Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Pat Purcell Papers
Shewbridge Connor 1844
County Carlow

 Source: M. Purcell 2014.
Papers found in PPP and addressed to the Assembly of
The Grand Jury for Carlow .

1844, Horses Killed!,

Names mentioned: Connor, White.

Two page letter or "Information" in the Pat Purcell Papers, dated 31st December 1844, addressed to the Assembly of The Grand Jury for Carlow.

The Information of Shewbridge Connor. Physician to the County Carlow Fever Hospital and officer of Health for the Parish of Carlow. Who being duly sworn on the Holy Evangelists.

 Saith --

That a Pond of filthy water of considerable size has existed for many years opposite to the County Court House on the Dublin Road.

That said Pond in his opinion is a fertile source of contagious disease as Typhus Fever is frequently prevalent in and but seldom absent from its immediate vicinity.

That from its unenclosed state and from being many feet below the level of the High road adjoining it is attended with great danger to the Public in proof - That about noon of a certain day in the month of May last Her Majesty's Mail Coach was upset into it and in consequence some Horses were killed, and many human lives placed in most imminent peril.

That endeavours have been made,  (but apparently in vain) to interest the Proprietor and his Agents in this important matter.

That he fears, unless the authorities abate or indict this nuisance it will remain for ever a source of Danger and Disease to the Inhabitants of this town.

He also Maketh Oath and Saith that the state of the unenclosed ground adjoining said pond, tends much to injure the purity of the air, and is very disgusting to senses, as it is a receptacle for the filth Collected in the town.

Sworn before me at Carlow in said County this 31st December 1844.

Being a Justice of the Peace appointed by our most Sovereign Majesty, Victoria, Queen,  acting in and for said County.

[signed ] Matthew Edmond White.
[signed ] Shewbridge Connor.

[Note added by Michael Purcell 2012 - according to notes in the PPP, the "pond" area referred to in the above Information is where Statham's / Dooley's garage stood on the Dublin Road.

Shewbridge Connor was known as "the Survivor Shewbridge" because he had survived a drowning accident in 1820 when a boat capsized at Meelick Bay, killing four men including his two brothers.

Shewbridge was born in 1803 to Ogle Connor M.D. and his wife Sidney Shewbridge in Dublin. Shewbridge died at Carlow in February 1865. During his final illness he requested that his son, also named Shewbridge Connor, be appointed as Health Officer for the Parish of Carlow but this request met with some opposition.

Historian Alfie O'Brien publish the following interesting piece on Dr Shewbridge Connor on -----

The Survivor, Shewbridge Connor, at seventeen years was the youngest among the ill-fated party. Having already completed two years at Trinity College, he returned there after his ordeal and graduated with a B.A. degree within three years. Following further study at the College of Surgeons, he qualified as a doctor in 1826 and practised at the Lying-in hospitals in the city. He was appointed medical officer to counties Clare and Donegal during the cholera epidemic of 1832. It could be fair to presume that he especially petitioned to be assigned to these particular counties, so far apart and distant from where he lived, so that he would have the opportunity to visit Clonrush graveyard as he passed by on route to Ennis, and also to visit his relatives in Co. Donegal.

He received a permanent post at Carlow Fever Hospital in 1836 and later at the dispensary where he was to remain. Keen to share his medical experience, he contributed to the Dublin Medical Press, with articles on fever and natural remedies. He married Elizabeth Walker and they had four children -- Fanny 1839; Shewbridge John; Willis Ogle and the youngest Cecil Crampton, born 1852.

     Dr. Shewbridge Connor was particularly concerned about the number of deaths that occurred at lime-kilns. Though they were considered to be a desirable facility among the farming community, in the production of lime for agricultural use, the lime-kiln presented a particular hazard to health and life while it was burning. When limestone is subjected to great heat, carbonic acid gas is given off and the pure lime remains. This gas being heavier than air was slow to disperse, the movement being further hampered by the usual practice of siting the kiln against the cliff of a hill or a high wall. Strangely, it wasn't the workers at the kiln that became the usual victims, though no doubt, they would keep to the side of the kiln facing the breeze, for their own comfort if not for their safety, and they rarely worked alone.

As late evening would come, a stillness of air may ensue, while the fire of necessity would burn on. The deserted kiln now became enshrouded in this poisonous gas, which was invisible and had no smell, thus it presented no deterrent to a visitor to linger. A burning kiln within sight of the public road was a prime attraction to the homeless or itinerant who in their ignorance would seek the comfort of the heat where they could rest for the night. Neighbours also, oblivious to the danger, would go to the kiln in the quiet hours, to boil pots or to dry clothes.

Inhalation of the gas would induce a sudden drowsiness or sleep and the unsuspecting victims suffocated where they lay, or falling into the fire or close to it, may be found blackened and dried up, partly consumed, or the bones may be the only remnants picked up. The men coming to dress the kiln after a night’s absence, may find one or two individuals in some of the states described; or may occasionally be in time to arouse them from their dangerous sleep or to pluck them from the burning mass, only to see them -- as Dr. Connor points out -- occupy for months a hospital bed, perhaps to the exclusion of some labourer stricken with natural and unavoidable disease.

    In order to get a countrywide perspective of the incidence of such deaths, Dr. Connor sent a questionnaire to the various county coroners with mixed results. Some declined to reply, others admitted that they were not situated in a limestone area of the country and had no knowledge of it, or that a verdict of accidental death would often be recorded in such cases, without note or comment. Others attested to Dr. Connor's experience from their own records.

For the purpose of bringing the matter to the attention of the authorities and to educate the general public to the dangers, he wrote a booklet which he titled 'Aolee' -- 'aol' being the Irish for lime --a word which he extends to assume the guise of 'Thuggee' and 'Suttee' (suffocation and burning ) -- the then outlawed Indian custom of burning widows, to which the careless exposure of the lime-kiln to vulnerable individuals, bore as he saw it, a comparison in its disregard for human life.

Accordingly, he sub-titled his book "Human Sacrifices in Ireland". In it he calls for an official enquiry from the clerks of the crown coroners and others, into the apathy or indifference which prevailed in relation to such deaths, in contrast to other potential dangers where every precaution was taken to prevent it. Lime-kilns in the vicinity of towns were the haunts of loiterers and the profligate and a theatre for vice; occasionally the body of a murder victim would be thrown into the kiln to conceal the crime. In his book, he outlines a number of measures which should be implemented, such as, a compulsory fencing off of the kilns to prevent un-authorised access; making a point by analogy, he states: "Persons of humanity would strive to save the fly that hovers round their light." He also recommended the removal of the kilns that were in the proximity of schools and playgrounds, and from populous areas.

    Lime was a valuable commodity in the building trade, in which the upper classes or people with votes had a vested interest, and any suggestion that might have a negative effect on its production, met with rebuff. The urban dwellers in the suburbs of towns, close to whose homes a lime-kiln might be situated, had little influence, since in any case, they had no vote.

One Michael Blake of Carlow, writing of his difficult situation to Shewbridge, knowing his stance on the matter, stated:

    "I did expend some portion of my philanthropy, striving to avert a dangerous nuisance, a lime-kiln, which is built up against my house, and is now in active use, which is unlawful and unjust. The carbonic sulphur of this kiln has often descended into my house and attacked every one of my family with head-ache. I have also spent some of my money at law, hoping to get justice and have this nuisance abated. However, all my exertions were in vain because there was a vote out of this political lime-kiln."

Michael being overjoyed that someone of influence had rallied to his support continues:- "It seems mercifully intended by the Almighty, that a gentleman would be inspired with feelings of humanity, to save unprepared sinners from a sudden death and be the means of averting this cause of human destruction. Many a prayer you have got . . . May you be guarded from all enemies, visible and invisible and saved from a sudden or an un-provided death."

    Unrewarding, as if it were, of his efforts to save the lives of the underprivileged, Dr. Connor continued to witness untimely deaths within his own family. His daughter Fanny died at the age of seventeen years and his wife Bessy died when their youngest child was only six years old. He died himself in Carlow on the 20th February 1865, aged 62 years.

Shewbridge Connor

    Shewbridge John Connor (junior), succeeded his father as M.D. at the dispensary in Carlow until 1873 when the family migrated; destination unknown. He married Anne Elizabeth Allen and three children were born in Carlow prior to their departure -- Mary Elizabeth; Annie and Robert Shewbridge. Shewbridge Connor (senior) had an older brother John who was also a doctor. John had a son Sidney Shewbridge -- a name which he adapted from his grandmother. Sidney worked as a clerk in Macroom, Co. Cork, where he married Elizabeth Fetherston of the same place in 1869, but did not remain. Perhaps, an associated descendant may yet travel to Whitegate; visit Meelick Bay and Clonrush graveyard, and so recall a forgotten chapter in their family history.

Alfie notes that Shewbridge had a flag-stone table erected on raised masonry in Clonrush graveyard to the memory of those who died ---

Sacred to the memory of
Ogle Nesbitt Connor 79th Reg-md
Willis Connor A.B.T.C.D.
John Keys T.C.D.
The Rev. Isaac Daniel B.D.T.C.D.
16th July 1820
Erected A.D.1841 by the survivor Shewbridge Connor M.D. Carlow.

 Source: M. Purcell 2014.

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