I am finally in receipt of Davis and Mary Coakley’s book “The History and Heritage of St. James Hospital, Dublin”. Naturally after all the commotion I went through during it’s writing, I was anxious to see what part of Alexander Fraser’s life as master of the South Dublin Union workhouse might be mentioned. Some may recall that I had quoted a memoir in my blog which had been written by one of the grand-daughters of Agnes, Alex’s wife (my maternal great-aunt). The writer would in fact, be my second cousin.
In my enthusiasm for the subject, I assumed that the person who had passed the memoir to me would have known if the writer was still alive but I was wrong. Of course, one day I got an email from that person who was shocked to see her name “on the internet”. I had made an agreement that the author could quote from the memoirs through my blog, huge mistake. However, I agreed to withdraw said quotes from my blog . She then agreed herself that the professor could use them. Lesson learned.
The book is voluminous, naturally, there is so much history to the building and Alex’s time there received small mention after all. There is a photo of the family on the steps of the Master’s residence, Garden Hill and the few quotes aforementioned and a paragraph or two. I haven’t finished reading the book yet.
My purpose in writing on the subject was not about the workhouse but about my amazing great-aunt Agnes, who you will find in my posts. She was the mother of 8 children of her own and took in 3 of her sister Sarah’s children when she died. The door to her home was a revolving one and she was mistress of the South Dublin Union for 26 years. During this time, she was also a mainstay of her own family, helping her father in his old age. She was likely the person who saw my grandfather and his brother off when they came to Canada.
When Alex broke his leg in 1908 and died of pneumonia, she received nothing from the Union and was forced leave Garden Hill and manage on the small amount they had put away. In spite of all, Agnes lived to be 104 years old. My mind often wonders if she learned something at the workhouse that kept her alive all those years. In the meantime, I will enjoy reading the rest of the book which I am sure will provide further enlightenment.