Founded in 1818, the Mendicity Institution was established to relieve poverty and hunger in Dublin. After the Act of Union and the Napoleonic Wars, Dublin fell into decline, leaving great poverty in the city. The House of Industry was available at the time for those who were poor, however they often kept the poor in poverty and never relieved them from it. Mendicity’s founders sought to provide an alternative, providing food, training and employment for those who were homeless, poor and marginalised. The institution was mirrored on similar organisations that were previously established in Belfast and Edinburgh. There were some well-known names on the first management committee, including Bewley, Guinness, LaTouche, de Vesci and Orpen. The patron was the Lord Lieutenant, the president was The Lord Mayor, the vice presidents included dukes, judges, archbishops and generals. In later years Daniel O’Connell would become the chairperson of the Institution. Mendicity originally resided at Hawkins Street, then to Copper Alley, and finally to Moira House (Ushers Island) and Island Street, where the charity is still located today.
Conditions in Mendicity During the 19th Century
Various work was carried out and ‘picking oakum’ was one. This involved unpicking old rope that had been protected by tarring and varnishing and extracting the good fibres. These fibres were then used by mixing them with tar and using the mixture for sale as caulking or sealing the sides of ships. Breaking stones for road building, pulverising lime for building materials, spinning flax and lace making were also undertaken. Some worked carrying placards through the streets of Dublin, imploring the public not to give alms but to donate to the Mendicity Institution instead. Some were employed as carters to collect leftover food from houses in the city, to add to the pot. The food generally consisted of a soup or stew, with ingredients such as ox heads and oatmeal. By the end of 1818, there were 2,930 attending – apart from those working at the various tasks, there were 282 children in school, 319 elderly and infirm, and 400 younger children.
As well aleviating poverty, those who were destitute were helped to travel to places, where they had a promise of employment, or to be reunited with friends or family that would be able to support them. Those applying for transmission were required to labour in the Mendicity Institution for four weeks, while their cases were investigated. Generally, the transmission service was availed of by Irish people, travelling to other parts of Ireland, UK, the US or Canada. However, on occassion there were people from other parts such as France, Poland and Russia. Between June and December 1818, over 2,600 people were transmitted. The service continued until 1969 when Paddy Power, a 23-year-old living in The Iveagh Hostel applied for the fare to Navan for where he had a letter of admission for an operation. The final note in the transmissions book reads, ‘cancelled – did not turn up for bus.’ Our transmission books are stored and available to view in the National Library, Kildare St.
Mendicity has survived many turbulent moments in history, such as the Famine, the 1916 Rising – in which the building was used as the garrison of Sean Heuston; several periods of financial trouble, and many pandemics, including the one we are currently in. Throughout all of these difficult times, Mendicity remained open for those most vulnerable and who rely on it’s service.
More detail on Mendicity’s 200 year history can be found in this brief synopsis History of Mendicity 1818 – 2018
‘Dublin Outsiders: A History of the Mendicity Institution 1818 – 2018’
Read in detail the full two hundred year history of Mendicity in ‘Dublin Outsiders: A History of the Mendicity Institution 1818 – 2018’. Available to buy for €15 + delivery charge. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase