1832. Cholera Outbreak. Response Parish Boards of Health, West Cork


Click to view Academia paper:

These investigations and responses in relation to Cholera appear to have been prompted by a circular letter from the Chief Secretaries Offices to the Select Vestries of the local Church of Ireland parishes.  Prior to Disestablishment the Church of Ireland was Ireland’s State Church and performed many civil functions. The Select Vestry had parallel function as did the parish Clerks and Churchwardens religious as well as Civil.  For the Civil function the Select Vestry was often slightly reconstituted to include influential local Catholics.

Officers of health for civil parishes were elected at vestry meetings. They normally consisted of five individuals and sanction was not need from the government to approve them. On foot of a cholera epidemic in 1832 central government introduced the option for local boards of health to be formed. Boards mainly consisted of 13 individuals and their jurisdiction often covered a parish or ecclesiastical union or a town and its hinterland. In order to have a board appointed to a specific area a public meeting had to be called by two magistrates, from which the names of nominees were submitted for approval to the Lord Lieutenant. Local boards of health had powers to introduce measures to prevent the spread of cholera and could request constabulary assistance to deal with forced burials etc. The appointment of such boards could occasionally stir up local party rivalry (CSO/RP/1832/1598).

One of the formats adopted:

Requisition signed by six householders Directed to the Magistrates of the Purpose of Appointing a Board of Health for… agreeable to the 58th George 3rd Cap 47 Section 10…

Should be made by two Magistrates authorised by meeting.

The procedure was for the agreed resolution voted or agreed on with a list of those to serve to be sent to Dublin Castle.  They were if approved Commissioners for the relevant parish. The application should be signed by two or more magistrates following a meeting.

There was a central board in Dublin coordinating responses which looking at date sequences was very rapid.

The matter concluded when a warrant was sent presumably to the person making the parish application.

To understand the nature of the administrative system it is important to understand the dual role of the Church of Ireland and select vestries.  Until disestablishment in 1859 the Church of Ireland was Ireland’s state church. Many ministers were magistrates.  Part fro religion it had significant civil function such as Probate, the regulation of Marriage and in the day before the rolling out of dispensaries various health function. So here the select vestry which is the local parish assembly  interact with the local Magistrates and report to Dublin Castle not the local diocesan office or registry.

Where records have survived for West Cork it was common to hold two select vestries, the first confined to Church of Ireland members to discuss religious matters. A later Vestry often had prominent local Catholics and dealt with civil matters.

Prior Times:

Our ancestors in Ireland:

They somehow saved us:

“Out of every corner of the woods and glens they came creeping

forth upon their hands for their legs could not bear them, they

looked like anatomies of death, they spoke like ghosts, crying out

of their graves…in a short space there were none almost left and a most

a populous and plentiful country suddenly left void of man or beast.”

So the English poet, Edmund Spenser, in 1583 described the province of Munster in the south of Ireland. While the dreadful spectacle of famine, death and decay may have appalled his eyes, Spenser, together with his friends, such as the famous explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh, had actively participated in and personally benefited from Munster’s ruin, as the English Crown wrested the province from the grip of its once powerful overlord – Gearoid (Gerald) Fitzgerald, the 14th Earl of Desmond.