Community Historian, Brendan Matthews with another of his short but fine pieces that reveal so much about the past life of Drogheda and its people.
Back in the summer months of 1875 an old woman by the name of Mrs Dwyer was a regular visitor to the town of Drogheda. Apparently Mrs Dwyer had some kind of a lodging house in Balbriggan. However, due to her being a Hawker who lived by travelling throughout the countryside and from town to town selling goods from a basket around her neck, she was seldom seen at her residence in Balbriggan during the long and bright summer days.
On a sunny Saturday in the month of July 1875 Mrs Dwyer was in Drogheda selling her wares and fancy goods when she became ill on the street and was subsequently removed to the Workhouse Infirmary on the Dublin Road. A few days then passed but Mrs Dwyer, who was an elderly lady, didn’t recover from her sudden illness and died within the Workhouse and was laid to rest in the nearby Bully`s Acre burial ground.
Some two months later, on Saturday 11th Septembe 1875, an elderly man by the name of Thomas Dwyer arrived in Drogheda and went to a lodging house in Trinity Street which was owned by a woman named Mrs Halloran. Thomas Dwyer was also from Balbriggan and apparently he had often stayed at this lodging house in Drogheda and was familiar to Mrs Halloran.
It transpired that Thomas Dwyer was in fact the husband of the late Mrs Dwyer, the hawker-woman who had passed away in the Drogheda Workhouse a couple of months previously. When Thomas Dwyer was informed that his wife had died some two months earlier he broke down in the lodging house in Trinity Street and sobbed his heart out. He was overcome with grief as he sat by the fire in the house and began to sup some whiskey which he had with him in a carrier bag.
He told Mrs Halloran that he was an old soldier and that he was nearly 100 years old and that he had walked to Drogheda to look for his wife when he hadn’t heard from her in a few weeks. Thomas Dwyer then took some kind of a small inventory from inside his pocket and it contained a long list of the fancy goods and items that his hawker-lady woman used to sell to the general public and included items such as penknives, dolls, scissors, books, trotter-oil, beads, holy pictures, etc.
The following morning, Sunday September 12th 1875, Thomas Dwyer continued to sit in front of the fire at the lodging house in Trinity Street. For most of the day, according to Mrs Halloran the landlady, he continued to drink whiskey to ease the pain of his grief and the only other nourishment he took was a naggin of Hollands Gin and refusing to eat. On Monday September 13th, Mr Dwyer went to lie down on his bed at the lodging house. After some hours when he didn’t return downstairs, Mrs Halloran went up to his room to check on him and discovered that the aged man had quietly passed away in his sleep.
Found among his personal items and clothing following his death was some papers that showed that Thomas Dwyer was admitted as an out-pensioner at Chelsea, at 6 pennies a day in 1841 and also that he had enlisted in the British Army at Carrick-on-Suir in the year 1825.