Commission of Investigation report: Thomastown County Home in Kilkenny

Commission of Investigation report: Thomastown County Home in Kilkenny

Thomastown County Home, also known as the Thomastown Union Workhouse, in Kilkenny is one of the facilities included in the commissions report.

In the period 1920 to 1972, the register recorded almost 60,000 admissions.

The former county home operates today as St Columba's Hospital.

A total of 177 children who lived at the Home between 1922 and 1960 died.

Maternal mortality


There were three deaths among women admitted to the home and all three occurred in 1922.

The women were aged 15, 25 and 40 years respectively at the time of death.

According to the report, these deaths don't appear to be childbirth related; the causes of death were given as influenza, heart disease and TB.

1922 was the worst year for infant mortality in Thomastown, 20 children born/admitted that year subsequently died.

Infant mortality


A register of Deaths for Thomastown County Home covers the years 1912 to 1962.

Of the 764 live births attributed to single women, 140 infants subsequently died.

In most cases, the stated cause of death was 'inanition". Other recorded causes of death include congenital asthenia, congenital debility, congenital heart disease, convulsion and gastric ulcers.

Of the 477 children admitted to the home after birth, 37 died.


The institutional records suggest that 177 children born in, or admitted to Thomastown, subsequently died.

The commission has located GRO death records for 169 children.

Previous address by county

Mothers from Kilkenny accounted for 94.26% of admissions to Thomastown County Home.

Those from Waterford and Wexford accounted for 1.46% of admissions each, and Tipperary accounted for 1.15%.


A groundsman at St Columba’s Hospital, Thomastown (formerly Thomastown county home) told the Commission that he has been employed at the institution since around 1986.

He said that, in or around 1990, the matron of the institution, asked him and another employee to incinerate institutional records.

He said that these records included burial registers relating to people who died in the institution and were buried onsite.

He believed that the burial registers related to the period.

The groundsman identified the location of the graveyard on a map.

The Commission had previously identified this location lying to the east of St Columba’s Hospital as a potential institutional graveyard.

He said that the graveyard, known locally as the ‘Shankyard graveyard’ had been neglected for some years and was in a state of disrepair.

He stated that ‘several loads of topsoil’ were put down on the graves and that the site was levelled and grassed.

The Commission visited the graveyard in 2019 and found the site to be well maintained.

A single cross with the inscription ‘Remembering those who died’ marks the site as a former graveyard.

The graveyard was in operation from 1854 to 1978.

The Commission considers it likely that children who died in Thomastown county home were buried there.

Read the full report here.