1879 Easter eggs controversy in Carrick-on-Suir workhouse

In 1879, controversy arose when the master of Carrick-on-Suir workhouse supplied eggs to all the inmates for their Easter breakfast.
In 1879, controversy arose when the master of Carrick-on-Suir workhouse supplied eggs to all the inmates for their Easter breakfast (pic: © larrosa via Pixabay).

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On Saturday, 26 April 1879, The Munster Express, a Waterford-based newspaper, reported on an unusual situation in which the master of Carrick-on-Suir workhouse, in Co. Tipperary, supplied eggs to all the workhouse inmates on Easter Sunday, sparking a lively debate among the Poor Law Board of Guardians over who should bear the cost.

The following is an excerpt from the newspaper report.

Easter eggs for the paupers – the master called upon to pay for 52 doz.

(From our special reporter.)

Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians – Saturday

The usual weekly meeting of the board was held on the above day.

W. H. Briscoe, Esq, J.P, Chairman presided.

Guardians present – T. Lalor, D.L.; J. Wilson, J.P.; Clement Sadleir, J. P., V. C.; J. Richardson, J. G. Power, F. Hogan, D.V.C.; W. Hearn, J. Kirwan, P. Walsh, J. D. Power, Edmond Walsh, D. Coughlan.

The minutes of the previous meeting were read and configured.  

Easter luxuries – eggs for all hands

The master reported that he had on Easter Sunday supplied the inmates with eggs. He gave two to each man, one to each woman and one to each child.

Mr Walsh — You departed, in this instance, from the old maxim: “Two for the wife, and one for the man (laughter).”?

Chairman — But Mr Walsh, we have a very liberal master (laughter).

Mr Lalor — What! Eggs for the paupers! Who ordered them?

Master — The board ordered the usual Easter breakfast, and as eggs were cheap – only 8d a dozen – I took on myself to give them eggs.

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Mr Wilson — This is a most extraordinary proceeding. I never heard of workhouse paupers getting eggs as a luxury, unless when in hospital.

Mr Kirwan — Why shouldn’t the poor people get an egg?

Mr E. Walsh — Yes; and at Easter times, too. The master did right.

Mr Kirwan — I think so. There is many a decent man and woman in a workhouse.

Mr Wilson — This is a curious proceeding.

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Chairman — Who ordered the eggs?

Master — No person. It was an oversight not to bring the matter before the board.

Mr Wilson — How many eggs were supplied?

Master — Fifty-two dozen.

Chairman (in amazement) — What! Fifty-two dozen eggs.

Master — They were very cheap – only 8d a dozen – and out of the fifty-two dozen six dozen were used in the infirmary.

Mr Wilson — This is too much of a good thing. £1 14s 8d worth of eggs for the paupers.

Mr Walsh — It was Easter times, and why not give the poor people eggs?

Mr Kirwan — I think the master acted properly.

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Mr Wilson — How many ratepayers are there who are not able to indulge in an egg, and yet the paupers of this union must get them?

Mr Wilson — I never heard of such a thing as treating the entire paupers of a union to eggs of an Easter.

Chairman — And giving two to the man and one to the woman (laughter).

Mr Kirwan — An egg is the least we can give them at Easter.

Mr Walsh — In Waterford the guardians are calling out because the master gets bees’ wax and the paupers get beer, but we are advancing because we are giving eggs all round to all hands in the house (laughter).

Mr Kirwan — I hope the board will bear the master harmless: he did it for the best, and I think he was right. I move that we approve of his act and pay for the eggs.

Mr Lalor — I am entirely opposed to that.

Edmond Walsh — I second Mr Kirwan’s resolution.

Mr Power — He gave the eggs to the poor people in the interests of humanity (laughter).

Chairman — Then let him pay for his humane feeling by paying for the eggs (laughter).

Mr Kirwan — I don’t see what harm the master has done. I think he acted properly in giving the eggs to all parties.

Mr Wilson — Yes; 52 dozen at 8d a dozen: not a bad little bill!

Mr Lalor — I want to know who ordered those eggs.

Master — There was no order for eggs; there was the usual order for an Easter tea breakfast.

Mr Lalor — Since you took on yourself the responsibility of entertaining the paupers of this house to eggs for their Easter breakfast, I think you should be generous enough to pay for them.

Mr Wilson — I think the same.

Master — If it is the wish of the board I will do so.

Mr Lalor — It is absurd to talk about giving paupers eggs – at this particular season of the year, too, when substantial farmers are in such difficulties that they cannot get eggs for themselves.

Mr Kirwan — He did it for the best, and we should bear him harmless.

Master — I will pay for them if it is the wish of the board.

Mr Walsh — You should not be asked to do so.

Mr Kirwan — That is my opinion.

Chairman — These eggs were not ordered and the master must pay them: that is the order.

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Mr Kirwan — If you please, don’t make that the order of the board yet. It was Easter Sunday, and I think the master acted properly in giving the inmates eggs. I propose the eggs be paid for.

Mr Walsh — I second the resolution.

Mr Power thought the master did what was right. The board should approve of it.

Chairman — It is decided that the master is to pay for the eggs.

A boy who got an egg

The master reported that one of the schoolboys was guilty of insubordination.

The schoolmaster was sent for and produced the lad. He said that whilst out walking he insulted several respectable people passing by calling them names.

Chairman — Did this fellow get any of the Easter eggs?

Schoolmaster — He did, sir.

Chairman — Just so; it is no wonder he would when he gets eggs to his breakfast at the master’s expense (laughter).

The schoolmaster said that the lad had wilfully injured his hand to be sent into hospital, and he had induced another lad to do the same.

Chairman — There it is, the first fruits. We must stop the egg supply (laughter). Keep him in durance vile [confinement] until next court day, and let him be sent to a reformatory.

The board directed that he should be sent before the master at next sessions.

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