 patients were transferred from Londonderry to the newly erected Omagh Lunatic asylum. The Londonderry District Lunatic Asylum, which was built in 1829, was to be available for the residents of the three counties of Derry, Tyrone, and Donegal, and was to accommodate 100 patients. It is possible that those 67 patients, were being sent ‘home’. As those who were born in Tyrone, were sent to the Londonderry lunatic asylum, I include here information from reports of the Government, on that institution;

25 Oct. 1805 Londonderry New Infirmary
We have the pleasure of announcing the commencement of this important work, the first stone of the foundation having been laid, the 10th inst. by the Lord Bishop of Derry, attended by several of the Governors. The plan of the building is the result of the united judgment of two eminent Architects in London, Messrs. ROBSON and ROPER, who were selected for the purpose by R. G. HILL Esq. The situation which is at the Northwest end of the suburbs, is at once healthful and pleasant; the aspect is South East; the ground is very dry and the elevation is about 80 ft. above the sea. It will have wards to contain at least 100 single beds and will at the same time have day rooms, working-rooms, and cells for lunatics, it will likewise have a room for the Governors to meet in, Surgeon’s room, apothecary’s apartment, refectory or eating-hall, matron’s chamber, steward’s chamber, servant’s rooms, fumigating closet, baths, stores and sundry other conveniences befitting such an Institution.

The Londonderry District Lunatic Asylum 1829

The Lord Lieutenant and privy council were empowered to appoint governors or directors at their discretion, and also a board of commissioners, not exceeding 8, for the management of the institution. By a change of 2 and 3 William IV. c. 85, the appointment was transferred to the grand jury, and a board of superintendants substituted, containing not less than 8, nor more than 12 members, of whom 3 form a quorum. This board met monthly, or more often, if necessary. The expenses of the establishment were advanced by the government and repaid by applotments levied on the 3 counties, in proportion to the number of patients furnished by each. Epileptic persons, and those born idiotic, were now excluded from the Asylum.

It was a handsome building, situated on a rising ground without the city, on the north. It was uniform with the asylums at Armagh and Belfast, and, like them, was a district asylum, being intended for the 3 counties of Londonderry, Donegal, and Tyrone. It stood about 270 feet from the high road to Greencastle and presented to the river a façade, consisting of a central building with pavilions, from which extended wings, with airing-sheds, terminating in angular pavilions. Above the centre rose a turret, exhibiting the date “1828” and was furnished with a clock. It’s upper part formed an octagonal cupola, with sides of regularly alternating lengths, and surmounted by a vane. In front of the edifice there was some ornamental planting and was surrounded by a good garden. In the rear were several commodious airing yards, separated by various ranges of buildings. The extent of the grounds was 12 acres.

The Asylum was originally built for 100 patients; although since enlarged, so as to accommodate 150, it was still too small. The cells, however, were partly occupied by a description of patients, who were, strictly speaking, inadmissible, but for whom there was no separate retreat in the city: these were the incurable, the epileptic, and idiots. Such cases were also received at the Infirmary, and at a subordinate Asylum at Lifford.

The staff officers with their annual salaries in 1846
Surgeon -100£
Apothecary – 10£
Manager & Matron ( married couple jointly) – 25£
Clerk and Store-keeper – 30£
Gardener – 15£
5 Keepers, at – £12 12s. each; total 63£
5 Nurses, at – £6 6s. each; total 31£ 10s
12 Assistant Nurses, at – 4£ 4s. each; total 50£ 8s.
Cook – 6£ 6s.
Laundress – 6£ 6s.
2 Assistant Laundresses, at – £4 4s each; total 8£ 8s.
Office Store-maid – 4£ 4s.
Hall-porter – 10£

The diet consisted of 7 oz. of oatmeal, with 1/3 qt. of sweetmilk for breakfast, for supper 5 oz. oatmeal and ½ sweetmilk and for dinner, 3 and ½ lbs. of potatoes daily, to which was added ½ pound of beef on Sunday; ox-head soup on Tuesday and Thursday; and 1 pt. of buttermilk on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; no deviation from the dietary was allowed, without an order from the physician.

Of the patients, about 100 were constantly employed; the males in tailoring, shoe-making, carpentry, garden and field labour, weaving and winding, pumping, washing potatoes, &c.; the females in plain-work, quilting, knitting, spinning, washing in the laundry, cleansing the house, &c.

The state of this establishment had repeatedly elicited the approbation of the Inspectors General of prisons. In their report for 1831, they observe “This Asylum is admirably well kept”; 1832 “This Asylum continues to be conducted in the best manner, reflecting much credit on the board of local commissioners, whose attention to the interests of the institution is unremitted and proving the efficiency of the manager and matron, of the value of whose services we have before spoken in terms of praise”;

1833 “This provincial Asylum maintains its rank amongst those already established in Ireland, for neatness, good order, and economy, and manifests the success that has invariably followed the humane and wise treatment, pursued by Mr. CLUFF and the matron”; and in 1834 “Every possible attention is paid to the welfare of the Asylum and humane treatment of the inmates. The board of superintendence are constant in their attendance, and effective and the manager and matron, Mr. and Mrs. CLUFF, possess every qualification necessary for the advantageous exercise of the important duties of their stations. Nothing can, on the whole, be more satisfactory than the inspection of the Londonderry Lunatic Asylum.”

The intelligent medical officer of this institution, at the time in Derry, suggested “a provincial asylum should be erected for incurables only and states the vast numbers still unprovided for as an unanswerable reason. This, or some addition to the present buildings, must be resorted to. The present accommodation is not sufficient for the wants of the province but, the board having taken up the subject and obtained permission to add room for 100 patients more, I trust some arrangement will be adopted to relieve the county hospitals and county gaols from several incurable cases. Perhaps it would be desirable to take a few acres more ground, and erect a building for incurables.” This want was also attested before the commissioners of the late Poor Inquiry, by the respectable physician of the establishment, who observed that it could accommodate only 150, while 800 required aid, in which opinion, the governors fully concurred. The number of beds was increased to 190.

The following Return is from the City and County (Londonderry) Grand Warrant for the Summer Assizes of 1836 – all from Tyrone.

Remaining in the Asylum 1 Jan. 1836 – 44
Admitted from 1 Jan. – 1 May 1836 – 8
Discharged and died in the above period – 10
Remaining 1May 1836 – 42

The County Tyrone infirmary was at Omagh; there were fever-hospitals at Omagh and Strabane; and dispensaries were located at Ardstraw, Ballygawley, Benburb (between Moy and Caledon), Coagh (not far from Cookstown), Cookstown, Dromore, Drumquin, Dunnamanagh (not far from Strabane), Dungannon, Fintona, Gortin. Newtownstewart, Omagh, Pomeroy (between Dungannon and Omagh), Stewartstown, Strabane. Termonmaguirk, and Trillick. There was a dispensary for Clogher and Augher, and one for Castlederg and Killeter, but their locality is not given.

The following are transcribed & extracted by Teena from the Belfast Commercial Chronicle, Dublin Evening Post, Londonderry Standard, Newry Telegraph, Saunders Newsletter, and the Tyrone Constitution.

15 May 1806 In the matter of John HARIOTT Esq., a lunatic

Pursuant to the order of his majesty’s high court of chancery in Ireland bearing date of 21st Feb. last I will on Sat. 24th May inst. at the hour of 1 o’clock in the afternoon, set up to public cant, for the term of 3 years or during the lunacy of said John HARIOTT the several denominations of lands of Glassdrummond, Tullyblitty, and Rahaghy situate and lying being in the co. of Tyrone and also a tenement in the town of Aughnacloy in the said county being in the estate of the said lunatic dated this 9th May 1806 Thomas WALKER

Tue. 20 Jun. 1809 In the matter of Frances BLACKER, a lunatic

Pursuant to the order of his majesty’s high court of chancery in Ireland bearing date of 16 Jun. inst. I will on Wed. 5 July at my chambers at Four Courts Dublin at the hour of 1 o’clock in the afternoon set up all that moiety (for?) division of the townlands of Tullyvolly containing by estimations 58a situate in the Barony of Omagh Co. Tyrone part of the estate of said lunatic to be let during the lunacy. dated this 19 Jun. 1809 Wm. HENN

14 Jan 1828 In the matter of Hugh BOYD, a lunatic
Pursuant to an order made in this matter, bearing date of 8th Dec. instant, I will on Friday the 25th day of Jan. next, at the hour of 2 o’clock in the afternoon at my chambers on the Inn’s quay, in the City of Dublin, set up and let to the highest and fairest bidder or bidders, for 7 years, from the 1st Nov. last, pending the lunacy and provided the said lunatic should so long live, all that and those, that one of the Town Parks of Ballycastle in the County of Antrim, part of the said lunatic’s estate, known by No. 87; also the part of the lands of Broghinlea, formerly set to James M’CAFFERTY; and the House in Castle street, Ballycastle, No. 197, formerly set to Patrick M’DOUGALL; also the house in the Milltown of Ballycastle, formerly set to Eneas M’GOWAN, the part of the lands of Acrevilly, formerly set to Alice M’RABB, in trust for James M’RABB; the Town Park of Ballycastle, No. 104 formerly set to Mathew FULLERTON, for Robert GARLAND; the Town Park of Ballycastle No. 101, formerly let to Henry BOYLE; the Town Park of Ballycastle No. 28; and the Custom house of Ballycastle, formerly set to Daniel KEARUS; this 21st Dec. 1827 Thomas ELLIS

31 Jan. 1833 In the matter of Francis SANDERSON a lunatic
Pursuant to an order made in this matter, hearing date the 2nd June last, I will on Monday, the 14th Jan. next, at the hour of 1 o’clock in the afternoon at my chambers Inns quay, Dublin, set up and let to the highest and fairest bidder, for the term of 7 years, pending the lunacy, and the lunatics interest therein from the 1st Nov. last, all that and those the dwelling house and demesne of Drumcarne?, situate in the Parish of Anna and County of Cavan, containing by estimation 72 acres or thereabouts, so far as the said lunatic is interested therein.  J. S. TOWNSEND

19 Mar. 1836
At a trial in Co. Armagh Assize court of Neil FEIGHAN, aged 26 for the wilful murder of William WHITE at Armagh (near the lunatic Asylum) on 29th  Oct. last, the evidence for the defence closed with the examination of 3 of  the inmates of the lunatic asylum. (suggesting they were not so incapacitated, that their testimony couldn’t be heard in a court of law.)

18 Mar. 1841 Co. Armagh Assizes – Insanity
Mary COWAN was charged with drowning her infant child, near Portadown, on the 3rd Nov last.
Sir Thomas STAPLES stated that he would occupy the attention of his Lordship or the jury but for a short period, in this case, as it appeared, that the prisoner was in state of delirium, arising from fever, when she committed the act.
Rachel FENNIS examined – The prisoner was sick, in November last. She had two children with her, I saw one of them, about two years old, lying in a drain on the 3rd Nov. last,  and the prisoner standing about a yard of it. There was water in the drain. The child was dead. The woman’s clothes were wet. She was not in her right mind.
Alexander ROBINSON, surgeon of the County jail, examined – When the prisoner came to the jail, she was insane. She was labouring under fever. The delirium with which she was affected was the result of fever, but more serious than such as usually attend patients in fever. She was not a dangerous lunatic. I don’t think the safety of society would be endangered by her being set at large, at present.
The jury, without leaving their box, returned a verdict of not guilty.

24 Jul. 1844 Tyrone Assizes
Uriah WORTHINGTON was indicted for stealing a wheel barrow the 2nd of July, the property Patrick HICKEY.
Patrick HICKEY examined by Mr DOOLAN – lives at Dooneban lost a box barrow on the 1st July; saw the prisoner next morning covering it in a clay kiln; witness went for police; searched and found the barrow in the clay kiln.
Dr. William SCOTT examined- Thinks the prisoner of unsound mind and very maliciously disposed.
Not guilty being of unsound mind when he committed the felony but left in the power of the Judge. His Lordship expressed himself to the effect that he would have him confined in the Lunatic Asylum, in order that he might be prevented from committing any outrage or felony in future.

1846 – the Governors and Directors at the Londonderry Asylum, that were representatives for the Co. Tyrone –

Hon. Henry CORRY M.P.
William STEWART Esq.
Sir Hugh STEWART Bart D.L.
Hon. and Rev. C. DOUGLAS
Rev. Robert HUME
James SINCLAIR Esq. D.L.
Lord Claude HAMILTON M.P. D.L.
Arthur W. Cole HAMILTON Esq. D.L.

18 Mar. 1846 – Judge TORRENS addresses Sir. Hugh STEWART and the grand jury at the Co. Tyrone Assizes.

And now gentlemen, I come to a subject which I would rather not talk about, and that is the state of the lunatics in the county jail. I have often, from this bench, spoken to you on this matter, and strongly condemned this vicious habit (I can call it by no milder term) on the part of the magistrates who commit to the county jail, persons of disturbed mind, instead of having them sent to the provincial asylum. I have repeatedly spoken on this subject. I have had printed circulars prepared, and distributed to the same effect, and now let any man hear what I am about read, and let him blush for such a state things. His lordship proceeded to read an extract from the report of the Inspector General of Prisons, to the effect that there were 14 male and 8 female lunatics confined in the county jail, who were most uncomfortably provided for, and in a state of extreme destitution. The blame, however, was not to be attributed to the local officers, as they had no means of remedying the evil. The clothes of the poor lunatics were wretched, many of them walking without covering for their feet on the cold and wet pavement and one of them, who appeared to be more collected and sensible than the others, complained that he had not sufficient bed covering to protect him from the cold. The inspector visited his cell, in company with some of the jail officers, and could not describe its state of filth and wretchedness. In one small room, also, there were 14 lunatics together, who had no form or table, from which to eat their meals.

His lordship continued. “Need I ask you, as magistrates, to put a stop to these practices of sending lunatics to the county jail? After they are sent to the jail they will not be received in the asylum, owing to the nature of its rules, which require that information should be given relative to the habits of the lunatic, by which they might ascertain whether or not he was incurable, and be enabled to judge of the best mode of treatment, which information the Jail turnkeys are unable to give. The practice, however, must be put a stop to and if I find any magistrate in future sending a lunatic to the county jail I will be forced to report him to the Chancellor. There are 22 lunatics at present confined in the jail, a number of which are curable (the names his lordship read), and fit objects for the asylum, and why is it that you will persist in sending them to the jail? It it not to be believed that such a state of things could exist in this northern county, which should have made some advancement in civilization. I call upon you now to make proper provision for these poor lunatics, or I will not pass a single salary for any one of the officers.”

Sir Hugh STEWART Bart., A.W. Col HAMILTON, and Wm. Lenox CONYNGHAM Esq., grand jury, stated that there was no room in the Derry asylum, and that the lunatics had been refused admittance in consequence.

His lordship said that if there was not room in the asylum care should be taken that they received proper accommodation here, as, if he was ever honoured by again sitting on that bench, he would pass no salaries either to the inspector, the chaplain, or the jail officers, if the lunatics remained in the same condition. (Vindicator)

4 July 1846 To builders and Architects

I Hereby give notice that Tenders and Proposals will be received at my Office, Omagh until 5 o’clock in the evening of the day next before the First Day of the Meeting of the Grand Jury of this County for fiscal business at the approaching Assizes, for the execution of the following works;
-To make certain alterations in the Male Hospital, Female Hospital, Male Lunatic Ward, and Turnkeys apartments, in the Gaol of Omagh.
-To make certain additions to and alterations in, the Fever Hospital in Omagh.

The plans and specifications for which are lying for inspection in the office of the County Surveyor, Omagh and can be seen there until 3 o’clock p.m., until the assizes. Alex AUCHINLECK Secretary to the Grand Jury, Co. Tyrone.

21 Jan. 1847 – Lunatics Co. Tyrone

Lord Claud HAMILTON has addressed the following communication to a local contemporary – “l should be obliged if you would allow some space in your columns, in order that I may endeavor, by the statement of a few facts, to induce the inhabitant of Tyrone to derive more advantage from that excellently managed institution, the Londonderry District Lunatic Asylum, than they have heretofore enjoyed. I need hardly state that they pay equally with the other 2 Counties; hitherto they have never received a proportionate value for their expenditure. Friday last, the number of patients from the several Counties was as follows; Londonderry, 72; Donegal, 80; Tyrone, 62.

It is well known that Tyrone has a considerably larger population than either the other 2 Counties. I fear it cannot claim any peculiar immunity from that awful infliction, insanity, or assent that the above numbers justly indicate the superior sanity of its inhabitants. Our gaol at Omagh presents too many melancholy specimens to the contrary, whilst the gaol of Londonderry does not contain 1 insane inmate. It is the strength these facts that I seek the medium of your extensively read Journal, to lay before the inhabitants of Tyrone the real cause of this apparent hardship.

At every Assizes I hear complaints against the institution for favoritism, and insinuations that this County is not fairly treated. I have in vain begged the gentlemen present to dismiss such suspicions from their minds, and to test the institution by sending cases duly attested to the Board, in conformity to the instructions gratuitously furnished to every applicant; hitherto, I regret to say, my advice has not been taken.

During the last 4 mouths the number of applications from the respective Counties was Londonderry 18; Donegal, 14; Tyrone, 4. This statement will demonstrate that the fault does not rest with the managers of the Asylum. Whenever cases are forwarded from Tyrone they are allowed precedence, and until they are disposed of no other cases are considered; but if no cases are submitted for examination, it is clear the Board can admit no patients from Tyrone. During the last 2 months not one application has been sent from this County. It may be asked how the gaol becomes crowded with unfortunate maniacs? I believe it arises solely from prejudice against making use of the Lunatic Asylum.

Miserable beings are kept their relatives in a hopeless state of insanity until they become dangerous; they are then committed to prison for the public safety, thus precluding any hope of recovery, as no curative system can be pursued in the gaol.

It has, in some instances, been proved that harmless idiots have been urged to commit violence, so that they may provided for at the expense of the County, as dangerous lunatics. Out of the number classed as patients from Tyrone, a large proportion have been sent by an arbitrary order from the Lord Lieutenant; these are taken from the gaol, and are in variably hopeless cases, as they are usually of long standing  and as the gaol authorities cannot furnish a medical history of the malady, nor any other requisite information, the main chances of recovery are thrown away. These patients remain an incumbrance to the asylum, each year keeping out fresh and curable cases. If, Sir, you will aid me in drawing attention to this great evil, you will promote the cause of humanity, and confer a great benefit on the County. I have directed 30 papers to be sent to your office, which I am confident you will distribute as occasion requires. If the humane view of the question be excluded, it is obvious to every reflecting mind that, as long Tyrone pays for a curative lunatic asylum, it is folly to send lunatics to prison where a cure is not even attempted, whilst the Counties of Londonderry and Donegal are enjoying increased advantages, owing to our neglect. I remain your obedient servant, Baronscourt, Jan. 14. 1847. Claud Hamilton.

N.B The days of admission are the 2nd Friday of each month, and recent cases are admitted in preference to long confirmed maladies, as the prospect of recovery is much greater.” (Newry Telegraph)

31 Jan. 1849 District Lunatic Asylum

The building work of the new District Lunatic Asylum, at Cranny, in the neighbourhood of Omagh, was commenced on Monday sen’night, when upwards of 150 labourers were employed. The building will necessarily be a large one, £32,000 being the sum contracted for and the employment likely to be given to labourers will be considerable and very useful at the present season, in alleviating and preventing distress.

10 Mar. 1849
Mr. William HAGUE Jr. of Cavan, has been declared contractor for the building the District Lunatic Asylum at Omagh, Co. Tyrone, for thirty-two thousand pounds. Mr. HAGUE has commenced the work, and is now employing a great many distressed labourers in that locality,

15 Oct. 1849 To be sold by Auction.
Pursuant to an order of the Right Hon. the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, bearing date the of 7th July 1849 – In the matter of John HAMILTON, a lunatic
To be sold by Auction, the lands of Drumadds near Coagh in the County of Tyrone, on Wednesday the 31st day of October instant, at the hour 12 o’clock Noon, all the interest of the lunatic in the house and Farm of Drumadds, containing 52 acres of excellent Land, in good condition, held under the RYND Family, at a moderate rent. Immediate possession will be given. Also, all the household furniture. Goods and chattels, farming implements, crop, and stock. This auction is well worthy of the attention of purchasers, as everything will be sold without reserve. Dated 8 Oct. 1849.
For further particulars apply to Mr. GETTY, Committee of the Lunatic Department, or Mr. WOODHOUSE Solicitor, Portadown.

1851 District Lunatic Asylum, Omagh ( in the progress of erection) – Messrs. William FARRELL and Son, Architects

Elevations certainly offer the opportunity of exhibiting something striking, but the demands of public and private structures require a little more skill and experience in their treatment than can be acquired by the study of a model style, or monument. We are, therefore, always glad to have the opportunity of affording examples of the treatment of class subjects, for each has its own details dependent upon its peculiar destination. Thus, a church, dissenting chapel, hospital, bath, or bank, has each it’s particular requisites and which must be well understood in order to present an effective and useful design. There would, we are convinced, be less sham in exteriors if the interior arrangements were studied and comprehended; and nothing shows more fully, the ripe student nothing, indeed, gives such a one a better opportunity of distinguishing himself, than a well planned interior. The difficulties in the way of acquiring such experience is considerable, because many very common structures have never been published and an opportunity is consequently afforded to the journalist of usefully contributing to the stock of public information. Lunatic asylums are often put up to competition and we have, therefore, thought it useful to avail ourselves of a design which has been executed by a firm in Ireland, Messrs. William FARRELL and Son of Dublin, and which provides accommodation on an extensive scale.

Our plate represents the ground floor and front elevation of the new District Lunatic Asylum now in progress of erection at Omagh. The centre building contains the private apartments for the governor and matron the board room office recreation hall and reception rooms for the male and female patients. The second floor contains the two principal sitting rooms, a handsome chapel 60 feet in length over the recreation hall, and the upper story consists of bed rooms, and servants apartments, there is also a compact basement under the centre building, which is groin vaulted. The main buildings to the east and west of centre are for the male and female patients, they are three stories high, each floor accommodating 50 patients or 300 in all. The bad cases are kept on the ground floor, the medium on the second, and the convalescent occupy the upper story. There is a commodious range of kitchen offices attached and also a suitable infirmary. The total length from east to west is 623ft. 8 in depth of flank buildings, 129ft. 6 in. and extreme depth from front to rear of offices 306 ft. 6 in. standing in an elevated situation, on a farm of 30 English acres, within one mile of the town of Omagh on the Dungannon road. The site presents a northern aspect to the road and it being essentially necessary that the exercising corridors and day rooms should look, as near as possible, to the south, for cheerfulness, the architects were obliged to have all the sleeping apartments to the front, which materially detracts from the appearance of the building, presenting as it does, so many small windows and in point of fact, turning what should be the rear of the building to the road and leaving the best elevation unseen; this, however, was unavoidable, as sanitary requirements are peremptory and they have most certainly made the best of a bad case.

Although with alterations and additions through the years, the Omagh District lunatic asylum is currently called the ‘Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital’ and is located at 1 Donaghanie Rd Omagh, Co. Tyrone N.I. U.K. BT79 0NS

The records for Admission and Discharges 1853 – 1962 are held at the PRONI (Public Records of Northern Ireland)

Tyrone & Fermanagh Hospital, Cranny, Omagh
Photographs and comments courtesy Kenneth Allen
I noticed repair works being carried out here – this was a mental health hospital, but there are no patients in the main building. Some patients are housed in various chalets on the site, on the opposite side of the river. This section of the building has administration offices and a canteen. Previously the rest of the building contained Drumragh Integrated College which has since relocated. A portion of the building remains vacant, but this listed building will be part of three main blocks included in the new Omagh Hospital Complex which will have a Medical centre and hospital building replacing Tyrone County Hospital

24 August 1852

The Omagh Asylum, said to be the most extensive in Europe, will shortly be taken charge of by Dr. Francis WEST M.D., Newtownbutler

1853 Ireland Statistics of Prisoners Committed in the Year

Charged with felony, petty larceny &c. (summary) misdemeanants, under Revenue laws, under Poor Law Act, by courts martial and deserters, under Vagrant Acts drunkards, lunatics under the Act for Insanity;
Males 42,492, females, 30,527
Average daily number – Males, 4,060; females, 2,387
Highest number at any one time – Males 6,295 females 3,382
Lowest number at any one time – Males, 2,911; females, 1,841

25 March 1853
A meeting of the Governors of the Omagh District Lunatic Asylum institution was held yesterday at the building. The following were present;

The Right Hon. Henry CORRY M.P.
Robert Wm. LOWRY
Charles ECCLES
Samuel VESEY
Thomas HOUSTON Esqr.
Francis ELLIS
Robert EVANS
Henry D’ARCY
George HILL

Tenders for the various supplies were received and decided upon. Arrangements were entered into for permanently opening the house for the reception patients, the 14th April next. It was decided that the bank for the institution should be the Omagh branch of the Provincial Bank. Dr. WEST, the resident physician, entertained the Governors at a splendid lunch after the business of the meeting had concluded.

10 Sept. 1853 Birth at the Omagh Lunatic Asylum, the lady of John James WEST Esq. M.D., of a son

1854 -1855

The Omagh Asylum was built for 300 inmates and was situated a short distance from the town of Omagh and is the district constituted by the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh, the former of which was detached from the Londonderry, and the latter from the Armagh district in 1853. The number of admissions during the two years was 270 – 135 males and 135 females and of these, 185 remain in the Asylum at the present time. The discharges were 37, being less than 14 per cent on the admissions but this low percentage is attributable to the number of old cases admitted from the Londonderry and Armagh Asylums, and the great number of incurables under treatment 129 remaining of this class on the 31st March. The deaths in the two years were 21 or less than 8 per cent on the number under treatment. The daily number of patients for 31 Mar. 1854 were 145 and this rose to 174 patients daily for 31 Mar. 1855

Governors attending the Monthly meetings of the Boards 1 Apr. 1853 – 1 Apr. 1855

Rev J.G. PORTER Chairman
John NUGENT Esq. M.D.
William ARCHDALL Esq. J.P.
Francis J. GERVAIS Esq. J.P.
James LENDRUM Esq. J.P.
Francis ELLIS Esq. J.P.
George HILL Esq.
David WHITE Esq. J.P
Samuel GALBRAITH Esq. J.P.
Samuel VESEY Esq. D.L.
Charles SCOTT Esq J.P.
Hon. and Rev. J.C. MAUDE
Major Richardson BRADY D.L.
Sir Robert A FERGUSON Bart.
William OGILBY Esq J.P.
Charles ECCLES Esq J.P.
Hon. Henry CORRY
Right Hon. Lord Claude HAMILTON M.P.
Thomas HOUSTON Esq. J.P.
J. W. LOWRY Esq .
William PATTERSON Esq.

1 Dec. 1857
Omagh district Asylum Resignation of Mr. CARSON –
Mr. John CARSON who has been the clerk and storekeeper of the Omagh district Asylum, since it’s opening, having some time ago, expressed his wish to resign the institution, the board very reluctantly accepted the resignation and appointed Mr. Robert NEEDHAM, of Dublin in his place.

1857 – Principal Officers and their Salaries
Visiting Physician – H. THOMPSON, M.D £100
Resident Physician – F. J. WEST M.D. £300
Protestant Chaplains – Rev. R. SWIFT and Rev. J. MITCHELL £30 each
Roman Catholic Chaplain – Rev. P. O’DOGHERTY £30
Apothecary – Francis TRENOR £35
Clerk and Storekeeper – John CARSON £50

3 Sept. 1858 died

Aug. 21st at Omagh Asylum, Mr. Thomas CROOKE of Enniskillen.

Matron – Mrs. Hannah HUDSON (employed since the asylum was opened)
The Protestant Chaplain – Rev. R. Meade SWIFT
Roman Catholic Chaplain – Rev. Patrick MAGEE
Visiting Physician – H. THOMPSON M.D.

Hospital buildings, Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital
They are a separate building from the main block and are linked by an enclosed corridor
In January, 2013, I noted that this block had been demolished. (Kenneth Allen)

18 May 1860 – died

May 8th at the Lunatic Asylum, Omagh, of apoplexy, Mr. Thomas McGOWAN aged 60 years, formerly a grocer of Omagh

1860 – George QUAILE, clerk Report of Omagh asylum

1,114 patients admitted between 31st Mar. 1851 and 7th April 1861, whereas in the 10 years from 1861-71, only 720 were admitted. On the 7 Apr. 1871, there were 277 patients in the asylum and in the Omagh Workhouse there were 10 people classified as lunatics. The Industrial Pursuits and amusements practiced & provided at Omagh For Males – Agriculture, weaving and winding, carpenters work, pumping, cleaning house, hand ball, flying circus, draughts, drill, foot ball and reading. For females – Spinning, needlework, knitting, washing, cleaning house, dancing, out door exercise, reading &c.

1 Sept. 1860 Melancholy Case of Insanity

A very painful case of sudden derangement has occurred among the constabulary at Clogher. It appears that on the morn, of the 19th inst, wild shouts were heard to proceed from the bedroom of Constable Edward WILSON, which induced some of his comrades to rush into it and on doing so, they found the constable, who still continued shouting in the most frantic manner, about precipitate himself out the window, which is four storeys high. He was at once removed to a place of safety, and his officer, D. HARRELL Esq. and Dr. TWIGG, were promptly sent for, when the doctor, on examination, found that he was insane and recommended his being sent without delay to the Omagh Asylum, to which he was accordingly escorted, by 3 of the constabulary. He belonged to the Auchnacloy station, and had been only 2 days in Clogher, where some the force had assembled for ball practice. The cause assigned for this melancholy occurrence was a dispute which took place between Constable WILSON and the head-constable; the latter, it seems, having accused him of being guilty of some trifling offence, which he indignantly denied, when angry words ensued, which ended in the head-constable reporting WILSON for insubordination. This occurred some 3 days before, and had such an effect on the sensitive mind of WILSON, who was in the receipt of good service pay, and 30 years in the force, that he became greatly depressed, and ultimately lost his reason.

9th May 1861 Attempted Suicide

On Thursday morning last man, a named HOLLIS, who resided at Fintona, attempted to put a period to his existence by cutting his throat with a razor, in his own garden. He fortunately had not severed the windpipe, and hopes are entertained of his life being preserved. He has been conveyed to the Omagh Asylum.

10 Oct. 1862 – The Board of Governors of the Asylum met yesterday (Thursday) in the Board Room of the Institution. present;
Sir J. M. STEWART Bart. chairman
Rev. J. G. V. PORTER
Charles ECCLES
Samuel VESEY

The following contracts were accepted;
for Oatmeal – J. CARSON
for Yellow Indian Meal – Mr. John M‘MASTER
for Flour – Mr William SCOTT
for Beef – Patrick M’GOLRICK
for Mutton, Ox Heads, White Bread – Mr. Charles M’GINN

13 Jan. 1864 Inquest

An inquest was held on Wednesday, at the Omagh district lunatic asylum by Wm. ORR Esq. coroner, on view of the body of Hugh TIERNEY, a lunatic, aged 63 years, who had died suddenly on Sunday morning last, after admission to the asylum the previous night. It appeared from the evidence of Thomas TIERNEY, a son of the deceased, and other witnesses, that the deceased had been affected in his mind for some months, owing, it is supposed, to his having got intelligence on the death of his son, who had gone to America. He became violent on 26th December last and after attempting personal injury to his son, with whom he lived and to himself, an order was obtained from the nearest magistrate for committal to the gaol at Omagh, in charge of 2 constables, who were changed at Aughnacloy, Ballygawley and Beragh stations. At Aughnacloy, the prisoner was taken off the car and allowed to warm himself for about half an hour, but nevertheless, from the extreme coldness of the day, and from his being rather thinly clad, he was found, arriving at the Omagh Asylum, to be very much exhausted, and scarcely able to speak.

By order of the resident physician, Dr. WEST, warmth and stimulants were applied. He was seen afterwards by the keeper, about 11 o’clock at night, when he appeared asleep, and was going on favorably. In the morning, between 7 and 8 o’clock, on entering his dormitory, the keeper found him in a standing position, dead, and quite rigid. The position in which he was found was considered very remarkable. There were marks of external injuries on various portions of the body, none of which were sufficient to account for death, and a post mortem examination having been made by Dr. THOMPSON, it was ascertained that the immediate cause of death was an attack of apoplexy, probably induced by the reaction in the circulation after exposure to the cold. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical testimony and attributed no blame to any one. It appeared that the constables had discharged their duty as humanely as possible, and that the marks of external injuries on the deceased were caused by his own violence while under restraint at home. By some mistake of the constabulary he was taken to the asylum, instead of the gaol. From the facts brought out during this inquest it is evident that in the interests of humanity there ought to be some sort of covered conveyance provided for lunatics and others, when being sent from a distance to gaol or asylum, especially in inclement weather.

15 June 1864 – Omagh Asylum Brass Band

A very efficient brass band has lately been established in connection with the Omagh Asylum, composed of officers, servants, and inmates of the institution. The members, numbering about 18, have had the benefit of instruction by a properly-qualified conductor. The patients, under the care of their keepers and nurses, walk through the grounds during the performances. That the principal object for which the band was formed, to amuse and benefit the patients, has been fully answered is evident from the past report of the institution, in which the Medical superintendent states that it has not only been a source of enjoyment to the patients generally, but has, in some instances, exercised a beneficial influence over them.

5 Nov. 1864 – Contracts issued for 1 year
Mr. John M’MASTER – oatmeal
Mr. Thomas QUINN – beef without bone, mutton
Mr. Charles M’GINN – bread

Report of March 1864
The great want of out-door employment is the chief drawback to the well-being of this institution, and as recommended in our last report, additional land is required to give occupation of a useful and profitable kind to the male inmates. We then stated, “The farm, comprising only 24 acres, is evidently too small for the general number of male patients, 160, in the asylum. From 16 to 20 acres should be taken in addition, and which from their position, scarcely 100 yards distant at the south-west side from portions of the building, it would be particularly advantageous to obtain.”

March 26 1864.
I have to report very favourably on the general condition of the Omagh District Lunatic Asylum, which I inspected this day. There are at present 311 patients in the institution, viz; 178 males and 133 females; 79 being from the county Fermanagh and 232 from Tyrone.
The patients all appeared quiet and orderly, none being under restraint or seclusion. They are comfortably clothed, and clean in their persons. The sanitary condition of the house is very satisfactory, there being but 3 females and 1 male confined to bed. On inspecting the several day-rooms and corridors, I observed they all required whitewashing, in short the entire house requires it. It would add much to the appearance of the corridors on the men’s side if the walls were coloured the same as on the female side.
On visiting the infirmary, I found one side of it used as a barn for thrashing corn, which I think is most decidedly objectionable, and am of opinion, that it ought to be kept ready for its legitimate purpose, which might be required at any moment; independent of which, the fact of storing corn in it has caused it to be infested by rats, to the great injury of the woodwork, such as the doors, flooring &c. A shed could be built at a trifling expense for farming purposes, which would save a building that cost the county a large sum, I understand £1,500.
I have examined the provisions, they are all of good quality, and very well kept. The books are also correct. It would be a great advantage to the patients if more backed seats were placed in the corridors. The water-closets on the male side were not as clean as they ought to be.
The attendance of the Chaplains I find to be regular. I ought not omit to mention the great improvement in the social life of the inmates of this asylum effected lately through the formation of a band, the music of which I listened to with the greatest pleasure. In the summer months I think all the patients should be brought out on the grounds to hear it; for, if there be one enjoyment which the human mind in its lowest state can feel, it is music.

7 Jan. 1865 Susan CROW

Poor Susan, famous in all that is infamous, is once more put aside out of the pale of society. A jury has consigned her to the mad-house. Never was real talent and genius so wasted and perverted as in Susan’s case. She is mad, we suppose, but so are all people of genius mad, each in his own way. When still a mere child she became the victim of some scoundrel, and the first we knew of her was in the County Infirmary. To keep her within the hospital grounds was difficulty, but the late Dr. George A. NIXON solved it; he blistered her on the soles of her feet!

That was nearly 20 years ago and Susan’s achievements since that time surpass the boldest romance, robbing, stealing, thieving, lying, scheming were common place; men narrowly escaped being hanged or transported on her accusations. Her artistic genius was so finished and complete that she almost baffled the ablest pleaders in defense of her victims, and puzzled our astute judges to detect her cunning devices. We give a list of her commitments;

1844 – Having stolen shawl in possession. – Acquitted – insane and sent to Armagh.
1845 – Being a public nuisance. – Discharged from court at Spring assizes.
Aug. 1845 – Being a vagrant and an idle person. Discharged from petty sessions.
May 1846 – stealing money. – Discharged from petty sessions. Spring assizes 1849 – Being a vagrant. No bill.
Lisnaskea petty sessions 1854 – Being an idle vagrant – Discharged from petty sessions
Spring assizes 1858 Stealing money from a shop – acquitted – insane. – sent to Omagh asylum.
Jan. 1864 – a dangerous lunatic – sent to Omagh asylum.
Dec. 1864 – At present in gaol awaiting the pleasure of the Lord Lieutenant.

4 Apr. 1865 – Fermanagh Assizes

Susan CROWE was given in charge to a jury for stealing a sum of money from shop at Lisbellaw. The prisoner at the October sessions was pronounced by a jury to be insane, but she was discharged from the Omagh lunatic asylum, being considered by the medical officers of that establishment quite sane. His worship said the jury would have ascertain, first, whether the party were sane or not, or whether she was capable of pleading to the charge or not.

Dr. THOMPSON and Dr. WEST of the Omagh Asylum were examined, and they said they believed her, in February last, to be quite sane, but that she feigned madness to escape imprisonment.

The prisoner interrupted the medical gentlemen in the course of their examination frequently, and made use remarks of an eccentric character. The jury returned a verdict that they believed her to be insane. The prisoner was then ordered be kept custody.

3 May 1865 – Inquest

An inquest was held on Tuesday at the Omagh District Lunatic Asylum, by W. O. ORR Esq., Coroner, on view of the body of Bridget GARVEY, a patient, who had been found drowned in the river adjoining the Asylum grounds on the previous day. It appeared from the evidence adduced that the deceased was about 38 years of age, that she was in the habit of assisting the laundress in washing, and that on Monday, about 2 o’clock, after having taken dinner, she was allowed to pass from the corridor to which she belonged, for the purpose, as the house-maid supposed, of returning to the laundry. About half an hour afterwards, her absence from the laundry having excited attention, a search was instituted and she was found in the river. Exertions were used by Dr. WEST to restore animation, but without success. The body was first discovered by one of the patients, who was walking by the river shortly after the occurrence. Dr. THOMPSON, a visiting physician, deposed that he had examined the body, and had no doubt, from the appearance presented, that death was the result of suffocation from drowning. The jury returned an open verdict of ‘Found Drowned.’

23 June 1865
Mr. John CARSON was declared the contractor for supplying the Asylum with 200 tons coal.

7 Aug. 1865 Enniskillen Union report
The Master reported that a boy, Joseph GAW aged 16, was received into the work-house on the 26th July, on recommendation of Mr James BRACKEN, of Toam. He had been labouring under mental derangement for some time past, is quite restless and endeavoures to get over the walls. He (the master) had got a form for his removal to the Omagh Asylum filled and signed by the proper authorities, and only waited the approval of the board, to be forwarded to Doctor WEST, the Resident Physician of the Omagh Asylum. The form was approved by the board.

23 June 1866 Inquest
On Monday an inquest was held at the Omagh Asylum, by W.O. ORR Esq., Coroner, touching the death of Mary MORRIS, a patient. It appeared from the evidence that deceased had been married and had 4 children. She was admitted to the Asylum in March last, and shortly after made an attempt at self destruction. A second attempt was made the Monday previous to her death, on which occasion she was discovered fastening part of her dress to the window fastener of her cell. She was then ordered a strait-jacket, and to be removed to an associated ward. During the first night there she broke a great many panes in the windows by bashing her head against them, and was again removed to her cell. According to the doctor’s evidence, she must have literally eaten herself out of her strait-jacket before she obtained the cords with which she eventually succeeded in putting an end to her life. The jury were of opinion that no blame could be attached to the attendants, and returned a verdict follows “The deceased was found dead, suspended in a cell in the Omagh District Lunatic Asylum, on the morning of Saturday, 16th June 1866 and we are opinion that she committed suicide by hanging herself on that morning or the previous night, with a portion of her strait-jacket attached to the window-fastener of her cell.”

11 Oct. 1867 – The Board of Governors monthly meeting
Lord Claud HAMILTON M.P. chairman
Sir J. STEWART Bart. D.L.
Major ELLIS J.P.
Major Cole HAMILTON D.L.
Francis GERVAIS Esq. D.L.
Samuel VESEY Esq. D L.
William BLACK Esq. J.P.
Captain A Ferguson KNOX J.P.
James GREER Jr., Esq.
Charles SCOTT Esq. B.N, J.P.
William SCOTT Esq. M.D., J.P.

182 male and 161 female patients were reported by Dr WEST as being then in the House. 248 of whom were chargeable on Tyrone and 95 Fermanagh.

Accepted the following tenders for supplies for the year ending the 31 Oct. 1868

S. and T. ROULSTON – Oatmeal and Indian meal
Mr Thomas QUINN – Beef and mutton
Mr William CRAWFORD – White bread, milk cans, stirabout cans, tin plates and pint tins
Mr John M’ADAM – Molasses, pepper and raw oil
Mr N. CARSON – Rice, coffee, sugar, tobacco, snuff, pipes, combs, yellow soap, dipt candles, pipe clay, free-sand, stationery and printing
Mr John M’MASTER – Fine salt.
Messrs. REID and SLOAN – Tea
John BOYLE – Port Wine, Sherry and Porter
Mr Benjamin GRAHAM – Shell cocoa, white soap, yellow soap, starch, slate blue, washing soda, window glass, boiled oil and turpentine
Mr John MEENAN – Corduroy, swan-skin, twilled calico and linen ticken
Messrs. HENDERSON and EADIE – Grey frieze
Mr Matthew PATTON – Linen check, wincey and blay calico
Mr T. COLL – Galway flannel
Messrs. MULHOLLAND and Co. – Moleskin, towelling, rollering, linen ticken and rugs.
Mr James WILSON – Blue striped cotton, winceys, black twilled lining, blay calico, rollering, black and drab thread and Scotch caps.
Messrs. C. NEILL and Sons – Striped Linsey
Mr John M’FARLAND – Printed calico
Mr William FOX – Printed calico and twilled blankets
Messrs. WEBB & Co. -Woolen rags, house-wife thread, studs and suspenders
Mr Terence SMITH Knitting worsted
Mr Hugh KIRK – Women’s slippers
Mr John ORR – Upper and sole leather
Mr William WILSON – Sole nails, iron shod a, sweeping and whitewash brushes
Mr John HOUSTON – Scrubbing bass, black lead, floor polishing brushes, nails, sprigs.

15 Nov. 1867 Drinking of Ether

A correspondent in a neighouring town draws attention to the drinking of ether, which he says has become a very common practice, in that locality, and that the liquid is sold by unlicensed persons, whereas, by 18 and 19 Vic, 38 (where the liquid is named methylated spirits), a special license is required for the sale of it. Our correspondent states that he has known more than 1 or 2 persons whose death was caused by the use of ether, and we understand that the same cause is assigned as producing insanity in 1 of the patients admitted to the Omagh Asylum this week. The publication of those facts will, no doubt, be sufficient to direct the attention of the Excise authorities to the matter.

27 May 1868 – appointed
Thomas William Drummond HUMPHREYS Esq. J.P. Miltown House Strabane as a Governor and Director

10 Dec. 1869 – The Board of Governors monthly meeting of this institution was present;

William F. BLACK Esq. J.P. chairman
Samuel VESEY Esq. D.L.
Captain Andrew Ferguson KNOX J.P.
Commander Charles SCOTT R.N., J.P.
Capt. Thomas AUCHINLECK J.P.
George Hall STACK Esq. J.P.
Hugh QUIN Esq. J.P.
Rev. Charles M’CAWLEY P.P.

Dr. WEST reported that 3 deaths had occurred during the month, one from Haemorrhagic Dysentery, and the other 2 from Diarrhoea, and that after the discharge of 4 patients, 3 of whom had left the institution cured and one improved, there remained under treatment 215 males, and 185 females – total 400, 290 of them being chargeable upon the County of Tyrone, and 110 upon Fermanagh.

Dr. NUGENT one of the Inspectors-General, having called the attention of the Board to the defectiveness of the cooking apparatus, Dr. WEST was requested to make inquiries with reference to the culinary arrangements in the metropolitan and other asylums, and prepared to inform the Governors, at their next meeting, as to the apparatus which he would recommend. The Board further considered the case of Mary Jane SALLY, alias M‘SALLY, a patient in the Belfast District Asylum, and now sought to be transferred to the Omagh Asylum, upon the ground of her being a resident in the County of Tyrone before her arrest and committal to the central asylum at Dundrum, and having read a communication from A. W. H. HEARD Esq., C.I., to the effect that she had been entered on the constabulary records, a factory worker from Belfast, and had been arrested in Cookstown, a strolling thief, the Board were of opinion that, not being a bona fide resident, she was not properly chargeable to the County of Tyrone, and requested Dr. WEST to report the Inspectors General accordingly.

18 Feb. 1870 salary increase
At the last meeting the Board of Governors of Omagh Asylum the salary of the clerk of that institution (Mr QUAILE) was increased to £175, and be (Mr MACKAY) understood Mr QUAILE’S duties were not greater than those of M’KNIGHT (Clerk for Omagh board of Guardians). He believed there were not 2 better officers in Ireland than Mr QUAILE and Mr M’KNIGHT, and expressed his opinion that, as a matter of right, the motion passed without a dissentient voice.

18 Nov. 1870 inquest

An inquest was held on Monday, in the boardroom of Omagh District Lunatic Asylum, by Wm. O. ORR Esq., coroner, and a jury, touching the death of Daniel M’GUIRE, a patient aged 40 years, who had been admitted into the asylum on 16th March last, and died on Sunday inst.

James CARLIN, having been sworn stated – l am one of the male attendants of the Asylum; deceased was under my care about 2 o’clock on Sunday the patients were at dinner; 2 or 3 minutes after dinner commenced, I observed the deceased turn round quickly from the table; I ran round to his assistance; he was trying to swallow or get something out of his throat; I clapped him the back and put my finger in his mouth; took a small piece of beef from his mouth; it was beef and bread mixed; it appeared to have been well masticated; I sent for the house steward; in 5 minutes the man was dead; I was holding his head up; he never spoke as he was not able. He had been very feeble for some time past.

To jury – The meat for the patients is carved in the kitchen before being brought to the table, the meat this patient got was cut in small pieces; meat could not be cut so small as that a man might not be choked by it.

Thomas BREEN – a male assistant, deposed that he was present when the deceased was at dinner on Sunday, and the facts were as related by last witness. There were 42 patients dining in the same room, witness was at the further end of the table. The other attendant, James CARLIN, went to the assistance of deceased, when he was observed to be choking, I called him (witness), to go for the house steward, which he did, The house steward came immediately, and rendered all the assistance in his power.

Richard COFFEE (house steward), stated that he had been called to the assistance of the deceased by the last witness, every effort had been used to relieve the deceased but without effect, and he died in a few minutes. The food taken from his mouth and throat appeared to have been well masticated.

Dr. WEST the resident medical superintendent, deposed that when returning from church on Sunday he was met by a messenger from the Asylum who informed him that one of the patients had been suffocated during dinner. On arriving at the Asylum a few minutes before 3 o’clock, he went to where the deceased was and found that life was extinct. Dr WEST further stated that the deceased had been in a very weak condition, and was threatened with paralysis. He thought it probable that the patient might have had a spasm while at dinner which would deprive him of the power of swallowing. In reply to questions of the jury, Dr WEST stated that a death from the same cause (suffocation) had taken place in the institution about 15 years ago; in that case it was a piece of stir-about which had stuck in the patient’s throat. Every precaution was taken preparing the food for invalid patients, and when they were inclined to eat their food greedily, as was the case with the deceased, they are required to be watched. The jury returned their verdict as follows “We find that the deceased Daniel M’GUIRE died at the Omagh Lunatic Asylum on the 13th instant, from suffocation, caused by a piece of meat sticking in his throat while taking dinner.

6 Dec. 1870 (the following is edited from a letter to the editor titled Convent Bazaars and lotteries in the Londonderry Sentinel , which was unsigned)

a little girl, Maggy FLEMING, a member of the flock of the Rev. Mervyn WILSON, Rector of Strabane, this girl is under age; but, notwithstanding that, her father is in the employment of John COLQUHOUN Esq. Solicitor, she is kept from under his roof and control and the still more scandalous proselytism the girl, Sarah Jane DICK, a Presbyterian and member of the congregation of the Rev. William RUSSELL, 2nd Strabane. This girl’s father was in the Omagh Asylum when she was decoyed from under his roof; he recovered, and she is still kept beyond his control. I should add he is now working as a moulder in Mr. James STEPHENSON’S foundry. Dec. 3 1870

13 June 1871 Queen’s College, Belfast

We are glad to hear that at the recent examinations in Queen’s College, Belfast, Mr. G. F. WEST (son of Dr. WEST of the Omagh Asylum) has been very successful, having obtained 4 prizes. 1st in Civil Engineering, 1st in Geology, 1st in Mathematical Physics, and 3rd in Drawing. Mr. WEST is a second year man and University scholar and in every examination which he has passed has obtained a high place.

22 Sept. 1871 Suicide

A respectable farmer, named John COLHOUN residing near Drumquin, committed suicide by hanging on Monday last. He had been some time previously an inmate of the Omagh Asylum, and was no doubt insane when he committed the rash and fatal act.

A shocking occurrence has taken place in the Omagh Lunatic Asylum. A poor imbecile, who had forgotten his own name, was allowed to associate with refractory inmates, as he believed he was proprietor of that division of the institution and liked to be styled landlord. A fellow patient conceiving the idea that the self-styled landlord was the devil, attacked him from behind with a poker and literally beat his head to pieces. The madman next attacked the keeper but was disarmed. (The Pall Mall Budget Vol 12 1874)

12 Apr. 1875

Edward C. THOMPSON has been appointed visiting consulting physician to Omagh Lunatic Asylum

21 Mar. 1878 Record Court MULLIN v. MULLIN
This was an action for trespass, and for the conversion of the defendant’s property to the plaintiffs use. Damages were laid at £500.

The following jury tried the case;

Robert EAKIN (foreman)
Oliver EATON
Bernard KANE
William IRONS

The plaintiff, Eliza MULLIN, was married in the year 1874 to Thomas MULLIN, widower, who had by his first wife 3 sons, named respectively James, John, and Patrick. Thomas MULLIN died possessed of three farms of land, known as Drumagold, Drumone, and Finelly, in the county Tyrone. Plaintiff remained in possession of the 3 farms after the death her husband, having taken out letters of administration to his effects. Disputes afterwards arose between the widow and James and John MULLIN, two of the sons of her deceased husband. Patrick MULLIN the third son, showed symptoms of weak intellect, and he was removed to the Omagh Lunatic Asylum. In order to put an end to the frequent quarrels which cropped up between the parties, Mr. POSNETT, the agent of Lord Powerscourt, whose estate the three farms are situated, interfered. He made an award giving the plaintiff the Finelly farm, which was regarded as one-third of the property of which her husband was seized at the time of his death. The other 2 farms were given under the award to James and John MULLIN, two of the sons of the deceased. After this division of the property the plaintiff received considerable annoyance from John MULLIN, the defendant, and on more than one occasion she was forced to seek redress for his acts of trespass in the law courts. The ill-feeling continued until the year 1877, when Patrick MULLIN was discharged cured from the asylum. He then went to live with his brother John. In the month of December last Patrick MULLIN and a nephew of his named M’SHERRY, went on the plaintiffs farm and carried off 3 stacks oats, which they converted to their own use. The defendant was not with them on that occasion, but afterwards helped them carry the corn into the barn, and the plaintiff alleged that Patrick MULLIN and M’SHERRY were merely acting as his agents. The defendant’s case was that the farm originally belonged to his brother Patrick, and that Patrick never surrendered his title to it and that when he returned from the lunatic asylum was entitled to resume possession. His Lordship left the following questions jury.

Was the plaintiff in the action in possession of farm at the time of the trespass and trover complained of?

Did the oats belong her?

Did the defendant do the acts alleged?

The jury, after a lengthened consultation, answered the various questions in the affirmative, and measured the damages £20.

Counsel for plaintiff – Mr. COLQUHOUN, instructed Mr. H. MOORE, Omagh. Counsel for defendant – Messrs. HOLMES Q.C., and KEYS, instructed by Mr. SIMPSON, Aughnacloy.

8 Aug. 1878 Court of Bankruptcy

In re: Arthur SHIELS

The bankrupt was a grocer at Trillick in the county Tyrone. His mind became affected and he was in May last, removed to Omagh Lunatic Asylum. John M’ALEER, stepbrother of the bankrupt, was examined by Dr HOUSTON, instructed by Mr STEWART, for the assignees, as to the receipts of the bankrupt’s shop since the lunacy. The witness said he and his sister managed the business and the receipts were about 5£ a week, he had paid no bills for his brother and had now no cash on hand, the sheriff’s officer having seized all the money there was in the cash box, 8£. He undertook to give the assignees all the information in his power as to the persons owing the bankrupt money. The final sitting was adjourned.

1880 – George Francis WEST, L.R.C.P. Edin. Assist Med. Officer District Asylum Omagh

22 Dec. 1880
The Guardians of the Strabane Union were complainants in a case in which man named James GALLAGHER was charged with attempting to commit a serious assault another pauper named MULLAN with a pitchfork on the 15th inst. A pauper named Samuel ALLEN stated that he saw GALLAGHER attempting to stab MULLAN. He believed that for a considerable time past, GALLAGHER was deranged in his mind, and believed that, if not kept under proper restraint, he would do bodily harm to someone, as he was a dangerous lunatic. After hearing these facts, the Court made an order for the removal GALLAGHER to the Omagh Lunatic Asylum.

1881 – G. E. CARRE, MB LRCSI Medical Superintendent

28 June 1882
The Master of the Asylum reported to the Strabane Board of Guardians, that 5 male lunatics had been transferred from the Omagh Lunatic Asylum to the workhouse during the past week.

9 July 1883

Dr. Edward THOMPSON is physician to Omagh Lunatic Asylum

1886 – In the 35th report on Lunatics in Ireland of Admissions
“With reference to these admissions we cannot, but think, from personal observation, or visits of inspection to asylums, and the opinions of resident physicians in them, that in the past year much more than previously acute attacks of insanity were caused by a want of nutritious food, and at the same time, by a continuous indulgence in raw spirituous liquors of bad quality. The patients so affected and physically of good frame, were recognizable from their pallid, emaciated features, extreme irritability, waywardness and disposition to violence. This is a matter of much moment and ought to be investigated. The reporters also speak of insanity feigned to obtain and secure the opportunity of self destruction.

3 Jun 1885

The medical superintendent of the Omagh Lunatic Asylum sent a letter to the Strabane Board of Guardians, with reference to Alfred CAMPBELL who was ordered to be sent to Strabane workhouse.

16 Feb 1885
Sergeant MURPHY, Donemanagh, summoned James HEYLANDS, of Creghan Glebe, for being drunk and disorderly and at the same time having loaded firearms on his person, on the public street of Donemanagh, on the 27th January last. After a lengthened hearing of the case, and the facts connected with it, together with the defendant being an inmate of the Omagh Asylum at one time, the magistrates ordered the sergeant’s informations to be taken, and Dr. Henry HOLMES being in the dispensary at the same time, was brought into court and the necessary documents prepared, they committed the defendant to the Omagh Lunatic Asylum as a dangerous lunatic.

9 Apr. 1886 – Dungannon Quarter Sessions -Larceny
A woman named Margaret BLACK was charged with stealing a web of cashmere out of the shop of Mr Joseph QUIGLEY Cookstown. Mr DICKIE applied for a beach warrant as the prisoner is at present confined in Omagh Lunatic Asynm and it will be put in force when she comes out. The warrant was granted. Mr SIMMONS defended. Mr DICKIE B.C.S. prosecuted.

4 Mar 1887 Suicide in Omagh

Mr. John G. R. Porter, coroner, Omagh, held an inquest last evening at the Omagh Lunatic Asylum, touching the death of one of the patients, named Esther CUNNINGHAM, who committed suicide by hanging herself in that institution in the morning. The jury found a verdict in accordance with those facts.

1888 – Dr. Edward C. THOMPSON visiting Physician

30 Nov. 1888
On Friday, information was sworn at the Stewartstown police station against John M’KNIGHT, of Ardpatrick, who was at once removed to Omagh Lunatic Asylum, this being the third time.

15 Dec. 1888
The master reported that he had admitted three men into the workhouse yesterday, who were sent there from Omagh Lunatic Asylum, as being no longer dangerous. Their names were Edward DEVLIN, John THOMPSON, and Patk. HAMILL.

23 Nov. 1889 – Death of Rev. Leslie A. LYLE Ardstraw

We regret to announce this morning the death of the respected minister for over a quarter of a century of Ardstraw Second Presbyterian congregation, Rev. Leslie A. LYLE which took place at his residence, Stonewold, on Wednesday. About thirty years in the ministry, he was a leading man in the Presbytery in the Revival movement of 1859 and his entire period in the ministry was spent among the people of Ardstraw, to which he went as a licentiate. His keenness of intellect and readiness of speech, wedded as they were to consistent adherence to Conservative principles, made Mr. LYLE, a valuable acquisition on many political platforms. From these he, perhaps the most pronounced Conservative in the Synod, fearlessly proclaimed his opinions, justifying them with great skill and (success?). He enjoyed to a very large extent the friendship and confidence of the late Duke of Abercorn and of his worthy successor and his presence and eloquence were ever at the disposal of the members of the HAMILTON family in their political campaigns, in the North-West. Not only in the ecclesiastical and political, but also in the public duties in the district in which his lot was cast, the deceased clergyman took an active part, for it cannot be forgotten that he was the secretary of Newtownstewart dispensary committee, to the work in connection with which he devoted considerable time, and into which he entered with the utmost heartiness. He was also a governor of Omagh Lunatic Asylum. Mr. LYLE, who leaves a widow and family, was son of the late Rev. W. LYLE, minister of First Dunboe in the Coleraine Presbytery and nephew of the late Rev. Samuel LYLE, minister for many years of Ballycastle, Route Presbytery.

12 Apr. 1889 Dungannon equity sessions Exparte Patrick LENNON, an alleged lunatic. This was Lunacy Civil Bill, under the Lanacy Amendment Act, 1880,and the rules thereunder, brought by Henry LENNON, of Derryoghill, Moy, cousin of the alleged lunatic, praying that a guardian might be appointed for the person and property of the lunatic, under control of the County Court Judge. Patrick LENNON, the lunatic, is at present consigned at the Omagh Lunatic Asylum. He was first committed to the asylum in 1887 and was subsequently allowed to return to his residence at Moy, securities having been given for his good behaviour. He resided for some time Moy, where he has considerable property, and in the month of January last was re-committed to the Omagh District Asylum. Prior to his committal in January he disposed of a portion of his property at, it is alleged, an under value and was deemed necessary by the next of kin to have the property of LENNON placed under control of the court. Mr QUINN, solicitor, appeared for the petitioner and relied on the petition in the matter, the affidavits of Dr Theodore D. Browne of Moy, who examined the lunatic before his committal, and Dr CARRE, Resident Medical Superintendent of the Omagh district asylum, which stated that LENNON was admitted to the asylum in January last as a lunatic, and was at present confined there. Evidence was shown of the value of the property of the lunatic (giving the court jurisdiction).

Mr REYNOLDS, solicitor, said appeared for the lunatic- He proceeded to read letters from the lunatic which he said would show that the alleged lunatic was as sane as most

QUINN- What have the letters to do with the application?

His Honor – l am not going to decide the matter upon those letters when we have the affidavit of the doctor committing the lunatic and the affidavit of Dr CARRE, the Medical Superintendent of the asylum, I would like to have the evidence of Dr CARRE to the present condition of the lunatic, and it will do no person any harm to adjourn the application for that purpose.

Mr QUINN – We shall try and have CARRE examined before your worship on equity day in Omagh.

His Honor – Let the application stand adjourned Omagh for the evidence of Dr CARRE

18 Apr. 1889 The Ballygawley Tragedy – Suicide of alleged murderer in Derry gaol, The Inquest
An Inquest was opened in Derry Gaol yesterday evening, at 3 o’clock, before Mr. Thomas LINDSAY, city coroner and a competent jury, of which Alderman BELL J. P. was foreman, touching on the cause of death of the untried prisoner named William BINGHAM who was found suspended from the window of his cell by means of a piece of bed sheeting on the previous day, quite dead. The deceased was committed to prison on the 8th inst. on a charge of murder, (of John BUCHANAN) for which he was to be tried at the Summer Assizes in Omagh. It was alleged that in a dispute with a relative in a field Aunahilla, near Ballygawley, county Tyrone, he struck his friend with a piece of hems, knocking him down, and subsequently, with a blow dealt while lying on the ground, caused his death. It was stated that the deceased was of weak mind and had been in Omagh Lunatic Asylum in consequence, but the warders of the gaol and Sir Wm. MILLER in their evidence yesterday stated that since his admission they had observed nothing in his conduct to lead them to believe he was of unsound mind. Sir William, however, in reply to a juror, said it sometimes happened that persons appeared perfectly sane, and to all appearance was in full possession of his faculties, till some particular subject was mentioned and then he was found to be quite insane with regard to that subject.

James BINGHAM, brother-in-law of deceased, deposed that he was 28 years of age. He was married. Witness identified the body of deceased as that of William BINGHAM. His friends were about to get him sent to the Asylum on the day that he committed the act for which he was sent to gaol.

James GILMORE, warder, examined – l last saw the deceased alive on Monday between 10 and 11 o’clock. There was apparently nothing the matter with him. At a quarter past 2 o’clock yesterday I went round to lift out the dinner vessels, and on going to BINGHAM’S cell I discovered the body hanging from the window. He was banging by a stripe of a sheet, which was tied to the bar of the window. I cut him down. He was then quite dead. I left him on the bed, assisted by a prisoner. I sent for the chief warder.

Lawrence POWER, chief warder, examined – Between 15 and 29 minutes past 2 o’clock on Tuesday word came to me that a man was hanging himself in a ward in the middle tier of the prison. When I got into the cell I found Warder GILMORE had him in his arms, cut down, and he was dead. I sent Warder HAMPTON for the governor, who came immediately afterwards. On looking round the cell I found he had used all the food supplied to him about 1 o’clock. I saw the prisoner at exercise on that morning and noticed nothing wrong with him.

Sir William MILLER examined – It was 20 minutes to 3 o’clock when I arrived at the cell. I found the prisoner stretched on the bed. He was warm, but quite dead. The only mark I found on him was the track of the sheet that had been round his neck. I was shown the piece of sheet and it was quite sufficient to make the mark. There was a mark of lime on his right knee and the trousers were torn in that place. There was also lime on his knuckles, especially of the right hand and there was lime on the back of his coat. He died of suffocation by strangulation.

To jurors – l had seen the man before this and he seemed quite calm and did not exhibit signs of madness. He presented no symptom of insanity from his admission.

William DANIEL, warder, deposed that he gave the deceased his dinner at quarter to 1 o’clock on the day before. He was sitting reading his bible and witness called on him to take in his dinner, which he did.

Captain John WILSON, Governor of the Gaol, deposed that the deceased was committed on the 18th April last, on the charge of murder, and to take his trial at Omagh Summer Assizes. Witness was called to the cell in the middle tier of the prison and found him dead. The deceased had been before witness in the morning about having his hair cut. Witness put some questions to him, which he answered rationally. He told witness that he was weak in the head and had been in Omagh Lunatic Asylum some time. The jury returned a verdict to the effect that William BINGHAM hanged himself in his cell in Derry Prison, while temporarily insane on Tuesday, the 16th April.

20 Sept. 1889 A dangerous lunatic near Stewartstown
Extraordinary effects of Alcohol on the Brain

Information was, on Thursday evening, sworn before Mr. Hugh O’NEILL J. P. by Charles RAFFERTY of Anaghaboe, who resides about 4 miles from this town, to the effect that his son John RAFFERTY who has been ailing in health for the past 3 weeks and whose mind has become affected, is believed by complainant to be a dangerous lunatic. Within the last few days RAFFERTY made several attempts to commit suicide by cutting his throat. It appears that the lunatic was in last Moy fair and partook rather freely of the whiskey to which is attributed to his present state. On the information being completed, Mr. O’NEILL issued a warrant for his arrest forthwith. The lunatic was placed under arrest at his father’s house by Constables CROWE and LYNCH, who conveyed him to Coalisland police station on yesterday morning. He was brought before two local magistrates who committed him to Omagh Lunatic Asylum.

Mr Alexander N McKELVEY has been appointed Assistant Medical Officer of the Omagh Lunatic Asylum

Death of Mr W. Sproue LOVE M.R.C.S. Eng
The announcement of the sudden death of Mr LOVE on August 13th was heard with the most sincere regret in Omagh where for almost half a century he was known and respected by every person in that town. A few years ago he had an attack of paralysis, in consequence of, which he was partially rendered unfit for duty, but he held so completely the confidence of the public that in times of serious illness, his services were often demanded. It was while attending a patient in this way with Mr TODD J.P. of Omagh, some distance from that place, that he was suddenly seized with symptoms of cardiac failure on August 12th and after being conveyed home he died on the next day at the age of seventy two years.

Sale of the Omagh Infirmary At a meeting of the County Tyrone Infirmary Board held on July 8th a resolution was passed in favour of selling the old building to the post office authorities

29th Aug. 1908
Tyrone Lunatics escape
Peter DUNNE, a lunatic formerly of Drumbulgion, near Stewartstown escaped from Omagh Lunatic Asylum, where he was an inmate for over twenty years.He is 5ft 10in. in height, and about 50 years of age. Up to the present no trace of his whereabouts has been discovered.

Lifford Courthouse, Lifford, County Donegal
Photographs and comments courtesy Kenneth Allen
Built in 1746 and described as “One of the oldest and finest courthouses in Ireland”, Tours include the Jail and Asylum. – Downstairs in the original dungeons, you can hear the jailers’ keys clanking, the shutting and banging of doors and the discussions between prisoners and their visitors. You will also have an opportunity to experience first hand the feeling of being treated like a real prisoner, when you are charged and fingerprinted by a tour-guide or prison warder.
In the 19th century a curious custom existed when if, by the end of the Assizes in Lifford or Omagh courthouses, a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict in a case, they were sent to the “verge” of the county to be dismissed. In some of the cases of counties Donegal and Tyrone this would have been the middle of Lifford Bridge
St Dympna’s shrine and well, Caldavnet, Tydavnet, Co Monaghan
(No legal right of way onto this site.)
Saint Davnet (in Gaelic Damhnat) lived and died at Sliabh Beagh in the parish of Tydavnet (Tigh Damhnait = “house of Davnet”), Co. Monaghan. Tradition speaks of her as a virgin who in the sixth century founded a church or monastery in the area (generally considered to have been located in the graveyard of the current village Catholic church). A 10th century ornamental pilgrim’s staff, the bachall Damhnait (“staff of Davnet”), said to have been hers is on display in the National Museum. In the past it was kept for generations in the parish and was often used as a test of truth. At Caldavnet at the northern end of the parish is St. Dympna’s Well, still a major place of pilgrimage. The local school is called St Dympna’s and the major psychiatric hospital (built 1869-71) in nearby Monaghan town is called St Davnet’s. Also there is a link between the village of Tydavnet and the town of Gheel 25 miles east of Antwerp in Belgium. The body of St Dympna, the patron saint of the mentally ill, is displayed in a silver reliquary in a church in Gheel named in her honour. She has her own feast on May 15th.
Photographs and comments courtesy balliali

(As time permits, I will add information related to the other counties in Ulster. T)


-The Medico-chirurgical Review and Journal of Medical Science Vol. 31 1837
-Report on District, Local and Private Lunatic Asylums in Ireland, 1846
-Thom’s Almanac and Official Directory Vol. 26 1859 14th report on District -Lunatic Asylums In Ireland 1865 The Lancet, Vol. 2, Part 1 1898
-Parliamentary Papers Vol. 34, Vol. 58 and Vol. 72, 1863 & 1874
-The Lancet Vol.

Ordnance Survey of County of Londonderry 1846

Dictionary of Irish Architects

From PRONI – Gransha Hospital originated from the Londonderry Lunatic Asylum which opened on the Strand Road in 1829. It was the fourth asylum to be built on the island of Ireland. When it opened it could accommodate 104 patients but was expanded in 1830 in order to admit 150. Treatment of patients was largely confined to providing employment of some sort such as gardening or carpentry for men and needlework or laundry for women. The site is the current location of Waterside Hospital and Lakeside Hospital .
PRONI Reference : HOS/17/7 Series Dates 1829 – 1949

PRONI Reference MIC554 Dates 1855-1933Annual reports of Omagh District Lunatic Asylum for Cos Tyrone and Fermanagh.
PRONI Reference HOS/28/1/4/1 Dates Jan. 1846-1 Dec. 1893 Register of Discharges and Deaths of the Belfast District Lunatic Asylum: notes, assigned cause of death and age of patient at death.

PRONI Reference HOS/28/1 Purdysburn Hospital (formerly Belfast District Lunatic Asylum) Dates 1829 – 1959
The Belfast District Lunatic Asylum opened in 1829. It was located on Falls Road, Belfast. In 1917 the hospital was converted for use as the Belfast War Hospital. This facility closed in 1919 and the buildings were demolished in the 1920s to make way for the Jubilee Maternity Hospital as part of the Royal Hospitals Complex. In 1900 the Belfast Corporation decided to establish an ‘asylum for the lunatic poor.’ A site was identified east of Purdysburn Demsene. The new asylum was built on the ‘Villa Colony’ principle and could accommodate 1500 patients with 15 villas built around the estate. The hospital opened in 1902.

PRONI Reference : HOS/27/1 St Luke’s Hospital, Armagh (Armagh Lunatic Asylum) Dates 1856 – 1962
The Armagh District Lunatic Asylum was opened in 1825 and was the first public asylum to be created under the Public Asylum System, which came into being after the Lunatic Asylums (Ireland) Act of 1821.