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The West’s awake – 1848

The Daily Crescent, 7th September, 1848 p1

Photo:Awesomoman Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The west of County Clare, including Kilrush, Kilkee, Carrigaholt and Baltard was instantaneously lighted up on Thursday night with signal fires, which flashed from every eminence and illuminated the horizon as far as the brightest eye could discern an object. The exact cause of this telegraphic manifestation, which was responded to from Cape Clear to Moher Cliffs, in a space of time incredibly short, is all conjecture.

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Ireland to Montreal – 1859

Freeman’s Journal 30th December, 1859 p.3

Photo: douaireg Wikimedia Commons

It will be in the recollection of many of our readers that during the famine years of 1847 and 1848 there was an unusual emigration from Ireland to Canada and the United States. Numbers of those who thus left their native land expired from ship fever, caused by utter exhaustion, before they reached the American continent; others only arrived there to die of that fatal disease. The Canadian government made very extensive efforts to save the lives of the poor emigrants. A large proportion were spared, but at Montreal, where the government erected temporary hospitals on a gigantic scale, upwards of 6,000 of these poor emigrant people expired. Their remains were interred close to the hospitals, at a spot that is now mainly covered with railway buildings, and in close proximity to the point whence the Victoria bridge projects into the St. Lawrence. All traces of the sad events of that disastrous period would have been obliterated but for the warm and reverential impulse of Mr. James Hodges, the engineer and representative of Messrs. Peto, Brassey and Betts, in Canada. Through his instrumentality and by his encouragement the workmen at the bridge came to the determination, infinitely to their honour, of erecting a monument on the spot where the poor Irish emigrants were interned. An enormous granite boulder, or a rough conical shape, weighing 30 tons, was dug up in the vicinity, and on the 1st instant it was placed on a base of cut stone masonry twelve feet square by six feet high. The stone bears the following inscription:

To preserve from desecration the remains of 6,000 emigrants who died from ship fever in 1847 and 1848, this monument is erected by workmen in the employment of Messrs Peto, Brassey, and Betts, engaged in the construction of the Victoria Bridge, 1859.

Several addresses were delivered on the occasion, and in the course of that made by the Bishop of Montreal he alluded in feeling terms to the many good deeds for which the name of his friend, Mr. James Hodges, will be gratefully remembered in Canada, the last of which was the event they were then commemorating. Thanks to him, the plot of ground on which the memorial is raised is set apart forever; so that the remains of the poor emigrants lying interred there will henceforward be preserved from all or any irreverent usage.

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Kinvara – 1848

Papers relating to proceedings for relief of distress, and state of unions and workhouses in Ireland, 1848

cresswell archive
Photo: Cresswell Archives

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.
p 930
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.

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The Claddagh – 1848

Irish Examiner 17th July, 1848 p3

The Claddagh Photo: Joe Desbonnet Wikimedia Commons

That singular body of men, the Claddagh fishermen, have signified their approval of the Royal Irish Fishery Company, and are ready to work for them, thus increasing the number of men who will be employed by the company from the Killeries to the Kenmare River to upwards of 8,100. The oldest fisherman of Dingle: Flaherty, who has been latterly employed as pilot on board of her majesty’s Steam Frigates on the West Coast, and in that capacity surveyed the new fishing bank on board of the Rhadamanthus, has taken shares in the company.

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Tuam Herald 1st January, 1848 p.2

Foy's hill Fever Hospital Kinvara, Photo: Norma Scheibe
Foy’s hill Fever Hospital
Photo: Norma Scheibe

It is today our melancholy duty to record the deaths of four of our medical friends, who, within a few days, have been sacrificed to fever, with which they were afflicted during the discharge of their professional duties:-
On the 23rd inst. Doctor George Seymour, Surgeon to the Kilconnell Dispensary;
On the 24th inst. Doctor Charles Donnellan, of Winterfield, Medical Attendant to the Annadown Dispensary;
On the 25th inst. Francis Bodkin Esq., for many years Apothecary to the Clifden Poor House;
On the 26th inst. Doctor Edward Lambert, of Oranmore, a gentleman much beloved, leaving a widow, with a young and interesting family, to deplore his loss.

Independent of the above, we are sorry to add that serious apprehensions are entertained for the recovery of Dr. Mulville of Gort, and Dr. Hynes, of Kinvarra.
Galway Vindicator

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Greene’s Hotel, Kinvara

Connacht Tribune 6th June 1975 p.29 (abridged)FREEN
After speaking at “The Crane”, Kinvara Maud Gonne McBride and Mary McSwiney came to the Greene’s hotel for refreshments. Apart from Dun Guaire, it is said to be both the oldest house and the oldest hostelry in Kinvara. Sean McBride stayed there for two weeks when trying to found the Clann na Poblachta Party. Michael Davitt addressed his Kinvara supporters from an upstairs window in the hotal.

Another caller was Patsy Conry (Padraic O Conaire) whose Asal Beag Dubh had Kinvara associations.  In 1848 John Dillon escaped capture via the Quay, Kinvara, steered by John Holland from Kinvara.

Nearby is a large warehouse which was once owned by Persse’s of Galway for storing their whiskey. John Greene remembers Baron de Basterot’s young son in Duras House. The locals persuaded the young lad to try standing “on his head” and while some praised him for his efforts, others made off with the coins that fell from his pockets. Across from Greene’s hotel is an old parish church and graves, one with a curious inscription:
James O’Farrell lies under this stone,
Pray for him ye Christians
To sin he was prone.

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The Cuckoo – 1848

Tuam Herald 13th May, 1848 p.4

Cuckoo Photo: Aviceda Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Aviceda
Wikimedia Commons

A Cuckoo shoots across my path,
Well pleased I mark its arrowy flight,
And see it reach the neighbouring rath,
And on an aged thorn alight.

In haste I turn my dexter car,
To catch the luck-portending sound;
And fancy, as those notes I hear,
‘Tis fairy music from yea mound.

Such airy, softly plaintive tones,
Did echo breath, with love forlorn,
While pining to a shade, her moans,
Were on the mountain breezes borne.

On such soft notes mine ear has hung
At dewy eve – soul-soothing hour!
When haply viewless Bards have strung
Their harp AEolian near my bower.

Mysterious bird! where has thou been
Since last I heard thy mellow cooing?
Say in what far distant scene
Hast thou been the echo wooing?

Didst thou to Grecian nations rove
Fair lands of arts and posey
To woo the secrets of the dove,
That keeps the Delphic mystery?

Or Egypt has thou visited,
Cradle of mythologic lore;
And from her lovely Pyramid
Thy lonely descent didst thou pour?

Or far as Araby, the best
Did thy unwearied wing aspire,
To see the Phoenix on her next,
Kindle the renovating fire?

Or has thy winter all been given
To slumber, in some mossy cell:
One of the feathered sleepers, seven,
Entranced, as if by magic spell?

I hail thee Phoenix of our year!
For at thy coming nature’s womb
Revives, and all her charms appear
Arrayed in renovated bloom.

I hail thee o’er the woodland ranging,
Chasing thy mate from tree to tree:
And with thy mellow pipe unchanging,
Swelling the Sylvan minstrelsy

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Collecting the Rates – Kinvarra, Doorus – 1848

The British Colonist 12th December, 1848 p2

Population of Ireland and Europe 1750 to 2005CC BY-SA 3.0 Ben Moore - Own work Wikimedia Commons
Population of Ireland and Europe 1750 to 2005CC BY-SA 3.0
Ben Moore – Own work
Wikimedia Commons


The Limerick Chronicle of yesterday contains the following extract of a letter from Kinvarra.
“On Tuesday morning, at eight o’clock a large military force, about 300 strong, of cavalry and infantry, including 4th Light Dragoons, 69th and 89th detachments, under Colonel Sir Michael Creagh, with 56 of the constabulary under Mr Macmahon, S.I., accompanied by two stipendiary magistrates, Messrs Davys and Kelly, marched from here to the district of Kinvarra and Doorus, where the collection of poor rates was successfully resisted on a former occasion.

On arrival at Doorus this force was joined by 100 rank and file of the 68th under Major Smith and officers from Galway. Having crossed the bay in man-of-war boats, the entire party then traversed the county in different directions for eight or nine hours, presenting a formidable array, and meeting with no resistance or obstruction while the poor rate collector and his men were busily engaged collecting the rates, and received a large sum, although the doors in almost every village and hamlet were closed: however all who could pay, paid their rates, and the people themselves had removed the barricades some days before.

About thirty of the principals concerned in the former riots have been arrested by the police and lodged in Gort Bridewell.

On Monday last the military and constabulary were again out collecting poor rates, under Sir Michael Creagh, accompanied by two resident magistrates, and after traversing a considerable extent of barren country and visiting many a desolate village, the troops returned to Gort, having experienced no resistance.”
Dublin, Wednesday evening.


The Poor Rate was a form of taxation arising from the Irish Poor Law enacted by the British Government in 1837.

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Gort – 1848


"Late blight on potato leaf 2" by Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, United States - Wikimedia Commons -
“Late blight on potato leaf 2” by Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, United States – Wikimedia Commons –

THE Argus 26th December 1848 p4

From Gort, in Galway, about July 29, the reports were favourable, but recent returns show that on the 6th August a general failure of the crop was anticipated, the fields were black, but at that time it had not generally destroyed the Potato; on the 10th, however, matters were much worse, and opinions were entertained that it would be desirable to consume what Potatoes were sound, while they remained so, “for the blight was extending.”

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The escape of J.B. Dillon – via Kinvara – 1848

John Blake Dillon
John Blake Dillon

The Armagh Guardian 11th December, 1848  CMSIED 9311447 (abridged)

A correspondent sends the following particulars relative to the escape of Mr. J. B. Dillon from the western shores of Clare. –

“It will be in the recollection of your readers, that when six of the most prominent leaders in the late insurrection held a ‘council of war’ in the house of a farmer on the borders of Kilkenny one of the most distinguished of the party differed from the rest as to the means to be had recourse to for the achievement of Ireland’s independence. The Council, I am told, broke up without any settled plan for the guidance of the leaders and each of the party went in a different direction, distracted and almost broken-hearted.
By accident, it is stated, four of them met again at Ballingarry on the late memorable occasion, and among the number was Mr. J. B. Dillon. This young gentleman was much attached to Smith O’Brien, and was resolved to follow his fortunes, come weal or woe. He kept with him as long as he saw the least chance of success, but after the affair at Farrinrory he despaired, and resolved on an escape to some other land. He parted in sadness from his companions. The words uttered were few, but looks told the struggle in each man’s bosom.

Mr. Dillon arrayed himself in the usual costume of the clerical order, and with cloak and breviary set out for the shores of Clare.  He travelled through the Country, never evading police stations, but, on the contrary, lodging near the police barracks.  He pushed on his way through all obstacles – detectives and police – until he arrived at the mineral waters of Lisdoonvarna, where he remained for some days, mixing with the visitors, joining in their recreations,and drinking the waters occasionally ‘for the good of his health’. He passed the policemen daily – conversed with them, and preached to some in an edifying manner.  He lived in this manner for some days, until he was scented out by a keen detective, when he got a hint from some friend, took it, and broke fresh ground.

He next put up at Ballyvaughan whence he shifted himself on to Kinvara. Here he spent some days, and thence proceeded to the island of Aran, where a friendly vessel awaited, and bore him safely away from his enemies to the
shores of America.”