Papers relating to proceedings for relief of distress, and state of unions and workhouses in Ireland, 1848
Sessional Papers 1847-1848 HMSO
Along the shores of the bay of Kinvarra and bay of Galway, which form a portion of the boundary of the electoral divisions of Kinvarra and Killeenavarra, reside a considerable number of persons, some with and some without land, who have heretofore supported themselves by fishing, and by the sale of sea weed for the purpose of manure. The failure of the potato crop in 1845 and 1846 by its discouragement to the planting of potatoes, completely paralysed the operations of the latter, who are now in a most abject state.
The only portion of the population remaining to be noticed is that which comprises the miscellaneous class of pedlars, hucksters, small dealers in fruit or vegetables, and mendicants, all of whom are affected by the general poverty of the district and are mostly in a destitute state.
As regards the prospects of the Union for the ensuing harvest, we have learned that a considerable quantity of wheat has been put down by the larger farmers, but it is certain there will not be anything approaching to the breadth of corn of the past year. On the other hand, it would appear from the reports of the relieving officers, and from personal observation, that the general success of the potato crop in 1847 has encouraged the larger holders of land to make arrangements for planting in a greater quantity in the spring. Many, however, of the smaller farmers will, we fear, be unable to set any, in consequence of the scarcity and high price of seed, added to their inability to purchase manure, and it is therefore to be apprehended that a much greater quantity of land will remain uncultivated this year than last. In former years most of the labouring population had potatoes in con-acre, but their impoverished conditions now renders them incapable of making any preparations for having a crop in the present season. Even if they were able to procure seed and manure, they have no means of support while engaged in their cultivation.
The amount of agricultural employment at present is very trifling, and we regret to say that after making the most minute inquiries we have no reason to hope that the demand for labour will be much increased for a considerable period.
In common with many other parts of Ireland, in the spring and summer of the past year, the Gort Union was affected with fever and dysentery; and as there was no permanent fever hospital in the Union, no effective mode of relieving poor persons suffering from these diseases was in existence. …The Relief Committee for the electoral divisions of Kinvarra and Killeenavarra were authorized and directed to provide hospital accommodation and other means of relief for the sick poor. In pursuance of such instructions the former Committee fitted up a building near Kinvarra for the purpose of an hospital to contain 50 patients; the latter, however, through a mistaken idea of economy, declined to fit up a separate institution, but with the consent of the late Board of Guardians, adopted the workhouse hospital as the fever hospital of their district, in direct violation of the express provisions of the statues, and sent all their patients thither. By this course of proceeding the (Gort) workhouse became the reservoir of contagion for the entire Union, except Kinvarra and Killeenavarra, and their hospital speedily filled.
At Kinvarra, a most impoverished district, in which fever prevails to an alarming extent, we propose to erect sheds to accomodate 100 patients, retaining the building now used as a temporary hospital for the purpose of convalescent ward after providing therein a room for the medical officer, a kitchen, washhouse and store-room.
By these arrangements, if sanctioned by the Commissioners, we hope we may be able to provide for the more destitute portion of the sick poor in this Union. If, however, the increase of contagious disease should require further accommodation, we shall be prepared to suggest the erection of temporary hospitals in other parts of the Union or the extension of those now proposed, as may seem most expedient.