Belfast Telegraph

Anonymous buyer snaps up ex-famine hospital in Northern Ireland for £51k

The former famine hospital in Lisnaskea
The former famine hospital in Lisnaskea
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

A former hospital in Co Fermanagh where starving people died during the potato famine has been sold at auction for £51,000.

The identity of the online bidder who bought the historic property, which dates back to the early 1840s, has not been revealed.

However, it is understood organisations from the area had been interested in acquiring the Grade B-listed building at Castlebalfour in Lisnaskea.

It was among the lots up for sale at an online auction held by property agents Osborne King.

Just two bids were made on the property - one at the maximum reserve price of £50,000 and the winning bid of £51,000.

Vicky Herbert, a historian who has written about the hospital, which also served as a workhouse for the destitute, said she hoped the building could be put back to community use.

"Whoever buys it will need a lot of money to bring it back to the community or make it a venture which will be worthwhile," she added.

Sign In

"But it is an iconic building, and while Victorians had their faults, they knew how to build buildings to last."

Ms Herbert admitted it was impossible to say how many people had died in the hospital during the 1845-1851 famine.

"From 1845 to 1847, when the cholera took hold of people, burials took place so quickly they actually couldn't do headstones and had to open up famine pits.

"They didn't have enough time to make wooden coffins - they just had to put the dead in shrouds."

Ms Herbert is a former member of a committee that had sought to buy the building some years ago.

"As a member of the Ulster Workhouse and Famine Trust Lisnaskea (UWFTL), we tried so hard to do something with it, but we didn't have enough money to buy it outright," she said.

"We got funding for a survey to see what the best thing to do with it might be.

"It would have to have a museum and cafe, but that's only a small part of it.

"My favourite thing would be to employ the building for heritage skills training, teaching youngsters old skills like stonemasonry and woodwork."

The UWFTL bid on the building the last time it was up for sale but lost out to the party that has just sold it.

Osborne King director Mark Carron said the latest buyer was a private individual.

He said yesterday's auction was the fourth online auction the agency had held, and that such auctions were useful ways of selling unusual buildings.

Belfast Telegraph