Belfast Charitable Society had put in place a form of lockdown once cholera was found to be present in the town. However, they initiated other important precautions to protect the residents of the Poor House.
The Poor House Infirmary and the other hospitals worked jointly to deal with cholera cases in Belfast. This meant that some people who had sufficiently recovered from cholera would need to come into the Poor House. However, Belfast Charitable Society were conscious that these individuals may bring the disease into the already crowded institution.
The Board decided to open a convalescent home at one of its properties where people could live until it was proven they were cured. The convalescent home was also used for those who eloped or absconded from the Poor House, and sought to be readmitted, as they could potentially have come into contact with cholera outside of the Poor House.
Fergus Kennedy, a boy who eloped last week, to be readmitted, on account of his having neither father or mother, and to remain in the convalescent House for at least a week.
In cases of more immediate need they employed the Poor House physicians to medically examine new admissions. Our minute book covering this period is peppered with such entries:
Resolved that the following children, being orphans whose parents died in the Cholera Hospital, or otherwise deserted them, be admitted from the Orphan House of the Cholera Hospital into this House, subject to docotor’s [sic] inspection and approval:
William King (aged 10)
Janes King (aged 8)
Mary King (aged 6)
George King (aged 4)
Alexander King (aged 3)
Eliza Fraser (aged 8)
William Fraser (aged 2)
Pat McCaughey (aged 10)
Mary McCaughey (aged 6)
Sarah Ogilby (aged 11)
The Poor House was not like a prison, but the measures they put in place were strict in order to protect the most vulnerable. Leave of absences from the Poor House were still granted, but with caveats. One resident, Elizabeth Stewart was allowed to leave to visit her niece, but was “not to be readmitted ‘till all fear of danger from the Cholera has subsided”.
Nothing escaped the attention of the Poor House Board during this perios. At a special meeting of the Charitable Society in April 1832 they considered
“making an important change in the diet of the inmates as a precautionary measure against the introduction of Cholera, agreeably to a recommendation of Dr Forcade and McGee the Medical Attendants.”
At the special meeting they agreed to purchase 224 lbs of beef each week which was to be prepared in soup, with potatoes, for dinner every Saturday. This was essentially a stew.
The weekly dinners continued from April 1832 but by September the Charitable Society met again, this time to consider the
proprietary of discontinuing the dinner of soup and flesh meat order[ed] to the Inmates of this House on 28th April on account of want of pecuniary means- and that Doctors Forcade and Magee be summoned to give their opinion.
Even with the financial pressures of the diet the doctors insisted that ‘the dinner of fleshmeat and soup’ should be continued for at least another month. They also went further, recommending that when the meal was withdrawn from the general populace of the Poor House that it should be permanently given to children under the age of 15 years old.
Our next post will explore how Belfast Charitable Society started to ease their self-imposed lockdown in the latter part of 1832.
The Cholera Pandemic of 1832 Series