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The Workhouse Ward

PERSONS
MIKE McINERNEY, MICHAEL MISKELL, Paupers.
MRS. DONOHOE, A Countrywoman.

SCENE: A ward in Cloon Workhouse. The two old men are in their beds.

Michael Miskell. Isn't it a hard case, Mike McInerney, myself and yourself to be left here in the bed, and it the feast of Saint Colman, and the rest of the ward attending on the Mass.

Mike McInerney. Is it sitting up by the hearth you are wishful to be, Michael Miskell, with cold in the shoulders and with speckled shins? Let you rise up so, and you well be able to do it, not like myself that has pains the same as tin-tacks within in my inside.

Michael Miskell. If you have pains within in your inside there is no one can see it or know of it the way they can see my own knees that are swelled up with rheumatism, and my hands are twisted in ridges the same as an old cabbage stalk. It is easy to be talking about soreness and about pains, and they maybe not to be in it at all.

Mike McInerney. To open me and to analyseme you would know what sort of pain and a soreness I have in my heart and in my chest. But I'm not one like yourself to be cursing and praying and tormenting the time the nuns are at hand, thinking to get a bigger share than myself of the nourishment and of the milk.

Michael Miskell. That's the way you do be picking at me and faulting me. I had a share and a good share in my early time, and it's well you know that, and the both of ud reared in Skehanagh.

Mike McInerney. You may say that, indeed, we were both of us reared in Skehanagh. Little wonder you to have good nourishment the time we were both rising, and you bringing away my rabbits out of the snare.

Michael Miskell. And you didn't bring away my own eels, I suppose, I was after spearing in the Turlough? Selling them to the nuns in the convent you did, and letting on they to be your own. For you were always a cheater and a schemer, grabbing every earthly thing for your own profit.

Mike McInerney. Amd you were no grabber yourself, I suppose, till your land and all you had grabbed wore away from you!

Michael Miskell. If I lost it myself, it was through the crosses I met with and I goijng through the world. I never was a rambler and a cardplayer like yourself, Mike McInerney, that ran through all and lavished it unknown to your mother!

Mike McInerney. lavisehd it, is it? And if I did was it you yourself led me to lavish it or some other one? It is on my own floor I would be to-day and in the face of my family, but for the misfortune I had to be put with a bad next door neighbour that was yourself. What way did my means go from me is it? Spending on fencing, spending on walls, making up gates, putting up doors, that would keep your hens and ducks from coming in through starvation on my floor, and every fourfooted beast you had from preying and trespassing on my oats and my mangolds and my little lock of hay!

[... to be continued ...]

Lady Augusta Gregory, 1908.


[Author's Note from 1910 Edition]

I heard of an old man in the workhouse who had been disabled many years before by, I think, a knife thrown at him by his wife in some passionate quarrel.

One day I heard the wife had been brought in there, poor and sick. I wondered how they would meet, and if the quarrel was still alive, or if they who knew the worst of each other would be better pleased with each other's company than that of strangers.

I wrote the scenario of the play, Dr Douglas Hyde, getting in plot what he have back in dialogue, for at that time we thought a dramatic movement in Irish would be helpful to our own as well as to the Gaelic League. Later, I tried to rearrange it for our own theatre, and for three players only, but in doing this I found it necessary to write entirely new dialogue, the two men in the original play obviously talking at an audience in the wards, which is no longer there.

I sometimes think that the two scolding apupers are a symbol of ourselves in Ireland—"it is better to be quarrelling than to be lonesome." The Rajputs, that great fighting race, when they were told they had been brought under the Pax Britannica and must give up war, gave themselves to opium in its place, but Connacht has not yet planted its poppy gardens.


Workhouse Ward was first produced at the Abbey theatre, Dublin, on 20th April, 1908, with the following cast:&mdash

Mike McInerney — ARATHUR SINCLAIR
Michael Miskell — FRED O'DONOVAN
Mrs. Donohue — MARIE O'NEILL

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