Earlier this month, Longford Library played host to the launch of Dr Fergus O’Ferrall’s book John Ferrall, Master of Sligo Workhouse 1852-66.
John Ferrall, who was a great-granduncle of Fergus, was a native of Ballymacormack and taught in Moydow before leaving Longford.
He lived briefly in New Ross and then moved to Sligo, where he served as master of the workhouse during a period of great change in the poor law system.
The book details his time there and provides fascinating insights into the job he did and how a typical workhouse was run on a day-to-day basis.
As part of the launch event, Fergus gave a talk on John’s life and the context in which he worked.
As master, John had to report to the board of guardians at its weekly meetings, which were covered in detail in the local press.
He also had to deal with often difficult relationships within the workhouse and ensure that the strict regime was not actually prison-like.
The book was launched by John Farrell, Chairman of the Farrell Clan and Treasurer of County Longford Historical, and another great- grandnephew of John, the workhouse master.
As well as reflecting on his relative’s Longford roots, John spoke of life in the workhouse and the difficult conditions there were.
He also contrasted John’s life in Ireland with the fact that he spent his later years in New York, where he died in 1892.
The book is the first study of its kind to be written in Ireland and Fergus spoke of the potential to do similar work on the Longford workhouses.