Children of Darkness

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The title of this photo which has been folded many times is Workhouse Scene and shows women and children crowded into very poor conditions. The "Workhouse" was almost a death sentence for people back in the 1800's and at a time of plenty with a pandemic out there it might not be a bad time to remember their suffering? The title comes from a poem by Valerie Bellefleur:

Children of darkness do not play under the Bluebird sky
nor do they feel the sunshine of a summer's morning
on little backs and faces..
instead they toil from dawn to dusk in rooms of
darkness with dirt floors and grey walls.

Photographer: Unknown

Date: Around 1890-1910


You can also view this image, and many thousands of others, on the NLI’s catalogue at


Owner: National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons
Views: 6850
nationallibraryofireland nationalphotographicarchive workhousescene children boys girls women tables poverty

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    Jane Friel

    • 31/Mar/2021 08:21:17

    There's a sad and dismal feeling from this image, accentuated by the fold lines which make it look like the women and children are behind bars. We stand on their shoulders.

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    • 31/Mar/2021 08:23:15

    This version gives "1895" -

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    • 31/Mar/2021 08:32:06

    Tough times, not even a smile from the youngest of the children.

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    • 31/Mar/2021 09:00:21

    Many young children and a few mothers and a grandmother. The boys would be remove to the adult male section when they were older Families were split up, with different quarters for the male and female population. No mixing was allowed on pain of expulsion. Food included 'stirabout' made in a giant cauldron, and I don't mean Quakers Porridge Oats. People sometimes think that workhouses were set up following the Famine, but they were in existence before then and every major country town seemed to have one. Many of them later became county hospitals.

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    acceptable lip

    • 31/Mar/2021 09:13:16

     Stunning picture ;-)

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    • 31/Mar/2021 10:04:16

    at first I thought the picture was taken through a skylight window frame, before seeing the folds in the paper. The "above them" capture focuses the eye and mind on their desperate circumstances.

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    • 31/Mar/2021 11:55:32

    almost looks like metal headboards along the back wall, the dormitory?

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    Olly Griffin

    • 31/Mar/2021 20:07:53

    that's haunting God love them

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    • 31/Mar/2021 20:22:18

    "Food means life itself to poor people, and taking it away from them is murder. It is murder to deprive someone of his living or to cheat an employee of his wages". Sirach 34:2122

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    • 31/Mar/2021 21:14:51

    Buenas fotos antiguas .

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    Dr. Ilia

    • 06/Apr/2021 08:00:11

    Great shot!