Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Mass grave may date back to Irish Famine

The discovery of what is thought to be a mass burial site dating back to the Famine has evoked poignant memories of bleaker times.

Irish State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy yesterday visited the site in Borrisokane in Co Tipperary to carry out preliminary investigations after excavation work by north Tipperary Co Council unearthed the site on Monday afternoon.

Gardai had immediately cordoned off the area at the back of a row of semi-detached houses in the Tower Hill area of the town, and confirmed yesterday that "one semi-intact skeleton has so far been discovered together with a lot of other bones".

A spokesman declined to elaborate further on the find but the belief among locals in the small north-Tipperary town is that the remains date from the Famine era.

A workhouse in Borrisokane opened in June 1853 on land close to where the remains have been discovered. At one time it catered for approximately 1,200 people.

It was one of eight workhouses which existed in the county at the time. The workhouses had been built before the Famine to house the poor and homeless but, during the Famine, some 50pc of the population needed help.

One local man said: "It's been the hot topic of conversation in the town.

"Speculation is that the skeletons and bones date from the Famine, but others are saying that the remains may date from the War of Independence and that they may be those of Black and Tans.

"It's still something you wouldn't like to discover at the bottom of your garden, though."

The discovery was made by staff from the water services department of the council who were investigating drains in the area on Monday afternoon.

The workers discovered a number of human bones and, upon further investigation, unearthed what is believed to be the semi-intact human skeleton.

Local people also confirmed that more bones were later unearthed, many understood to be human.

Professor Cassidy arrived to investigate the site yesterday and carried out a number of preliminary tests.

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