Orphanage fire anniversary

Tuesday marked the 78th anniversary of the Cavan Orphanage Fire. The 1943 tragedy claimed the life of 36 victims in an inferno that swept through the St Joseph’s Orphanage on the county town’s Main Street.

The fire started in the basement laundry of the facility in the early hours of the morning. By the time it was discovered, the fire had already spread beyond the point where it could be tackled by local volunteers.

The orphanage was run by the Poor Clare sisters, an enclosed Order of nuns, who by this time had gathered the young girls in a dormitory

Tragically 35 children lost their lives on that fateful night. The youngest of the girls was only four years old. An 80-year-old woman, who worked as a cook at the orphanage, also lost her life.

Despite the tragic loss of life, around 50 others were saved by the quick actions of local electricity worker Mattie Hand and businessman Louis Blessing among others.

The tragic victims of St Joseph’s Orphanage Fire were all buried together in Cullies Cemetery in Cavan and a memorial plaque was placed at the Cavan Convent in 2010.

Three years ago volunteers lobbied Cavan County Council to erect a permanent memorial to the victims, but the local authority said there was no plans for any further commemoration.

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