The Old Workhouse

The old Workhouse on Glendermott Road in the Waterside has many tales of ghostly sightings. The best-known one is the story of the Blue Guardian, the woman who was responsible for the welfare of the children.

She was a middle-aged woman who was quite rigid in her application of the workhouse rules. If a child infringed any of these rules she meted out the punishment. Her rigidity became more pronounced after she was brought to book by the management board for being too lenient. From then on she applied punishment severely and without partiality. One of her punishments was to lock a recalcitrant child in a large cupboard at the top of the house until he or she ‘learnt their lesson’. It was isolated enough for any screams or crying not to be heard.

Two children were sent to her for being disobedient and although they cried and promised to be good they were sent into the cupboard. A short time later the Guardian received word that her sister in County Derry was seriously ill. She packed quickly and left, forgetting about the children. It was not until her sister was on the mend and the Guardian was preparing to return that she remembered about the children. She was frantic as she urged the coachman to return as quickly as possible to the Workhouse, all the while dreading what she would find when she arrived. Her worst fears were confirmed when she dashed to the top of the stairs. Not a sound was to be heard from the cupboard. She hoped and prayed that someone would have released them but when she opened the door she found the two children clinging to each other, both of them dead.

She screamed and wept, realizing the dreadful thing she had done. No one could console her and the knowledge preyed on her mind until she finally gave up the will to live.

Her ghost reputedly walks the corridors of the Workhouse, lamenting the great wrong that she’s done.

When the building became a hospital the night nurses often had fleeting glimpses of her. One nurse, who worked in the hospital, took ill and underwent an operation. She woke up one very cold night and was aware of a woman, dressed in white, placing an extra blanket on the bed. The woman’s features were not distinct but the patient recalled that her hands were gentle. She tucked the blanket in before disappearing through the wall of the room.

Another story is related about Matron Edwards. She had a small flat within the grounds when without warning and one night, water started pouring out of all the taps in the flat. She tried to turn them off but each one refused to turn. The water gushed out with even greater ferocity frightening her so much that she ran from the hospital.

The Workhouse has now been turned into a wonderful museum and library yet few people dare to stay alone too long in its corridors. The bones of many bodies that were found in the pauper’s grave in the Workhouse grounds were given a Christian burial. Yet there is still an air of sadness about the place and we are left wondering if the Guardian and the children of her unintentional crime have reached a place of peaceful rest together now.



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