THE FAMINE DECADE
(5km From Shravokee)
Excerpts from a 44 page Limited Edition Book by Freddie Bourke - 1998
NOTES OF TRAVELERS AND CORRESPONDENTS BEFORE THE FAMINE.
I am sorry to say that I was informed by the Priest of the Parish of Clonlea, (Kilkishen), in the Barony of Tulla, County Clare that the potatoes generally are infected with disease.
He last week saw eight barrels of potatoes, or about five months of provisions for a family, apparently sound, put into a pit, and sixty barrels put into another pit, which, on being opened today, had not a barrel of available potatoes in either; nearly the whole of the potatoes were found to be diseased and decomposed.
His accounts to me are most alarming.
On digging the potatoes generally throughout the District they are found in the same manner diseased.
A black spot on them spread under the surface of the skin around the potato, and at length goes through the heart of it, the whole substance becoming black and decomposed and therefore useless.
some of the people have given up digging their potatoes in despair, and it is most alarming to contemplate what the result may be.
It is, however, certain that some steps will be required to be undertaken to avert the horrors of a famine.
CONDITIONS DURING THE SPRING OF 1846.
On the 18th April, 1846, a Government Commissioner of the Board of Works Relief Department by the name of Richard Griffith visited the area and reported his findings by way of a letter to Dublin Castle.
In addition to the report of my proceedings it appears to be describable that all should listen to my option relative to the present state of the people of the South East portion of County Clare.
In this district I have been able to investigate the matter.
One kind of the population at least having neither provision or money, will be dependant on purchased food, the money to be given from employment either from the landlords, the farmers and Public Works.
Where the landlords are resident they have almost in every instance more than doubled the number of laborers.
They have likewise subscribed to the funds of the Relief Committees in the neighborhood.
The farmers even those holding considerable tracks of land I regret to say appeared quite apathetic, and give less employment than usual.
The smaller ones holding say from five to fifteen acres owing to the failure in the potato crop are unable to do so, so that the whole amount of labor in employment is small.
One fourth of the rural population have no land or less than one acre, which is usually held in tenure under a farmer or middleman.
The people live chiefly by barter, they rarely have any money transactions except perhaps from the sale of a pig.
They are usually employed part of the year by the farmers or gentlemen of the neighborhood.
They take from the farmer on conacre system a sufficient quantity of land in which they plane potatoes for their support.
If the farmer manures it the amount charged varies from £5 to £10 per acre. If the cottier has to manure his own, for a part derived from the pig and scrapings from the road etc. he is rarely charged any rent. The cottier works part time for the farmer and when unemployed he has his own potatoes to live on, and with the small potatoes he rears and fattens a pig or two. The family clothes are usually purchased following the sale of the pig or pigs.
In present years owing to the potato disease the usual source has partially failed and at the present moment the cottier class in many cases are actually without food.
on meeting with Engineers, Gentlemen, and Farmers from the local Relief Committees,
I find that the price of food this year will be
different, much higher than usual. there is no interest in planting potatoes in
I may say the usual price of manure in Limerick City is three shillings a horse load. At present it sells for one shilling and sixpence and there is there is very little sale even at that price. Those purchasing use it for top dressing for meadows and not for raising potatoes.
In South East Clare the distress will have reached its full height by 1st June, and by that period I do not think there will be any potatoes left.
In consequence the people must be fed altogether with Indian- meal, Oaten- meal or Wheaten- meal. The Indian-meal appears to be an excellent and cheap food, and if possible an ample supply should be provided.
At present the price has been raised by the merchants from £10 to £12 per ton, but some prudent gentlemen amongst them Mr. Monsell of Tervoe has purchased a cargo at £9-10-0 per ton and he is supplying the district with food at a moderate price.
At the moment the demand is increasing and will continue to increase with rapid strides.
There appears to be a deficiency in the merchants stores and they will be holding up for higher prices.
Consequently the Government importations should now appear in the market.
I have the honor to be my Lord,
Your most devout humble servant,
(The Freeman's Journal was the oldest nationalist newspaper in Dublin, Ireland )
In late spring and early summer of 1846 food prices
had soared. The use of the word famine became common place in the national
newspapers and reporters were sent to many rural areas in the West of Ireland.
One unnamed special reporter came to Limerick in the late April. His report was published in the Freeman's Journal on the 7th and 8th May, 1846.
I must give you the state of things about Limerick.
My first visit was to the village of Doonass about 8 miles from Limerick, where I had been informed there was great misery and want.
About a mile to the Limerick side is a place called Gurtnaglee (part of Oaklfield), over against Mount Catherine, the residence of Mr. Lloyd.
There are about thirty houses here, and not a single potato (if I suspect a few remaining rotten ones) with any of the people. They at present subsist on Indian meal, purchased in Limerick: but the means of the people are really exhausted, and they are in the utmost consternation at the prospect of utter destitution which is staring them full in the face.
The greater portion of the property about here belongs
to Sir Hugh Massey.
At the village of Doonass (Note-: about 5km from Shravokee) I found over 300 families principally women, young and old assembled around the Petty Sessions house, where the Rev. Mr. McMahon, Parish Priest, and one of his assistant curates with two gentlemen belonging to the neighborhood, were giving out Indian meal to the starving people.
It was a melancholy sight, and perhaps one of the most touching I have yet beheld.
There were the representatives of at least over 1000 human beings collected about the place, all eager to get their bags filled with meal, in order to carry it to their famishing children and families.
Would that some landlords and legislators had witnessed the scene. The faithful clergy assisting their flocks in the trying hour of need, whilst the landlords, who are mortally bound to take care of the persons from who they derive their incomes remain in listless apathy, and leave the people to their fate.
There are in the Parish of Doonass over 250 families, utterly destitute of food or the means of procuring it, and were it not for the exertions of the Catholic clergy these unhappy people would at the present moment be without the scanty allowance which is afforded to them.
I cannot omit mentioning a gratifying fact namely, the Rev. Mr. Allen, a Protestant clergyman, has been most active in this parish in assisting the Rev. Mr. McMahon and his curates, and the circumstance is the more pleasing as the Rev. Mr. Walsh another Protestant clergyman, who resides on the spot, and who possesses an income of 1500 Sterling a year refused to give one sixpence in support of the small fund collected to preserve the lives of the people, many of whom would have perished, but for the scanty means afforded them by the exertions of the gentry and the other benevolent individuals.
The brother of Parson Walsh, a Captain in the Army, who possesses no property here sent £5
DISTRESS and HARDSHIP
I have never witnessed
anything like the scene that was presented at Doonass the creatures crowded
round the windows of the house the doors had been closed out of which the meal
was handed to them, the clergymen filling up the bags with their own hands, it
was pitiable to hear the imploring of the mothers and daughters beseeching the
reverend gentlemen to let them go at once as the children, fathers, or families
were waiting at home for food.
Perhaps the best illustration I could give of the actual state of the people say seventy-eight of them, at least of this large district, is the following fact, communicated to me by Dr. Kidd, a highly respectable medical gentleman who attends the sick poor of this parish.
The doctor informed at the same time it was not a solitary case, but it happened to occur just at the moment, and he had no doubt that there were hundreds of family situated like the one that supplies this melancholy illustration.
he was on his way to visit a family in fever when a note was put in his hand (I read it) requesting he would call to see a certain family who were ill of fever, and this note informed that the family consisted of eight persons, and that these had subsisted for twenty-four hours on one quart of meal supplied by a lady.
The name of this family is Cherry and the name of the lady, Vincent.
Both the doctor and Mr. McMahon assured me that such cases were to be met at every step.
They gave me a very deplorable account of this extensive parish, and indeed I had witnessed enough myself to require ay conformation.
Dr Kidd, told me that the fever was little short of universal amongst the people, and that it was very fatal.
he never recollected such an extent of disease of such large mortality , and he had no hesitation whatever in saying indeed it could not be doubted that fatal malady was super induced by unwholesome food, and the scarcity of all food.
the landlords about this pert of the country had not exhibited any sympathy for the sufferings of the people, nor had they adopted any means of giving employment; and again, the government, as in every place else, looked on and did nothing.
BLACKWATER (5km from
Having seen and heard enough in and about this
neighborhood to warrant me saying that the famine is raging
in this extensive district, I proceeded through the
country in another direction.
At a place called Blackwater there is an extensive flour mill belonging to a Mr. Caswell a merchant in Limerick.
It is said that this gentleman received some threatening notices in consequence of being alleged that he raised the price of meal and flour in Limerick, but be that as it may, he applied for and got 20 soldiers stationed at the mill in order to protect it but, up to the present hour, there has been no indication of an attack.
About this part of the country I entered several houses, and with one exception, I found no potatoes
The people were lying about in the ditches, as they told me, half dead with hunger, and not being able to procure employment. .
It was painful to look at scores of fine athletic fellows. who are willing to labor for almost half nothing, but who could not procure employment, and were consequently starving.
With regard to planting potatoes in this district I only observed in one field, the people at work. the field belonged to a respectable farmer who ventured to set some potatoes.
DOONASS RELIEF COMMITTEE.
A meeting of the relief committee on 31st March, 1846
decided to establish a relief fund and make immediate application to the local
gentry and farmers to subscribe to the fund. there was a generous response to
the relief fund appeal, and within a week a total of £183-2-6 was collected.
Amongst the list of 66 subscribers were the following most likely from Shravokee area-:
Daniel Madden - Strawicheen £0-5-0
James McCormack - £0-7-6
Mrs. Malone £0-5-0
James Thomas Hennessy £0-5-0
Thomas Lane (Mulqueeny) £0-5-0
Mrs. Lane - Strawicheen £0-5-0 ( This would be the wife or widow of Thomas Lane (Moloney)
Jer McCormick - Strawicheen £0-10-0
James Moloney £0-2-6
James Madden £0-7-6
John Malone £0-5-0
If you can add to or correct any of this information
Please email Ray Lane
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