Mallow Archaeological & Historical Society
Mallow Archaeological & Historical Society

The Famine Years in Mallow

as reported in

The Cork

The following reports have been taken from One Hundred Fifty Years Ago Today; Extracts from the Cork Examiner.

For illustrations from newspapers of the period, see Contemporary Views of the Famine.

September 4, 1846


We devote about eleven columns of this day's Examiner to reports of public meetings held in Fermoy, Midleton, Mallow, Kinsale, Bantry, and in other parts of this county-- all convened for the purpose of taking into consideration the failure of the Potato crop, and the consequences which that failure is certain to entail on all classes in the country. There has not been a statement made in this journal that is not fully borne out by the observations of those who attended these various meetings. There is no attempt made to make the blight less destructive than it really is, nor to exaggerate the distress and misery which are certain to flow from a calamity so dreadful and so universal. All is alarm and apprehension. The landlord trembles for the consequences; so does the middleman; so does the tenant farmer. And well they may, if some decisive step be not taken by the government, and prompt exertion be made by individuals. It is time for each man to set his own house in order.

We have no desire to comment upon speeches which, being delivered by practical men, and men of weight and influence, must eloquently speak for themselves, and carry conviction with them to every mind. We shall allow them to stand by themselves this day, promising that we do not intend to lose sight of the suggestions offered, nor of the opinions expressed by the various speakers. Earnestly we call attention to these reports.

October 2, 1846


We pray attention to the statement of the Rev. Mr. Daly contained in this day's paper, with reference to the destitution of the parish of Kilworth, of which he is the pastor. Many of the poor inhabitants, he declared, at the Fermoy Presentment Sessions, had no other means of subsistence but cabbage leaves, the effects of eating which were visible in their altered frames and appearance. The Earl of MOUNTCASHEL, without repeating the shocking details, testified to the truth of every word of the Clergyman's recital. It is strange that a state of circumstances, so undoubtedly real and sickening to contemplate, should occur in a Christian land.

November 6, 1846


LET those who may yet doubt the statements frequently made in this journal, as grounds for calling on the Government and the officials of the Board of Works to do their duty, by procuring cheap food and sufficient employment for the people, read with attention the letter of our Special Reporter, who writes from Castletownroche, and describes what he has himself seen and heard, and be convinced that we have not exaggerated the misery to which the labouring population are reduced by the total destruction of their once-abundant means of comfort and support.

We would rather direct attention to the letter itself than make any comments of our own. We shall therefore only say that the letter in question proves the necessity of Government depots, to supply cheap food, and to lower the price of food-- the negligence and inactivity, hitherto, of the Board of Works, and of attention and activity for the future; and it also proves that were it not for the influence of the Catholic Clergy-- stronger than a legion of bayonets, more potent than a park of artillery-- the famine-stricken people would, ere this, have been in open insurrection. Let the Rev. Mr. FITZPATRICK stand, this day, as a type of his order, and his acts as an illustration of the influence ever exerted in a good and holy cause.

Our Reporter gives two additional instances of deaths from starvation!

December 30, 1846


EXTRACTS of a letter from the Right Rev. Dr. PURCELL, R.C. Bishop of Cincinatti; addressed to the Very Rev. D.M. COLLINS, P.P., Mallow, Dated 30th Nov., 1846.

"We have a most abundant harvest this year; a surplus crop of all good things, sufficient for half Europe. --May God make us truly grateful, and mindful of our destitute brethren, in poor, and every way crushed, Ireland. Eight years ago you told me the great staple food of Ireland's millions was fast degenerating. Was this a fact or a prophecy? Would that we had two millions of your population here; there would be enough for them to eat and to do."

April 16, 1847


On last evening, about five o'clock, Constable Cudmore found a poor man stretched dead in a field at the rear of the gas house. The deceased was suspected to be from the neighbourhood of Mallow; and had been begging in Cork for a considerable time.

A child expired in the arms of its mother in the North Main Street about ten o'clock this morning.

A poor man died in Abbey-street at an early hour last evening, apparently after enduring hunger and other privations for a long time. A subscription was raised amongst the charitable persons of the neighbourhood to obtain a coffin for the deceased.

In all such cases the coroner has refused to hold any inquest, as their frequency at present would entail an immense expense on the citizens.

June 25, 1847


SIR-- After a week out, in the following counties, I feel glad to state my opinion of the Potato Crop as I have found it. I went to Doneraile, Kanturk, Ballyclough, Mallow, Buttevant, Wallstown, Killdorrery, Mitchelstown, Fermoy, and the borders of the county of Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford, and I never found a diseased stalk, but three. One of them was at Mr. Newman's, one at Mr. Huggert's, Marble Hill; the other near Kildorrery. I left no place in all the country without examining, and in my life I never saw the potato or corn crop look so luxuriant and healthy.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

October 8, 1847


Boherbee, 5th Oct., 1847

SIR-- A novel circumstance took place here yesterday, the true particulars of which, I beg leave to send you, as concisely as I possibly can, leaving others to comment as they like.

About ten o'clock a party of the military from Kanturk marched up to the Ration-house in this village, accompanied by the Relieving Officer of the district. On their arrival, the Officer in command of the party sent word to the Police station; Constable McEnnery and his men were immediately on the spot; a horse and cart stood at the door of the Ration-house, all for the purpose of conveying a few sacks of the relief meal, which remained there since the preceding Saturday, back into Kanturk.

Upon the door being opened, as if seized with phrenzy and wishing to put themselves in the way of the bayonet or the bullet, in order to avoid death by famine, a few men rushed in, possessed themselves of the house, nor sufferred a man to enter, until the Police, after the lapse of some hours, and making many bold sallies in vain, abandoned the siege. The soldiers marched off, but not without receiving loud and continued cheers from the famine-stricken multitude for their good conduct on the occasion; after which the meal was delivered up to the relieving officer for distribution.

This strange proceeding was occasioned by a slight interruption to the relieving officer in the discharge of his duty on Saturday last. It appearing to some persons that he was acting with partiality, some wild fellows made a rush and took out two or three sacks of the meal which were immediately rescued by the men of Boherbee and its vicinity, and returned to the relieving officer, who continued dealing it out uninterruptedly until evening, when he slipped slyly away, leaving many starving creatures with nothing but hunger for supper, and leaving the meal in question in the ration-house, where it lay unmolested, though unguarded, until Monday. I have only to say that dangerous was the proceeding and entirely strange at Boherbee, and that it speaks trumpet-tongued for the efficiency of relieving officers.

I have the honour to be, Sir, your devoted servant,


October 15, 1847


Kanturk, Oct. 13, 1847

DEAR SIR-- There was an awful meeting of the poor population of the neighbourhood, at the poor-house, this day. It being board day, there were a good number of the Guardians met. The hungry creatures became so clamourous for food, that the soldiers were obliged to be sent for. One of these poor fellows touched, either by intention or otherwise, one of the ex-officios; he was immediately put into irons.

There were 400 admitted this day. There was also a large concern taken, that would accomodate 300 more. In addition to this, the consumption for out-door relief for the week will be over 40 tons of meal. This will give an idea of our situation in Duhallow. We are entering on a season of the most fearful foreboding; the poor without clothes, food, or shelter-- no friend scarcely to feel for them except the kind-hearted landlord, who orders them off his lands, and out of his sight, that he might not see nor hear from them.

I forgot to tell you that a deputation from the Board of Guardians waited on the Commissioners, and on the Lord Lieutenant, to know if anything would be done in the way of assisting them, either by a loan or in the shape of employment. The answer from both was the same, although at separate interviews, and that was, to go home, to pay the poor-rates and to collect their rents, and pay every fraction of the loan received from the government. I leave you to judge, Mr. Editor, whether they needed the advice about the rents.


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