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.
Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser
3rd October, 1851 (abridged)
The Boards of Guardians of the different Unions persist in their refusal to make rates for the repayment of the Government advances. Among the repudiators whose proceedings are recorded this week, are the Guardians of the Galway and Clare Unions and a meeting has been called of deputies from all the Unions in the province of Munster, with a view to oppose the demand of the Government.
The Dublin correspondent of the ‘Daily Chronicle” states that reports fiom Donegal, Kerry, Galway, and Connemara disclose that thousands are suffering distress owing to a food and fuel famine due to torrential rain and floods during recent months. The conditions are likened to the potato famines in 1847 and 1879.
Several deaths have occurred, and outbreaks of fever are reported from more than one district. The potato crops have failed. The fact that the lrish have found little employment in England and Scotland during the last harvest adds to the distress. A relief fund has been opened, and the local Government is distributing coal and food. The Free State Government has allocated £250,000 for relief works.
The Sydney Monitor 8th October, 1831 p4 (abridged)
I had just closed this article when a friend sent me, at my request, an account of the import of foods from Ireland up to the 1st day of June. It is imperfect because it only gives an account of the imports in London and Liverpool, leaving out Bristol, Glasgow and several other places. It is imperfect in that it does not include bacon and live animals, nor poultry nor eggs.
However, such as it is – here is the account of the imports of the first months of this year of famine in Ireland;
98, 555 Quarters of Wheat
311,848 Quarters of Oats
10,098 “ “ Barley
540 “ Rye
1,556 ” Beans
941 “ Peas
5,880 “ Malt
69,510 Loads of Meal
45,398 Sacks of Flour
12,605 Tierces of Beef
1,408 Barrels of Beef
20,088 Tierces of Pork
13,427 Barrels of Pork
149,639 Firkins of Butter
It is in Galway that the actual starvation is raging most, where the poor creatures cannot get a handful of meal to boil up with the nettles and seaweed! They cannot get a handful of the meal of oats to prevent their souls from leaving their bodies and it is certified that in one small parish eight persons died within a short period from starvation only.
Yesterday – six hundred and eight tons of oats – that is to say – one million, three hundred and thirty four thousands pounds weight of oats arrived in London only – from Galway.
The oats came in five vessels, the Union, the John Guisa, the Charlotte, the lively and the Victory.
Published in 18th–19th – Century
History, Features, Issue 1 (Spring 1996), The Famine, Volume 4 (abridged)
In December 1846, the board of health in Drumkeeran, County Leitrim, resolved to hire a house for use as a fever hospital, there being no such institution within a radius of eighteen miles. The proposal caused ‘inconceivable alarm’ in the town. Sixty-two of the residents, including merchants, shopkeepers, tradesmen, labourers, publicans, and householders, as well as Pat Gallaher, the schoolmaster, addressed a memorial to the Lord Lieutenant, objecting to the establishment of a fever hospital in the centre of the town. They stated that they were not so much opposed to the institution, as to its location.
A rather similar appeal was made by the residents of Kinvarra, County Galway, in July 1847. They claimed that the imminent opening of a fever hospital in the town placed their lives and those of their families in ‘the greatest peril’. They argued that the chosen site was too close to the town, that it either adjoined or was within eight feet of a range of houses occupied by some 300 individuals and was no more than sixty yards from the town centre.
IMPORT OF PROVISIONS.
THE following arrivals have been entered in the Custom
House since our last publication :
–per Ajax Steamer from London – 209 bags biscuit
Timandra from Cavilla – 2250 quarters Indian Corn
Kate from Galatz – 1300 quarters Indian Corn
Marchioness of Bute – 1300 quarters Indian Corn
Tito from Salonica – 1500 quarters Indian Corn
Minerva Steamer from Liverpool – 355 bags Rice 10 packages Flour
Lima from New Orleans for
Soc. of Friends’ Poor Relief
Committee – 361 barrels Flour
– 598 barrels Indian Corn Meal
– 16 barrels Beans, 6 barrels Pork ; per do.
Consul – 4818 sacks Indian Corn, 42 sacks Wheat
– 25 barrels Flour
– 42 barrels Corn Meal
– 2 barrels Beans
– 2 barrels Beef, 26 sacks Peas
Ballinacurra Lass from
Malta – 890 quarters Indian Corn
Lucinda Jane from
Liverpool – 3500 bushels Indian Corn.
EXPORT OF PROVISIONS.
SINCE our last :-
per Ajax steamer for London – 202 firkins Butter,
– 73 bales Bacon
– 12 casks Hams
– 254 sacks Wheat
– 50 barrels Indian Meal
– 656 sheep
– 33 calves
– 300 boxes eggs
– 50 head cattle
– 90 boxes salmon
Nancy Browne for Newport – 76 head cattle,
Wanderer for New Passage – 230 sheep
William for Newport – 340 sheep
Brothers for Newport – 100 head cattle – 60 sheep
Shannon, for New Passage – 240 sheep, 80 head cattle
Jane and Mary Anne,
for Newport – 110 sheep, 60 head cattle
Nonpareil for Newport – 300 sheep.
William Bennett, Narrative of a Recent Journey of Six Weeks in Ireland. London: C. Gilpin, 1847, pp. 25-9.
We spent the whole morning visiting these hovels, followed by an ever increasing group of wretched creatures, who begged for help. We avoided houses known to contain the fever. Some were easily identifiable by the small coming from them.
And now language utterly fails me in attempting to depict the state of the wretched inmates. I would not willingly share the harrowing details; but these are the FACTS as they stand. It is our responsibility as Christians, in a Christian land, under a Christian Government to take note.
My hand trembles while I write. The scenes of human misery and degradation we witnessed haunt my imagination, with the vividness and power of some horrid and tyrannous delusion, rather than the features of a sober reality.
We entered a cabin.
Stretched in one dark corner, scarcely visible, from the smoke and rags that covered them, were three children. They huddled together, too weak to rise, pale and ghastly, their little limbs perfectly emaciated. Their eyes were sunken, voices gone, evidently in the last stage of starvation.
Crouched over the turf embers was another form, all but naked. It stirred not, nor noticed us.
On some wet straw, strewn on the floor lay a shrivelled old woman. She moaned piteously, imploring us to give her something. Above her, on something like a ledge, was a young woman, with sunken cheeks. A mother I have no doubt. She scarcely raised her eyes in answer to our enquiries, but pressed her hand upon her forehead, with a look of unutterable anguish and despair.
Many cases were widows, whose husbands had recently been taken off by the fever. The only source of income for these women died with their partners. In other homes the husbands or sons were prostrate, under that horrid disease. Their suffering was the result of long-continued famine and low living, in which first the limbs, then the body, swell most frightfully, and finally burst.
We entered upwards of fifty of these tenements. The only difference between them was the number of the sufferers within. It was difficult to count them until-the eye adapted itself to the darkness, or they were pointed out, or were heard, or some filthy bundle of rags and straw was perceived to move.
The children were the most heart-rending spectacle. Many were too weak to stand, their little limbs attenuated, – except where the frightful swellings had taken the place of previous emaciation.
The childlike expression had left their faces. Many of them were remnants of families, crowded together in one cabin; orphaned little relatives taken in by the equally destitute, and even strangers.
These poor people are kind to one another to the end.
In one cabin was a sister, just dying, lying by the side of her little brother, just dead.
I have worse than this to relate, but it is useless to multiply details, and they are, in fact, unfit.
These people hardly complained. When I asked what was the matter, the answer was the same -‘Tha shein ukrosh,’ – ‘we are hungry’. We truly learned the terrible meaning of that sad word ‘ukrosh’.
My friend the clergyman distributed tickets for meal as best he could. He told me that wherever we went it would be the same. All over the country. Even worse in the far off mountain districts. We had visited near the town, where some relief could reach. It was my full impression that one-fourth of those we saw were dying. They were beyond the reach of any relief. Many more would follow.
This day can never be effaced from my memory.
These were our fellow-creatures.
Children of the same Parent.
Born with our common feelings and affections.
With an equal right to live as any one of us.
With the same purposes of existence.
The same spiritual and immortal natures.
The same work to be done.
The same judgment-seat to be summoned to.
And the same eternal goal.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamnacha.
We remember them. At the rising of the sun and at its going down, we remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and the chill of winter, we remember them. At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer, we remember them. At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them. When we have joy we crave to share, we remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make, we remember them. When we have achievements that are based on theirs, we remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.