“To the Memory of unnamed
Victims of Famine who died during
1845-1847 at Foy’s house and were buried here.
Leaba ar Neamh Díobh Uilig.”
(Inscription on memorial to victims of the Famine. It marks a mass grave situated behind ‘Foy’s Hill’ (Seapark House), Ballyclera, Kinvara).
By January 1848 temporary fever hospitals were established in Kinvarra and Killeenavau (G01/12/7, p28). In April 1848 the Board accepted the tender of Martin Linnane ‘for the erection of Fever sheds near Kinvarra for one hundred patients at one pound two shillings per foot lineal measurement…’ (G01/12/7, p122). The Board at this time also accepted the tender of Michael Nilan for the erection of fever sheds adjoining the Workhouse, costs divided as follows, Office sheds at £1.1.6 per foot, fever sheds including bedsteads at £1.3.6 per foot, finding and setting boilers at £1.6 pre gallon, and clothes stores £0.12.6 per foot (G01/12/7, p124).
Tuam Herald 19th April, 1862 p1
It was in the month of October, 1861, that I first visited Galway, and after crossing the bogs and barren plains which extend over the centre of Ireland, it was with surprise and admiration that we saw first the blue range of the Clare mountains, and then the bright calm bay, and far beyond it the Arran Island on the level line of the Atlantic. And my admiration increased when I reached the sunny shore and looked across the bay.
It is bounded eight or ten miles to the south by the mountains, which are low, but so barren as to resemble a pavement of granite. At their base are seen along the water’s edge the turf and seaweed boats of Newhaven and the castle and woods of Kinvara, while the herring boats of the Claddagh sail in front of the grey tall houses of Galway, and the white bathing lodges of Salthill. It is hard to believe that any who inhabit so bright a region can be poor or miserable, but a short walk into the town, or even a drive into the country dispels the illusion.
Though the outside car rattled fast along the streets, I saw hungry faces and ragged clothes and, as we passed along the road, we met frequently beggars of pitiable appearance. Sometimes there was a group of children following their parents, then a single man, ragged and weary, or an old woman who held out her hand with silent eloquence.
I threw to them a few halfpence, and looked back still on the glittering bay, and thought that there was a freshness and softness in the westerly breeze I had never felt before. We ascended a long hill and I walked along the footpath which borders the road. On that side the stone wall is lofty and well-built, enclosing for more than a mile a gentleman’s mansion and grounds, and on the opposite side the wall of mason work evidently enclosed his property. At the gap ways I could see that the country is quite devoid of trees, and divided by walls of loose stones. Here and there are cabins, single or in clusters; these too are of stone and thatched, but many had been unroofed and only the walls with their two high gable ends remain. This form of ruin is the most striking feature of the country, and sometimes the bank which surrounded the garden and field remains, with here and there one ash of the hedgerow, and a single bush in the garden.
Where are the people gone? I thought, but my attention was drawn to a feeble old man, who held out his ragged hat for alms. I asked him if he had no friends to take care of him, and he answered quite simply, “Only God and the Blessed Virgin.”
“But you must have children or relations?”
“They all went to America.”
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“Through the country,” was the answer which conveyed the idea of perfect indifference.
“Would it not be better for you at your age to go into the Poor House?”
He did not answer and I cannot describe the expression of his face, though I understood it perfectly. I gave him my last penny and he wished my honour a long life and a happy death.
Not far beyond was a whole family. The man’s dress was a heap of loose and light coloured tatters with long rents. The woman’s petticoat clung to her naked legs as though she had nothing under it.
I asked them but I forget what county they came from. They had been evicted from a farm and had lost home, land, and cattle. What could I do for them?
We drove, and I never shall forget one old man who begged of us, but I had not one penny left. He knelt down on the road and stretched out his arms as we passed, and he remained in that posture as long as I could see him.
I was glad when the drive was over, but I was not beyond the reach of beggars.
A remarkably decent, and tolerable clad old woman placed herself at the open window of the lodge and asked something for the love of God. Her cap was as white as her grey hair, and her shawl, jacket, and petticoat, though faded, were perfectly clean. I asked her if she was a native of Galway.
“I come from Athenry.”
She was above 80, her two daughters were in service somewhere in England, and one in America,and her son was gone to look for work, she did not know where – and she thought he must be dead. She had no home nor friends.
“And how do you live?” I asked.
“The people all know me for years,” she said.
“And one gives me a lodging and another potatoes, but they are black this year, and I came from Galway to see if there was a letter from America, but there is not.” She was alone in the world, she did not know who would take care of her when she was sick, nor where she would die, but she was cheerful; she was neither anxious, nor was she degraded by want. She was grateful for the trifle I gave her and I asked if she might come to me when she came again that way.
When I was alone I thought seriously over what I had seen, but I saw no way of relieving those who are reduced to this sort of destitution except by the charity of the whole population, which is inexhaustible. But what if their means should fail? And I have this day been told that there are not potatoes enough in the country to last til Christmas! Who can calculate the results of misery and perhaps starvation? Is it not possible to prevent the evil, that is, to relieve the persons of each locality according to their circumstances, either by out-door relief, as in England, or by association of St Vincent or guilds? I do not know quite enough yet, and I will visit some resident poor in the neighbourhood.
EPPI Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers on Ireland
Papers relating to proceedings for relief of distress and state of unions and workhouses in Ireland, 1848
Expenses on account Kinvarra Fever Hospital
Expenses for coffins, Kinvarra district £ 18 6s 0d
Sheds at Kinvarra, amount executed £ 140 0s 0s
To Kinvarra Hospital account £153 13s 3d
To Linane on account of sheds at Kinvarra £140 0s 0d
Irish Examiner 17th January, 1914 p.13
On Sunday morning, October 7th 1849 between six and seven o’clock, the brig St. John, Capt. Oliver, from Galway, Ireland, was wrecked on Minots Ledge, off Cohasset, Mass, and all but twelve of the Irish immigrants on board were swallowed up by the North-East storm that prevailed all that day and night before. It was one of the worst storms ever known on the coast. In all, ninety-nine men, woman and children – for there were many children – were lost in the mountainous waves that smashed the brig to pieces within fifteen minutes after she struck the ledge. Many people on shore witnessed the horror.
Most of the immigrants were in a very weak when the storm was encountered, and were in no physical condition to help themselves after the vessel struck the rocks. In Ireland they had suffered from the famine of 1848. In fact these people were flying from that famine, as had thousands of others during the previous twelve months or more. They were wasted and anaemic, and had no strength to start with, and when to this was added the misery of an ocean voyage, lasting for weeks, in a small brig, the condition of most of these people may well be imagined. Only those who had been through such experiences could fully appreciate the condition of these people when they were overtaken by the last terrible catastrophe, on the very shores of the land of hope and promise.
The news of the wreck spread quickly through the South Shore and into Boston, and crowds of people lined the shore that afternoon, Monday and Tuesday, in and fact all through the week, for the sea gave up its dead slowly. Anxious relatives and friends of those who had been drowned watched on the shore for days in hope that each incoming tide might bring ashore some of the bodies. Only twenty-seven bodies came ashore, and these were placed in rude pine boxes – two and three in some of them – and all were buried in one large grave, twenty feet broad and six feet deep, that had been dug in a corner of the little Cohasset churchyard. The scenes at that funeral were piteous, as a great many Irish people came from Boston to attend there, and among these were relatives and friends of those whose bodies had been recovered as well as of those whose bodies were never found.
But they have not been forgotten. Over that large grave in the Cohasset Cemetery the men and women of the Ancient Order of Hibernians of Massachusetts are erecting a monument to the victims of that wreck which will be unveiled and dedicated next Memorial Day.
THE HISTORY OF THE GREAT IRISH FAMINE OF 1847, WITH NOTICES OF EARLIER IRISH FAMINES.
BY THE REV. JOHN O’ROURKE, P.P., M.R.I.A.
THIRD EDITION. JAMES DUFFY AND CO., LTD., 15 WELLINGTON QUAY. Dublin
The census of 1841 shows the population of Ireland to have been in that year 8,175,124. Taking the usual ratio of births over deaths, it should have increased in 1851 to 9,018,799, instead of which it fell to 6,552,385; thus, being nearly two millions and a-half less than it should have been. These two millions and a-half disappeared in the Famine. They disappeared by death and emigration. The emigration during the ten years from 1842 to 1851, both inclusive, was 1,436,862. Subtracting this from the amount of decrease in the population, namely, 2,476,414, the remainder will be 1,039,552; which number of persons must have died of starvation and its concomitant epidemics; but even this number, great as it is, must be supplemented by the deaths which occurred among Famine emigrants, in excess of the percentage of deaths among ordinary emigrants.(Chpt XIV)
The Tablet 18th September, 1847
DEATH OF THE VERY REV. MR. QUIN, P.P.—We sincerely regret to state that another of the venerable Priesthood of Ireland has fallen a victim to that most dreadful malady, fever, and yielded up his soul into the hands of his Creator on the morning of Sunday last. The Very Rev. Mr. Quin, P.P. of Ardrahan, in this county, and one of the vicar-general of the united dioceses of Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, expired at his residence, to the inexpressible regret of his attached and now truly afflicted parishioners. Mr. Quin was an able theologian, a profound scholar, a zealous Priest, and a most charitable man. After serving religion in the capacity of curate for many years, he was appointed administrator of the mensal parish at Kinvarra, whence he was collated to Peterswell, and afterwards to Ardrahan.
South Australia, 2nd July 1847 p4 – FAMINE
IRELAND – Dublin Feb. 25th
“The country papers suggest no very agreeable prospects. In Galway, King’s and Queen’s County, and Waterford, the condition of the people is miserable, but the deaths are not so numerous as in districts less accessible to provisions. Cork announces no fresh flood of mortality, although the destitution can scarcely be said to have declined. Skull has deprived the neighbouring district of Bantry of much of its melancholy notoriety, still Bantry is in a very pitiable state, the number of deaths in the workhouse for the last fortnight being 110 out of 800 inmates. Another country town, Clonakilty, begins to prefer claims on public sympathy.
The mistress of the work-school, in which orphan children have been educated in lace work of a very superior description,and which has been encouraged by her Majesty, appeals to the public for her little ones, who, she says “are dying in awful numbers.” The lady patronesses of the locality should look to these suffering innocents.
In the city of Cork, fever now excites more apprehension than famine, and efforts are being made to provide as largely as possible for the maintenance of the public health. At a meeting of one of the relief committees a very suggestive communication was received from the firm of Messrs Johnson and Co., offering to supply Indian corn before April next at 56s the quarter, provided 1,300 or 1,500 should be required. The letter was accompanied with examples of rice, of which 23 tons were ordered at the rate of ₤22 per ton. The present price of Indian corn per quarter is nearly 80s.
STATE OF THE COUNTRY.
The evidences of the ravages which famine and fever are making throughout the country continue to be as numerous and appalling as ever. By a table published in the “Dublin Evening Post” of the burials in two cemeteries in that city, it appears that on the mortality of the month of January, 1847, there is an increase over that of the corresponding month last year of one-third on the whole mortality, while the deaths of the poor have been exactly double.
From Moycullen, county of Galway, the Roman Catholic clergyman writes:-
There are nearly four hundred human beings in-this district, consisting of widows, orphans, and aged and infirm persons, male and female, totally destitute, who derive no advantage from the relief works. Three of these poor creatures died during the last week of starvation.
The “Cork Constitution” contains a letter dated
“Drimoleague Feb. 5 – Horrors are multiplying around us daily. Collections are … to provide coffins for the men who die on the road.”
The Cork paper adds-We heard, a day or two ago, the following appalling fact:- Some of the inmates of a house in which lived nine individuals, were known to be ill – famine and fever preyed on them. The supplications for assistance ceased – the door was closed – father and child were dead! The whole family passed untended to eternity! The bodies presented a horrifying spectacle, and the people, fearful of infection, set fire to the house.
In the Cork Workhouse, a few weeks since, the average weekly mortality was about fifty; since then, it has been advancing fearfully; for while the number of deaths the week before last was about 104, this last week the number was 128 ! On Monday last there were fifty bodies in the dead house. There were last week 475 in the hospital; and the two houses contained 5782 inmates.
In the workhouse, Macroom (county Cork), constructed to accommodate six hundred paupers, there were during the last week from fourteen hundred to fifteen hundred. Mortality is frightfully on the increase-the paupers are dropping in every, part of the house. The schoolmaster has died within the last few days; the master has also died; one of the nurses is sick in fever. The deaths during the last month were in a proportion of about sixteen to one as compared with this period last year. From seventy to eighty died in the house during the month of January. On Sunday there were twenty-five persons dead in the fever hospital of the house.
The “Cork Reporter” contains the particulars of eleven more inquests in Mallow, where the verdicts were ‘death from want of food,” and gives the following deplorable account of the state of the west and south of the country :-
In Skibbereen and two adjoining parishes, there are ten thousand human beings destitute. In the words of a private letter, ‘ famine, disease, and death, are rapidly increasing. The uncoffined bodies arc carried to the in carts, and men are hired to undertake the task ; for if friends or relatives survive, they will not touch, if even they could remove, masses of putrefaction.’ In Bantry fifteen inquests were held in a single day, and twenty bodies more were lying in the neighbourhood, all dead from famine.
BODIES FLOATING IN THE BAY
In Bere, in the district of Clanlaurence, a correspondent sends us the names of eleven men who have recently perished either on the roads, or in their houses, from starvation. In the parish of Kilcaskin the very seaweeds are exhausted near the shore, and the bodies of those drowned in the attempt to wade out farther for that substitute for food have been seen floating in the bay. There were forty-four corpses, on last Monday morning, in the room allotted to the dead, at one of the Cork workhouses. Over one hundred bodies were conveyed the morning but one after, and deposited in the small burial-ground of one of our populous suburbs. The ordinary grave yard is too full to receive more coffins.
The deaths in the unions of Skibbereen and Bantry may be calculated at four hundred weekly. If a month expires before the temporary relief act is in operation, one thousand six hundred victims more, at the rate at which the poor are perishing, will have been added to the appalling catalogue of dead, in the two unions only of Bantry and Skibbereen.”
The Rev. P. Ward, P.P., Partry, says:-
It is awful to contemplate the heart-rending state of the poor people living in the mountains of Partry. Five have died within the last six days of hunger. Famine is working its awful strides of desolation. Fever and pestilence beginning to rage in every village.
The Freeman’s Journal (Sydney, NSW: 1850-1932) Saturday 21 April, 1883
‘QUIET AND HOPELESS STARVATION’ IN COUNTY GALWAY’
The special correspondent to the FREEMAN’s JOURNAL, writing from Kinvara regarding the distress in County Galway, says:-
I have spent and entire day in visiting the houses of the inhabitants of the village itself and of the people dwelling in the surrounding townland, and have seen some harrowing spectacles which I shall never forget. To exaggerate the miseries of the poor about Kinvara would be impossible, and to underrate their sufferings would be simply criminal. Though I had seen many frightful scenes in Clare, there was nothing to what I have witnessed here. The gaunt spectre of famine has not only come knocking at the door of many poor families in the town and neighbourhood, but has actually forced an entrance, has stared them in the face and taken bodily possession of them.
Kinvara is a village of about 500 inhabitants.
It is built upon the shores of Galway Bay, and at one time was a comparatively thriving little place. A pier was erected there in 1843 at the expense of the county, which as since passed into the hands of the local landlord, Mr. F. O’Donnell Blake Forster. The fishermen of Kinvara are either starving or on the threshold of starvation. One of them, whom I visited in his wretched cabin, informed me that he had not done anything at his trade for the last six months. One of his children died, it is feared, though (sic.) want of proper food and nourishment. The others are in a miserable state of hunger and neglect. There was not a particle of fire in the house. Indeed, the scarcity of fuel in the district is terrible. This case is not exceptional – the entire fishing population of the place are in the same state of wretchedness. As the dispensary doctor of the district remarked, “the people here are the poorest wretches on the face of God’s earth.”
In the centre of the town there are cases of quiet and hopeless starvation. I may quote the medical authority I have just referred to on the subject. He is of opinion that many of the cases of typhoid fever which have occurred in Kinvara of late are certainly due to the want of sufficient food and to the scarcity of good drinking water. The only possible way of procuring pure water would be by conveying the water that runs down from the surrounding mountains into the village by means of pipes. This and the improvement of the harbour would be works of an eminently beneficial character. The dwellings of the people in the place are even more hideous than the worst species of hovels I ever saw in the County Clare. Until my arrival in Kinvara I had not seen unfortunate people living in roofless ruins, which in other places would certainly be deserted. During the great storm on last October the roofs were swept off a number of wretched shanties in the village, but the miserable occupants, having no other shelter, had to remain in their unroofed hovels. I found a man of 90 and his wife – two helpless, shivering old creatures – seated on the floor of their cabin, whose roof, having been completely removed, had been replaced by a few old boards. In another case a man on whose head the cabin fell down during the storm had to retreat “for dear life” into a neighbour’s dwelling, and his wife died through sheer want of the necessaries of live. The parish priest, the Rev Father Molony, told me that he was eagerly looking forward to a visit from some representative of the press who would fairly describe the miseries of his ill-fated parishioners. I fear I cannot draw a sufficiently accurate picture of the distress which unquestionable prevails in the neighbourhood but the facts which I collected cannot fail to impress all impartial and humane persons with the conviction that starvation is already doing its fell work on the shores of Galway Bay.
Decline in population 1841–51 (%)
Source: Joe Lee, The Modernisation of Irish Society (Gill History of Ireland Series No.10) p. 2 (Wikipedia.org)
Monmouth Merlin 25th March 1856
The following report is extracted from the Clare Journal, which came to hand this morning:-
“An unusually fine season has enabled the farmers to push forward agricultural operations with a vigour almost unprecedented. Advantage has been taken of the time which Providence has placed at their disposal to devote a greater breadth of ground to tillage than has been the case for many years past. We before alluded to the extensive sowing of wheat, and impetus being given to its culture by the late high prices. The sowing of oats has been proceeded with unusually early, and their crop will be deteriorated in consequence. All fears respecting the safety of the potatoe (s9c.) crop appear to have vanished, or the old love of our national esculten has prevailed over the doubts if any remained, for as great an acreage has been planted this year as there was previous to 1847. For sever succeeding Saturdays hundreds of cars have come from the westward of the county into Ennis for seed, and the quantity of potatoes that has changed hands is almost fabulous.
An enormous stock yet remains on hand, and we are aiding the home growth with large quantities from Gort and Kinvarra, where the price is some 20 per cent lower than Ennis. The prospect of peace has rendered the demand for fat cattle dull, and great confidence is exhibited in the results of the auctions of fat stock coming on during the ensuing fortnight. Pigs are, from some reason or another, unusually high at the present time. Labour is scarce and the rate of wages high. Altogether there is every reason to congratulate the agriculturists upon their prosperity and the country upon a reasonable prospect of abundant food.
Below are excerpts from Gort Poor Law Union Archive Collection
1844 – 1921 – A Descriptive List Prepared by Galway County Council Archives
By January 1848 temporary fever hospitals were established in Kinvarra and Killeenavau (G01/12/7, p28). In April 1848 the Board accepted the tender of Martin Linnane ‘for the erection of Fever sheds near Kinvarra for one hundred patients at one pound two shillings per foot lineal measurement…’
An Inquiry was held in 8 April 1887 into an Improvement Scheme for the proposed erection of 50 cottages. Only 10 were approved, 4 for which were to be built in Kinvarra (G01/12/79, p263). However, in July 1887 the Receiver over the Blake Forester Estate declined to give his consent to the erection of the cottages on the sites selected in Kinvarra (G01/12/79, p527). There was little progress in the matter prior to the transfer of the housing function to the newly established Rural District Councils in 189911. p XIX
Letter 21st April 1848 from Mr S. George of Tyrone, agreeing to let the House near Kinvarra now used as a Temporary Fever hospital and about 30 perches of land adjoining same for the purpose of erecting Fever sheds thereon, and a portion of detached land about a quarter of an acre in extent to be used as a cemetery for the Hospital at the rate of forty-five pounds a year free of all charges to be taken for three years certain, and for such further period as the same may be required’ (p130).
1850 Letter from Central Board of Health 15th December stating that they will take the necessary steps for closing the Kinvarra hospital and Ardrahan Dispensary and they are gratified to find their views have meet the wishes of the Board of Guardians’ (p106).
31 October 1853 – 3 April 1954 Originally in poor condition, repaired in 2009
‘Letter from the Poor Law Commissioners ….in reference to the preceding of the
Board of Guardians on the 19th ultimo, stating that they have again had under
their consideration the financial condition of the Kinvarra Electoral division
together with the representations which have been made on behalf of the rate
payers and stating that they are willing to recommend assistance from the Rate
in Aid Fund to the extent of £200 in emigrating females of the workhouse
chargeable to Kinvarra Electoral Division if eligible persons can be selected’
78. 17 July 1886 – 22 January 1887 – p35
‘Resolved – that the attention of the Co. Surveyor be called to the filthy condition of the streets of the towns of Gort and Kinvarra, and to the fact that the Road Contractors do not properly discharge their duties. The Guardians feel surprised that after the recent visit of the co. Surveyor there is no improvement. They particularly request attention to the condition of the street between Kinvarra Quay and John Holland’s house’ (p415).
81. 22 September 1888 – 5 October 1889
– ‘…strongly condemn the systems of Jury packing in Ireland whose principal champion is “Peter the Packer”; for in every case innocent victims are sacrificed to long terms of imprisonment. That we sincerely sympathise with the four young men who were convicted at the late Wicklow Assizes …of charges of which we believe them to be innocent’ (p119).
‘The Medical Officer of Kinvarra District reported that the town of Kinvarra is at present in a filthy state, owing to heaps of manure being allowed to remain in several parts of the town which polute (sic) the air and are highly dangerous to the health of the inhabitants’ (p157).
‘…place on record our indignant protest against the savage and inhuman treatment the high souled and patriotic William O’Brien, the idol of the Irish race at home and abroad is subjected to in Clonmel Goal at the hands of the mendacious Balfour and his vile and brutal jailers. We emphatically assert that in no other civilised nation could a political opponent of William O’Brien position amongst his county-men be so spitefully and barbarously treated…’
82. 19 October 1889 – 31 October 1891
‘Request the Local Government Board to state whether the Sisters of Mercy at Kinvarra are liable for Poor Rates and arrears amounting to £1.12.9 due off their Convent, the valuation of which is £2.12’ (p298).
92. 21 November 1908 – 23 October 1909
‘That we the Gort Board of Guardians respectfully request the Galway County Council to cancel the irrecoverable rates furnished by our Collectors for years 1907 and 1908 and due by parties in occupation of buildings in the towns of Gort and Kinvara, who have no means and some of whom are in receipt of outdoor relief and old age pensions’ (p331).
A number of hands are employed in clearing the site of the New Munster College in Cork. The work itself will be immediately commenced, which will afford employment to a great number. It is rather remarkable that works of a reproductive character exist only in name. In seventy-seven baronial meetings, portions of the presentments were taken for drainage, but in not half-a-dozen instances have the promised works been carried into effect. In Wexford, where the largest sums were taken for drainage, not a proprietor, I understand, is fulfilling his contract with the public distress. In many districts, the baronies have been again convoked, to employ the destitution which it was calculated drainage would absorb.
The Central Relief Committee has exhausted its funds, after having accomplished much good. At the meeting of the committee, yesterday, the Archbishop of Derry in the chair, the following resolution was adopted:
That as a consequence the almost decimated state of our funds, we deem it imprudent to make any further grants for the present. We are obliged to come to this resolution with the utmost reluctance, more especially as, from the tenor of the query sheets that lie before us for consideration, there appears to be a very formidable increase of destitution ia all parts o’ Ireland.
DEATH FROM STARVATION.
We deeply regret to state that, on Saturday night fast, a poor man, a stranger, who, it is supposed, was making his way to this town in search of employment, fell from his feet and expired, on the Crumlin Road, near Ardoyne. Judging from his emaciated appearance and scanty clothing, there can be little doubt that cold and hunger produced death.