Institutions in Ireland 2019

PRONI – Public Record Office of Northern Ireland AND Queens University Belfast

13 – 15 June 2019


Prisons, Asylums, Workhouses: Institutions in Ireland Conference 2019 

From the late 18th century, residential institutions were built in ever-greater numbers in Ireland and elsewhere. As the numbers and types of institutions for care, confinement and/or reform multiplied during the 19th and into the 20th century, critics questioned their effectiveness, the living conditions prevailing within and their very humanity, questions that still loom large in Ireland, north and south, today. #PAWIreland2019 brings together researchers, professionals and artists from the US, Europe, Britain and Ireland, to discuss three centuries of institutional life in Ireland and the voices and spaces of the marginalised in Irish society. The conference promises to be thought-provoking, enlightening and truly memorable with 42 speakers from the US, Europe, Britain and Ireland covering institutions in all their historic diversity. 

Co-organisers: Dr Gillian Allmond (QUB) and Triona Waters (University of Limerick) 

PRONI Liaison: Dr Glynn Kelso 

Committee:  Dr Max Meulendijks, Dr Wills McNeilly, Clare Privilege, Oonagh Murray, Susan Clarke, Cathy McCusker, Dr David Bell 

Supporters: We are very grateful for the financial and ‘in kind’ support of the School of Natural and Built Environment “Culture and Society” Research Cluster, Queen’s University Belfast and the following bodies, without whose assistance, this conference would not have been possible:

We would also like to thank Alison Lowry, artist, for the art installation that she has created specially for the conference, and which can be seen in the foyer of PRONI.  The installation will remain in PRONI until 4 July 2019.  Alison is currently also exhibiting her work at the National Museum, Collins Barracks in Dublin. 

Postgraduate/ECR Bursaries: Congratulations to Victoria Pearson and Michael Robinson who have been awarded bursary funding. This was made possible through a conference organisation grant from the Royal Historical Society. 

The call for papers is now closed and a provisional programme has been issued to all contributers by Dr Gillian Allmond and Triona Waters and is also available on this website. Please do not hesitate to contact irishinstitutions@gmail.com for any further queries.

The conference will take place over three days, 13th to 15 June 2019 at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), which is located in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast and Queen’s University Belfast, on the final day.

Conference events will include:

  • A wine reception and tour of Clifton House (former poorhouse for Belfast)
  • A conference dinner at Crumlin Road Gaol (including a tour of the former prison)
  • A walking tour of West Belfast led by former republican and loyalist prisoners.
  • PRONI staff will lead tours of the building during the conference and present selected archive records.

Conference Programme

Thursday 13th to Saturday 15th June 2019

Public Records Office Northern Ireland (PRONI) and Queen’s University Belfast

Thursday 13th June (PRONI)

8.45-9.00 Arrival and welcome
9.00-9.10 Introductory remarks – Gillian Allmond
9.10-10.30 Session 1: Prisons Memory Archive
Lorraine Dennis, Queen’s University
Introduction to the Prisons Memory Archive
Kate Keane, Queen’s University Belfast Archiving Conflict: Challenges and
opportunities of cataloguing the PMA
Laney Lennox, University of Ulster
What role do archives play in societal
participation in the peace process?
Sarah McDonagh, Queen’s University
Creating Access to the Prisons Memory
Archive Video Tours: Challenges and
10.30-10.50 Tea break  
10.50-11.50 Session 2: Institutional lives through the
Pauline Prior, Queen’s University
Belfast (retired)
Hospital or Prison? Central Criminal Lunatic
Asylum for Ireland, Dundrum
Brett Irwin, PRONI
Throwing the Book at the Records: Voices
from the Prison archives in PRONI
Jayne Hutchinson, PRONI and
Michelle Kelly, PRONI
Understanding patient/inmate experiences
through Board of Guardians and Asylum
records in PRONI  
11.50-12.50 Session 3: Institutional lives: art, craft and poetry
Alison Lowry, Artist
The Art of Remembering: the role of artwork
in an emotional history of institutions
James Ward, University of Ulster
Writing the Asylum: Literary lives and
after lives
Erin Hinson, Queen’s University Belfast Craftwork, Cooperation, and Community:
Loyalist handicrafts and welfare in the Maze/Long Kesh compound prison system
Robert Niblock, Writer and Ex-Prisoner The practice of creativity in a prison
12.50-1.50 Lunch
1.50-3.10 Session 4: Health and Mortality in the
Institution I
Emer Dennehy, Archaeologist
From incarcerator to saviour:  Richmond
Penitentiary and the cholera epidemic of 1832 Michelle McCann, Queen’s University
‘Swarming with vermin’:  Investigating and
managing inmate death at the gaol (1846-52) Aoife Bhreatnach, Independent
Without a friend to mourn or cry: institutional burials in Cork city 1860-1950
Michael Robinson, University of
Forgotten Fatalities of the Great War: Irish
asylums during the First World War, 1914-
3.10-3.40 Tea break  
3.40-5.00 Session 5: Health and Mortality in the
Institution II
Georgina Laragy,Trinity College, Dublin
Workhouse burial grounds 1847-2019: historyand continuing significance
Jennifer Pope, Mary Immaculate
College, Limerick
A “disastrous outbreak”: The 1908 Food
Poisoning Epidemic at Mount St Vincent’s
Orphanage, Limerick
Patricia Marsh, PRONI ‘Sleepy sickness
spreads’: encephalitis lethargica in Belfast 
Ruari-Santiago McBride, University of Limerick
Contemporary prison healthcare reforms in
the north of Ireland
5.00-6.00 Keynote speaker – Dr Olwen Purdue,
Queen’s University Belfast
Reframing welfare institutions: the workhouse in Irish urban life 1850-1914
7.00-9.00 Drinks Reception and tour at Clifton House
9.oo till late Drinks at Sunflower bar

Friday 14th June (PRONI)

9.00-10.20 Session 6: Institutional Landscapes and
Patrick Quinlan, Architect
The landscapes of Ireland’s pauper lunatic asylums
Gillian Allmond, Queen’s University
Bringing down the asylum walls: buildings
and landscapes at Purdysburn, Belfast (1902-1913)
Arlene Crampsie, University College
Life at the edge: geographies of institutional
landscapes in 19th Century Ireland
Glynn Kelso, PRONI
Landscapes to confine and discourage:
institutional buildings on the Ordnance Survey map  
10.20-10.40 Tea Break  
10.40-12.00 Session 7: Womens’ Lives and the Institution Grainne Blair, Independent Researcher Aspects of the Salvation Army in Ireland, 1880-1980: A different Institutional ‘Care Model’ Elaine Farrell, Queen’s University
‘They are prison companions’: nineteenth-
century imprisoned women’s relationships
Bridget Keown, Northeastern
University Boston
Psychological effects of the Easter Rising on
female patients admitted to Richmond Asylum Lucy Simpson-Kilbane, University of
‘Are the girls free?’: Containing ‘fallen women’ in post-independence Ireland              
12.00-1.00 Session 8: Institutions of confinement and
care: ideal and reality
Coleman Dennehy, University of
The house of correction in seventeenth-
century Ireland
Triona Waters, University of Limerick Darwin’s Epileptic Idiot and the Irish District Lunatic Asylum, 1827-1887
Rita McCarthy, University of Limerick From Workhouse to Mother and Baby Home: a County Clare institution  
1.00 – 2.00 Lunch  
2.00-3.20 Session 9: Institutions as ‘Dark Heritage’
Erin Gibbons, Archaeologist
Re-branding the Misery:  Some Connemara
Niamh NicGhabhann, University of Limerick
World Within Walls: presenting the history of
St Davnet’s Hospital within a local authority museum context
Laura McAtackney, Aarhus University,
The contemporary politics of activist research on Magdalene Laundries
Chris Hamill, Architect
The Case of Armagh Gaol: Northern Ireland’s prisons, heritage dissonance and contestation  
3.20-3.50 Tea Break  
3.50-4.50 Session 10: Engaging with voices from the
Gareth Mulvenna,
Independent researcher
The Orange Cross, 1972-76: An oral and documentary history
Dieter Reinisch, Universities of Vienna and Salzburg
Uncovering archives: Combining oral history and private archives in researching Irish
Republican prisoners in Portlaoise Prison,
Sean O’Connell, Queen’s University
The oral historian as ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’:
approaches to researching mother and baby
homes and Magdalene laundries  
5.00-6.00 Keynote speaker – Dr Catherine Cox,
University College DublinTitle to be
6.45-late Evening tour of Crumlin Road Gaol followed
by three course dinner  

Saturday 15th June (Elmwood Building, Queen’s University Belfast)

9.40-11.00 Session 11: Religion, the State and
Institutional voices
Victoria Pearson, University College
‘In my Father’s House are Many Rooms’: The foundation of Roman Catholic charitable
institutions in eighteenth century Cork
Sean Barden, Curator Armagh CountyMuseum
Patient Voices at the Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Dundrum
Olivia Frehill, Trinity College Dublin
‘Encourage and Reward Virtue and you Strike at the Heart of Vice’: The Catholic
institutional response to the aged single
female in Dublin 1836–1922
James M Smith, Boston College
Knowing and Unknowing Tuam: Ireland past
Ireland present  
11.00-11.30 Tea Break  
11.30-12.30 Session 12: After the Institution
Damien Brennan, Trinity College
Family Care provision in post institutional
Tom Roberts, Community Worker
The work of EPIC (Ex Prisoners Interpretative Centre) and the re-integration of former
Patrick Quinlan The future for Ireland’s
former lunatic asylum buildings
12.30-12.40 Closing remarks – Triona Waters
1.00-2.00 Lunch
2.00-5.00 Post-conference walking tour (starting at
Divis Tower)