21 June 2021

Lisburn Workhouse: A Deaf Boy's Education Hangs in the Balance

The building that was the workhouse in Lisburn (now Lagan Valley Hospital).

Thomas Burns was an 8 year old deaf boy living in Lisburn in 1889. The Lisburn Board of Guardians (who met regularly in the Workhouse and ran it) were asked to pay for him to go to Cabra to be educated, as his parents were very poor and could not afford to have him educated. His behaviour was wild and becoming a nuisance around Lisburn.
Some of the Board of Guardians were very willing to pay the £15 a year to send Thomas, but others passionately objected. They thought £15 was too expensive and that Thomas should be admitted for free. Others believed he should be sent to the deaf school in Belfast, as it would be cheaper, and local Protestant Deaf children from Lisburn had already been sent there.
It was proposed that £10 be offered to Cabra to pay for Thomas' education. But Cabra replied and said that they had to insist on the full £15 from every child sent. So, instead, the Guardians offered to pay £15 - but for only two years. Cabra reminded the Guardians that two years was not at all enough time to educate Thomas properly.
Thomas was eventually admitted to Cabra in October 1889. However, he did not stay there long. He suffered from many epileptic fits and had to be returned home to Lisburn.
Sources: local Lisburn newspapers - please contact me if you need references
See http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Lisburn/ for more information on the workhouse.

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