The earliest surviving minute book of Ennis Town Commissioners, the precursor to Ennis Urban District Council and Ennis Town Council has been conserved and will be available to view next week.
The minute book, dating from 1874 – 1883 has great value and significance, documenting Ennis Town Comissioners’ first meeting as an Urban Sanitary Authority, while also giving an insight into the conditions endured by the inhabitants of the town in the late 19th century.
The first meeting documented in the Minute Book took place in the town hall in Ennis on October 5, 1874. Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Peter Considine, who has been a member of Ennis Town Council for 40 years, welcomed the conservation of the book.
He added, “The restoration of this book will prove to be a valuable resource for academics and historians both now and in years to come. It provides a detailed record of a transitional milestone in the development of Local Government in Ireland.”
Commenting on the background to the minute book, Rene Franklin, Clare County Archivist explained, “The first meeting documented in the minute book following the passing of the New Public Health (Ireland) Bill, 37th – 38th Victoria, which represented one of the first major steps taken by the Local Government Board, set up in 1872, to tackle the growth of population, the need to create authorities to administer public health and provide or regulate such services as sewerage, paving and water supply. Borough corporations and commissioners of towns with populations over 6,000 became Urban Sanitary Authorities, therefore making Ennis Town Commissioners an Urban Sanitary Authority.
“Earlier this month, Ennis Town Council made arrangements through the Clare County’s Archives Service to have the earliest surviving minute book of Ennis Town Commissioners conserved by the conservator Paul Curtis of Mucros Bindery in Killarney,” Ms Franklin added.
The following reports were made by the medical sanitary officer in the minute book: “That the privy at the courthouse is in a very filthy state and recommend that it be cleaned out at least once a week.”
“I report to you that I received information from the sanitary sub officer that the river at Fahy’s Quay as being polluted by the washing of sheep skins in it…”
“I hereby report that seven cases of fever occured during last month in the house of John Duggan in Brewery Lane and two in the house adjoining. The lane is in a very dirty state, heaps of manure and pools of filthy stagnant water are close to the houses. The water which the inhabitants of the lane drink is obtained from the neighbouring river, which is constantly polluted by the washing of putrid sheep skins and other contaminations.”
The sanitary officer continues in his report offering a thorough insight into the town of Ennis at this time and the environment in which its inhabitants were accustomed: “I have made an inspection of this town for the purpose of ascertaining its general sanitary condition and I have to report its state in this respect particularly as regards the poorer districts, is very unsatisfactory – the general drainage and water supply which are such important elements in relation to health and disease are defective and in the poorer districts, the wretched unwholesome houses, the overcrowding, the entire neglect or imperfect state of scavenging, and the utter disregard to the ordinary laws of health present themselves everywhere. The lanes and alleys are unpaved and neglected, the surface of the roadways are honeycombed with what may be considered a succession of small superficial cess pools overflowing with filthy stagnant water.”
The chairman having explained his knowledge of the Act as applicable to Ennis as an Urban District, the following resolutions were adopted: the appointment of the sanitary officer (Micheal Greene MD, dispensary medical officer), the executive sanitary officer (Dan Tuohy, town clerk) and the consulting sanitary officer (Dr John Moloney) and sub sanitary officer (Mr Michael Loftus) ensued.
The Minute Book will be on public display at the offices of Ennis Town Council, Drumbiggle, from Monday until Friday, March 8.