History - "The Annals"
A his. of Ireland from B.C. 1762 - A.D. 1616; compiled from June 22, 1632 - Aug. 10, 1636. It was compiled by 4 scholars, of whom 3 were O'Clerys & belonged to a family in which historical scholarship was an hereditary profession. The 4 th, Ferfeasa O'Mulconry, was a Connaught man, also an "ollave," or accredited scholar. The book was written at the request of Fergal O'Gara, Lord of Coolavin in Sligo; the O'Donnells would have been the natural patrons of such a work done in the Abbey of their foundation, but by 1630 there was no representation of the O'Donnells in Tyrconnell.
The chief of the four was Teague O'Clery of the Mountain...The O'Clerys were a tribe whom the de Burgos drove out of Connaught when they settled there & became Bourkes. The O'Clery sept[?] scattered; after awhile an O'Clery came into Tyrconnell & settled there. O'Donnell's hereditary ollave was without a son; so he gave his daughter to O'Clery on condition that their son should be bred an ollave. The O'Donnells gave them land in Kilbarron near Ballyshannon, and they built a castle there. Teague O'Clery was born in 1575, became a lay brother of the Franciscan Order & entered the Irish convent of Louvain.
- Stephen Gwynne, Highways & Byways of Donegal & Antrim, p. 30 (M. Lib.)
The monastery was completed by Hugh O'Donnell & his wife [F?]ingalla, a lady of the O'Brien house of Thomond, in 1474; a Franciscan monastery which Nuala O'Donnell, another pious lady, had already founded.
- Ibid., p. 45
"At this time (the time of the Armada) in Donegal Abbey there were 'forty priests vestments with all their belongings; many of them of cloth of gold & silver, some of them interwoven & wrought with gold ornaments; all the rest were of silk. We had, moreover, 16 chalices, all but 2 of them gilt.'"
- Ibid., p. 57
History - and Character of the People
(1888) "To anyone who wishes to see Ireland least affected by outside influences, Donegal should have prior claim... There is the strongest element of the 'mere Irish' in the people, & in their habits of life."
"The word (Donegal) is Irish, and means Dun-nan-Gal - ' the fort of the stranger,' and the name is comparatively modern. In ancient days this region was known as Tyrconnell, that is, the land of Connell, a son of Nial of the Nine Hostages."
"In 1585 Sir John Perrott, the Lord Deputy, divided Ulster into counties, decreeing that Tyrconnell should be known as Donegal." This policy was resisted by Hugh O'Donnell, head of the Sept, & his son Hugh Roe. The latter was captured by the English & held prisoner in Dublin castle. He made a final escape in 1592 & assumed headship of the Sept. Resisting the English, he defeated them at Ballyshannon in 1597, & at Yellowford in 1598. Betrayed by his brother-in-law, he fled to Spain for help. The help was promised by Phillip III but never materialized. He died & was buried in the Cathedral of Valladolid in 1602.
The O'Donnell Castle. The original structure [was] built by Hugh O'D. who was ruling in 1505. Nothing of this remains. The present castle was built on the old foundations by Sir Basil Brooke in 1610.
The Monastery at Donegal was ruined by fire when it was attacked in 1474 ( 1574?) by Hugh Roe, as it was being held by his traitorous brother-in-law, Nial Garv. A few years later the Friars returned & built themselves cottages among the ruins, & it was in these cottages that the "Annals of the Four Masters" was compiled, which closes with 1616.
The Donegal Peasantry - "They are a fine, sturdy race, well-made & seemingly well-fed. They are self-reliant, not forward to make advances, but responsive if advances are made to them. Although they are as poor as poor can be, they all looked respectable; a word which implies much, since a man who is worthy of respect must first respect himself."
- Richard Lovett, Irish Pictures (1888), in chapt. on Donegal (Mil. Lib.)
History - Early
As far back as we know, Donegal - Dun-na-gal, the fort of the foreigners - was the seat of the O'Donnells.
- Stephen Gwynne
"Donegal is mentioned in several of our annals & always as Dun-na-nGall, the fortress of the foreigners. These foreigners must have been Danes, and the name was no doubt applied to an earthen Dun occupied by them before the 12 th cent., for we have direct testimony that they had a settlement there at an early date, & the name is older than the Anglo-Norman invasion. There is an ancient Irish poem written in the 10 th cent. by the Tyrconnellian bard Flann Mac Lonan in which it is stated that Egnahan, the father of Donnel, from whom the O'Donnells derive their name, gave his three beautiful daughters, Duvlin, Bebua, & Bebinn, in marriage to 3 Danish princes, Caithis, Torges, & Tor, with the object of obtaining their friendship, & to secure his territory from their depredations; & the marriages were celebrated at Donegal, where Egnahan resided. But though we have this evidence that a fort existed there from a very remote time, it is pretty certain that a castle was not erected there by the O'Donnells till the year 1474.
The Annals of Ulster relate that the Danish fortress was burned in 1159."
- P. W. Joyce, Irish Names of Places
(1901), p. 97-981
From a survey in the years 1618 & 1617 of the Lands & Settlements (plantation of James I) -
"The County of Donegal, or Tyrconnell:
The Co. of Donegal belonged to the noble house of O'Donnell. The secondary chiefs
were O'Dogherty, MacSweeney Doe, MacSweeney Faniad, O'Gallagher, & O'Clery."
The original patentee was Lady Brombe.
In possession in 1619 was Captain Thomas Dutton
- [both] of the Rosses; 2,000 acres
- Sherlock, The Case for Ireland, p. 98
History - Still Visible
All Donegal is hedged about with ancient things; beyond Carrich the Celtic crosses & site of Glencohumbkille (glen of St. Columcille's church), which still (1955) honors its patron with a pilgrimage on June 9 th; at Gartan, the birthplace of the same saint; at Teelin, another famous pilgrim station; so too at Doon Well.
- D. D. C. Pochin Mould, The Mountains of Ireland
, p. 57 (Mil. Lib.)2
"Ruins of ecclesiastical structures, and of structures of ages far more remote, are to be encountered in every locality; places are pointed out where sea-kings entered, and others where Druids held their most solemn rights. Every spot has some tradition, there is scarcely a mile without a legend; and as the district is more primitive than any other portion of Ireland - the people adhering pertinaciously to their ancient language & their old customs - the county is immensely rich in stores for the antiquary, the historian, and the writer of fiction. Here, until of late years, the illicit distiller carried on his trade without the remotest dread of interruption...and the coast from Moville round to Killybegs was famous for all that was rude, uncultivated, and lawless."
- Halls, Vol. III, p. 237
The long, rectangular house was sanctioned by custom & preserved by superstition; a house, to be "lucky," must not be more than one room wide. "Widen the house," I have heard it said in Donegal, "and the family will get smaller."
- E. Estyn Evans, I. Folkways, p. 41
The houses in Donegal were thatched & the thatch held down with stones on the end of ropes. Rye is especially grown for thatch, & sometimes flax in Donegal.
From Otways 1841 Skeletres in Erris & Tyrawly -
"All the family lay together in one bed, & if visitors came in the evening, they too slept with them, for they set no bounds to their hospitality... Heath or bent brushes were spread across the floor, to a length sufficient for the number present, & in breadth about 6 feet; over this litter the mistress of the house laid part of a long plaid or blanket, on which the others, having stripped off their clothes, lay down as fast as they could; men & women together all naked; then the mistress, having drawn the rest of the blanket over them, lay down herself also. This they call a thorough-bed."
The disposition of the furniture in the house was fixed by long custom, & varied little throughout the country... In fact only by adhering to strict formula could the family & all the belongings be fitted into a single room, & the whole space in front of the fire was kept open. This was for the bulk of the peasant population the sleeping-place."
Long custom as well as wretched poverty explains the statement made by Patrick McKye of a Donegal parish in 1837: "Nor can any of them afford a second bed, but whole families of sons & daughters of mature age indiscriminately lie together all in the bare buff." In some cabins there was a wall-bed built into an overshot sticking out from the outside wall.
The houses as described in the 19 th cent. had no table, and there are still to be seen (1957) in Donegal, for instance, houses where there is no kitchen table. At mealtimes the family sit around a shallow potato basket resting on the circle of knees. The tables were low & hung against the wall when not in use. Table chairs unnecessary, long, low, narrow stools or 3-legged "creepies" were used, & the children squatted on the floor. In Ireland, as throughout Atlantic Europe, the dresser ranks as the most important & elaborate piece of furniture in the kitchen. It stands against the wall. The favorite fireside seat was the creepie, a 3-legged stool, finding a firm hold no matter how uneven the floor.
Immediately in front of the house is the traditional location of the dungheap. It was commented upon by nearly every 19 th cent. traveler. In 1837 a schoolteacher wrote that some houses in Donegal had "within their walls from 10-15 tons of dung, only cleaned out once a year" (down to a century ago it accumulated at the end of the living room). It was the peasant's wealth - a source of good crops & good luck - "where there is muck, there is luck."
[- from the reference to "1957" it seems that much of the above may be
taken from Evans' Irish Folkways]
Kelp - Gathering & Use of
Certain species of seaweed are still (1957) gathered for human consumption - carrageen or Irish moss, sloke or lave_, dulse, dulaman - whether as medicine or "kitchen," that is, a tasty morsel to be chewed between meals, or boiled to be eaten with potatoes. In lean times the kitchen might become the staple, & a writer in the 1830s stated that when the potatoes gave out, "hundreds of people may be seen going to the seaside to gather dulaman" (J. Binns). Carrageen, besides being made into jelly was used as a thickener for milk.
(It was [also] used as fertilizer.)
The most profitable way of using seaweed was for the burning of kelp, which became a considerable business among shore dwellers in the 18 th cent., as the growth of industry stimulated the production of soap, bleaching materials, & glass... Kelp was made by burning the thick stems of tangle or other course weeds, to which as well as the ashes the name is applied - which were thrown up in the winter storms or cut at low-tide. If the supply of drift-weed failed the heavy tangles were laboriously dragged ashore, or cut with knives mounted on handles up to 20' long to reach the best weeds growing in deep water. In Donegal the men would wield their long knives from curraghs, while the women dragged the weeds ashore. In the Rosses of West Donegal around 1750 the rents were paid in kelp; any surplus was bartered for the two luxuries - spirits & tobacco, enjoyed by men & women alike. For the lesser weeds growing in shallow water, ordinary sickles were employed when the tide was low, but these species made inferior kelp... In Donegal I was told how at low tide, by the light of lanterns, men would dash into the sea up to their necks to drag out the floating weed (wrack). (Wrack is marine vegetation floated to shore.) From Christmas on a careful watch was kept on the weather. It was a time [of] merry-making - when the division of the harvest took place. Wrack rights & ways of access were bitterly contested.
In summer the sprat came ashore in vast numbers on the west & south coasts, so that in Donegal, "they constitute the chief food of the peasantry during three or four months of the year" (Kinnfaela, 1867).
Down to recent times coast-dwellers took their toll of seal & porpoises. It was dangerous work, sometimes involving swimming into underwater caves where they breed. (Sealskins were used in Donegal to cover curraghs - see card on Don. Boats.)
- Evans, Irish Folkways, p. 221
Kings - Crowning of
"About 4 mi. from Derry is the rock of Doune, a natural fortress in the center of a district scarcely accessible, where, it is believed, the ancient chieftains of Tyrconnell were inaugurated - a race who, according to Sir Henry Dock__ra, were 'proud, valiant, miserable, immeasurably covetous, without any knowledge of God, without any civility to man;' & of whom James I, in an apology for robbing them, [said] that 'their condition was to think murder no fault, marriage of no use, nor any man valiant that does not glory in rapine & oppression.'
In the immediate vicinity of Derry there still exists a stone, which, according to the authors of the Ordinance Survey, appears to have been the inauguration stone of the ancient Irish kings. The stone, which is of gneiss, exhibits the sculptured impression of two feet, right & left, of the length of 10 in. each. That stones of this kind, as well as rude stone chairs, were formerly used, we have the testimony of Spenser in his 'View of the State of Ireland.' 'They used to place him that shall be their captaine upon a stone reserved for that purpose, & placed commonly upon a hill; in some of which I have seen formed & engraved a foot, which they say was the measure of their first captaine's foot, whereon hee, standing, receives an oath to preserve all the ancient former customs of the country involiable, & to deliver up the succession peaceably to his Tanist, and then hath a wand delivered unto him by some whose proper office that is; after which descending from the stone, he turneth himself around, thrice forwards & thrice backwards.' The inauguration chair of the O'Neils of Castlereagh is still preserved; it was for a long time built into the wall of the Buttermarket of Belfast. The famous "coronation chair" in Westminster Abbey is believed to be of Irish origin; & is said to have been sent into Scotland for the coronation of Fergus, the first king of the Scots, who was "of the blood-royal of Ireland."
- Halls, Vol. III, p. 233-34
"The dread of landlords was such that people tremble before them," recorded a writer of a manuscript in Donegal just before the famine.
- (Mss.) "Recollections of Donegal 60 Years Ago" (1890); property of
St. Columb's College, Derry; quoted in The Great Hunger, p. 24
Manufacturing - Whiskey
Whiskey is made very largely in both licensed & unlicensed distilleries. The latter are chiefly in the Rosses, Boylagh, & Ennishowen.
- [Topographical] Dic[tionary of Ireland?]
Mythology & Legends
(South of Ballyshannon) On the borders of the river lies a huge mass of granite on the surface of the ground - singular in consequence of its distance from any rock of that description. It is called "Crockmacraoshleen"... On one side of it is a hole, said to be the print of a finger (a giant it must have been), & whoever can walk blindfolded 12 paces toward it, & put a finger into this hole, will infallibly be married in the course of that year. The tradition respecting its appearance there is curious. Two giants or heroes, Fin Ma Coul & another, were in the habit of sitting in the evening on the tops of these two mountains, which form the grand Pass of Barnesmore, to smoke their pipe most lovingly, passing it across the valley from hand to hand. One day, the smoker having kept the pipe rather longer than his due time, Fin gruffly called to him "to hand it smartly across," but not being noticed, he took a pebble in his knuckle & as a marble, shot it at his companion's head to remind him of his delay. The pebble missed its mark, but now lies where it fell, a distance of 10 miles from Barnesmore, & bears the mark of the finger of Fin Ma Coul, as witness to the truth of the whole transaction.
- Halls, Vol. III, p. 274 (note)
In the parish of Gweedore - the state of the country may be gathered from the following memorial addressed in 1837 to the Lord Lieutenant by Paddy M'Kye, the teacher of the National School, printed in a pamphlet issued in 1846 called "Facts From Gweedore:"
(In part) "The parishioners of this parish are in the most needy, hungry, & naked condition of any people that ever came within the precincts of my knowledge. There is about 4,000 persons in this parish (an understatement; in 1841 there were 9,049), and all Catholics, having among them no more than:
1 cart 3 turkeys 8 brass candlesticks
0 coach[es] 2 feather beds 0 looking-glasses above
1 plough 8 chaff beds 3d in price
16 barrows 2 stables 0 boots
8 saddles 6 cow-houses 0 spurs
2 pillows 1 National School 0 fruit trees
11 hurdles 0 other school 0 turnips
20 shovels 1 priest 0 parsnips
32 rakes 0 other resident 0 carrots
7 table forks gentleman 0 clover,
93 chairs 0 bonnet[s] or any other vegetables
243 stools 0 clock[s] but potatoes & cabbages
0 swine, hogs, or pigs 3 watches
Not more than 10 sq. ft. of glass in windows in the whole, except for the
chapel, the school house, the priest's house, & the barracks of the constabulary.
None of either married or unmarried women can afford more than one shift, & some cannot afford any. More than half both men & women cannot afford shoes. They have no means of harrowing their land but with meadow rakes. The farms are so small that from 4-10 farms can be harrowed in 1 day with one rake.
And more than all that I have mentioned, there is a general prospect of starvation, the principle cause being a rot or failure of seed in last year's crop, together with a scarcity of winter forage, because of many storms in this part of the country, so that they were under the necessity of cutting down their potatoes, & giving them to the cattle to keep them alive. Hunger reigns among them so that the generality of the peasantry are on the allowance of one meal a day, & many families can afford only one meal in 2 days, some 1 in 3 days.
I have also to add that the National School was greatly decreased in number of scholars through hunger & extreme poverty."
- Stephen Gwynne, Highways & Byways of Donegal & Antrim, p. 132-53
Roads & Communication
In Black's Guidebook to Ireland for Tourists (1860):
The map of Ireland shows "carriage roads":
From Sligo & from Enniskillen to Donegal & from Donegal to Killybegs.
From Donegal to Londonderry & from Londonderry to Letterkenny.
These are all in the south & east of the county. The rest of Co. Donegal shows only "Cross Roads." The coast opposite Aranmore & Rutland is served by only one of these roads which comes from a junction at Dunglow.
The roads require much to be done. They are in general, badly constructed and not properly repaired, although the best materials are in abundance.
[- no citation given, but internal evidence indicates that it is from
Lewis's A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1839]
Schools & Education - Mid-Nineteenth Century
Mr. & Mrs. Hall (about 1840) say there were boarding schools for both boys & girls at Cloghan (in the center of Donegal), established for the training of teachers in subjects most important to the neighboring counties. These schools were under the National System of education.
The Halls tell about schools set up on the estate of Sir Charles Style, managed after 1837 by
Capt. John Pitt Kennedy, in the district of Glenfin (east-central Donegal, on the Finn River).
Boys - boarded, lodged, & educated at cost of 4 pounds per annum; practical work
combined with theory.
Girls - under 12: 5 pounds; over 12: 8 pounds; teachers from other schools coming for
short period: 10 pounds
The girls' school was established to train schoolmistresses to be sent throughout
This is supported chiefly by a private fund (some state aid), & some pupils are paid
for by parents or patrons.
With [practical + theoretical training] in view, the execution on the extensive works in progress is conducted by them as overseers of the working parties, acting under the general supervision of the superintendent of the inspector of works; it is common to find boys of 15 or 16, children of the poorest classes, in every way qualified, except in maturity of years, for taking charge of a school with credit, or for conducting the most scientific operations that could be required by a proprietor in the improvement of his estate.
- Halls, Vol. III., p. 265-66
Literacy in Ulster (1841 census):
Population - 2,386,373
Can read & write - 618,642 (21% +)
Can read only - 619,814 (21% +)
Housing in Ulster (1841 census)
Total # of families - 439,805
Living in mud house of more than 1 room - 187,108 (42% +)
Living in mud huts of 1 room - 130,694 (30% +)
- 72% [of families living in mud houses of 1 or more rooms]
- statistics from Halls, Vol. III, p. 444
1792 - "Donegal was in the hands of a mob of incendiaries" - Froude, Vol. 3, p. 633
Schools & Education - Robertson Fund
About the close of the last century, Col. Robertson, son of a clergyman of the town of Donegal, bequeathed a sum of money, out of the interest of which 15 pounds ($75) was to be paid to each of the parishes in the diocese of Raphoe (Aranmore & Rutland is parish of Templecroan) for the support of a schoolmaster to instruct children of all religious denominations. This fund has so much increased as to enable the trustees to grant 40 pounds ($200) to each parish for the erection of a schoolhouse, provided an acre of land on a perpetually-renewable lease be obtained for a site...
Spanish Armada Lands on Irish Coast
Two vessels of the Spanish Armada went ashore on the coast of the Rosses, one off Mullaghderg... The other wreck lies in Castleford Bay, inside the Island of Aran. In 1853 the coastguards at Rutland Island tried their luck on this vessel, & fetched up the great anchor which lies outside the United Services Institution in Parliament St.
- Stephen Gwynn, Highways & Byways of Donegal & Ant
., p. 544
There is an account of his adventures by a Captain Cuellar who commanded a galleon of 24 guns in the Armada. This [was] translated by Hugh Allingham in 1897.
- Ibid., p. 54
Templecroan Parish (includes Aranmore & Rutland Islands)
Templecroan - a parish containing, with the post town of Dungloe & the Islands of Arranmore & Rutland, 8,198 inhabitants... Within its limits is the greater part of a district called "the Rosses," consisting of a dreary wilderness of rugged mountain wastes & heaths, broken on the west into abrupt, rocky heights, & including many islands separated by inlets of the sea. Some of these islands are thinly covered on the summit with moss & heath, and a few present specimens of verdure produced by cultivation; Arranmore, the largest, forms a shelter for the rest, & a barrier against the western ocean... The district is unfavorable, either for grazing or for tillage; the produce raised is inconsiderable and there is often a scarcity of food. Throughout the parish agriculture is in a very backward condition, the greater portion of the land consisting of sands, mountain rocks, & bog... In the R. C. divisions this parish forms part of the union or district of Lettermacward, & is partly a district by itself. It contains 3 good, plain slated chapels, one at Dungloe (a few mi. S.E. of Burton Port), belonging to Lettermacward; the others at Arranmore & Kincaslagh, belonging to Templecroan. There are two parochial schools, situated at Dungloe & Carrenbuoy, aid by annual donations from the Col. Robertson Fund [see above] & from the rector, who also contributes to the support of 2 schools at Dungloe & Maghera; in these schools are about 160 children. There are also 6 private schools; in which are about 120 children. A dispensary is supported at Dungloe. Here are the ruins of a castle, near which have been brought up out of the sea several brass cannon, bearing Spanish arms, said to have belonged to the Armada.
Arranmore - In 1834: 1,141 inhabitants. 2 miles from shore, 3 mi. from Rutland; 3 mi. in length, & 3 in breadth. Comprising 4,355 statute acres, of which only 650 are under cultivation or in pasture, the remainder in rugged mountain. In 1784 a large herring fishery was carried on successfully on this part of the coast, in which 400 sail of vessels & about 1000 small boats were employed; but within the last 30 or 40 years it has been entirely discontinued. There is good anchorage on the E. side of the Island in an open roadstead. Divine service is held in the R. C. chapel every 3 rd Sunday.
From the general article about Donegal:
The roads are, in general (for Donegal), badly constructed & not properly repaired.
Houses - the farmhouses are comfortable but defective in cleanliness. The cabins of the
peasantry, especially near the coast, are wretched & extremely filthy, the cattle & the swine generally associating with the family. The fuel is turf; the food, potatoes, oaten bread, & fish, with some milk & butter; the clothing mostly frieze (a heavy woolen cloth with an uncut nap on one side), though articles of cotton are common, especially in women's wear. In the mountains little English is spoken.
- Samuel Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1839)
Famine - Overview
The Great Famine was the great watershed of Irish social & economic history. There was a partial failure of the potato crop in 1845, and during 1846 & '47 it failed almost entirely. By 1848 the worst was over. In 1847 alone almost 250,000 people died either of starvation or fever, and over 200,000 fled to America. By 1851 the population of Ireland, which had been 8 million before the famine, had dwindled to 6 1/2 million.
The Famine killed the Repeal Movement, for the Irish people now had no heart for politics. O'Connell was dead, and there was no one else to take his place. The admirable Young Ireland Movement had been unsuccessful. Nearly all the old Gaelic customs & traditions, which had lingered on for so long, had disappeared.
- Constantia Maxwell, The Stranger in Ireland, (Mil. Lib.)
There were other bad years, notably 1852 & 1879, but 1845-48 are what the Irish people refer to as "the famine." (Gt. Hunger, p. 407)
1845 - a partial failure
1846 - failure total
1847 - a good harvest
1848 - again a total failure
The climate of Ireland is famous for its mildness; years pass without a fall of snow. In 1846 at the end of Oct., it became cold, and in Nov. snow began to fall. Six inches of snow were reported in Nov. 12 in Tyrone. (Ibid., p. 142)
(For what happened to fishing in Famine, see Fishing Industry card.)
The conduct of the British government falls into 2 periods:
1845 - summer of 1847:
Behaved with considerable generosity
- an elaborate relief organization was set up
- public works were started
The problem was transferred to the Poor Law & all relief & works stopped.
They knew the unions (local governments) were bankrupt & that where the worst need
was the rates (taxes) were uncollectible even in good times. Yet with these facts
before them, the government threw the hordes of wretched destitute on their local
Poor rates, refusing assistance when the second total failure of the potato
occurred, even breaking Lord John Russell's pledge to feed the starving children.
- Ibid., p. 408
How many people died in the Famine will never be precisely known - officers engaged in relief work put the population 25% higher than the 1841 census.
1841 - 8,175,124 (10,218,905)
1851 - 6,552,385
Between 1841 & '51 nearly 360,000 mud huts disappeared, the greatest decrease being 81% in Ulster, which included the distressed co. of Donegal.
No advantage was taken of the reduction of small tenants, agriculture was not improved, & in 1866 Isaac Butt wrote " Ireland has retrograded." (Ibid., p. 411-12)
The course of the Famine ran 5 years:
1845 - first appeared & ruined 1/3 of the crop
1846 - total crop everywhere in Ireland destroyed
1847 - failure not quite so comprehensive as previous year
1848 - absolute failure, as in '46
1849 - some relief, though the loss still great
1850 - had spent itself
The only failure was the potato crop, the food of the poor... The carts rolled eastward toward the seaports with foodstuffs for England through villages reeking with death. Thousands of barrels of wheat, oats, barley, flour, oatmeal, & bread were exported from Ireland during the Famine years; t__rces of beef, pork, & bacon & hundredweights of butter & lard filled the holds of outgoing ships.
By Dec. 13, 1845 the [ Boston] Pilot (an Irish newspaper) printed reports from Irish papers of the spread of fever, endemic in Ireland. Typhus & relapsing fever became of epidemic proportions; dysentery resulted from scavenged food or from the change in diet to Indian meal, improperly cooked or often eaten raw by the starving; scurvy appeared with the loss of water-soluble vitamin C in the potato diet...
"Ten-thousand people within 48 hours journey of the metropolis of the world living, or rather starving, upon turnip tops, sand eels, 7 seaweed" - from a report by James H. Tuke, a Quaker relief officer on the state of a parish on the NW coast of Ireland.
The Quaker Forsters heard in West of Ireland villages the same terrible words: "The hunger upon us," & relief visitors to the Aranmore cabin of Widow Cooney, who had buried her husband & a child the day before, starved to death, saw on the 5 remaining children "a gaunt, unmeaning, vacant stare...their lips having become blanched & shriveled from prolonged destitution."
- G. Patton, To the Golden Door, p. 451-53
Famine - Attitudes of the Elite
"A Duke of the Royal blood remarked, 'I understand that rotten potatoes & sea-weed, or even grass, properly mixed, afford a very wholesome & nutritious food. We all know that Irishmen can live upon anything, and there is plenty of grass in the fields, even if the potato crop should fail.'" (Robt. Dunlop, Daniel O'Connell, p. 320)
Famine - Before 1845
It is well-known that during the months of June, July, & August of every year a partial, sometimes indeed a general, famine exists in Ireland; the store of old potatoes had been consumed, the new potatoes are not yet fit for food, & the condition of the peasantry, meanwhile, is in the highest degree frightful.
- Halls, Vol. III, p. 353
Mr. Fairholt (the artist who went with the Halls) had received warnings from his friends about
the peril of entering the wild region of the west (Mayo) so soon after there had been a sort of insurrection at Ennis, where a party of starving men & women had robbed a flour mill of a certain quantity of oatmeal; paying the penalty of 4 or 5 lives & a score or two of gunshot wounds, which made some of them cripples for the rest of their lives; it probably helped to people the workhouse.
- Ibid., Vol. III, p. 377
1830 & '31 [also] years of failure of potatoes; in May Donegal & Mayo. [no citation given]
Famine - Death Toll
It is impossible to calculate, with even approximate accuracy, the number of deaths from disease during the famine years. Hospital & workhouse records were often imperfectly kept; & even if they had been kept, it would still be necessary to take into account the unknown thousands who perished in their own homes or by the wayside, untended & almost unnoticed. It is equally impossible to calculate how many died from actual starvation; the number officially recorded between 1846-1851 is 21,770; but it is certain that a majority of those who died from disease would not have contracted it in the first place, or would have survived it, had they been properly nourished. Taking into account all available evidence, we may reasonably assume that between 1845 & 1850 not far short of 1,000,000 people died as a result of the Great Famine."
- J. C. Beckett, The Making of Modern Ireland
, p. 3435
Famine - Disease Related to
[see also Famine - Oral Tradition]
"The dusky hue of the skin in typhus suggested the name still heard, at least in Donegal, 'fiabhras dubh' (black fever)."
- 1957 [Edwards and Williams, eds., The Great Famine?]
At least in one parish of Donegal the people tried to check the extension of fever by building rows of huts made of sods & wood (bothogai), like the huts they occupied during the cattle grazing in the hills. Here the sick were carried on litters. Nourishment obtained from a "soup house" on the grounds of the local landlord was passed in through the door of the huts by means of long-handled shovels, those of the sick not utterly prostrate assisting in the feeding of their helpless fellows. Within the memory of many still alive, survivors of the famine used to point out the ruins of the soup house & the sites of the fever huts.
An added horror was the outbreak of a cholera epidemic in 1848, unconnected with the famine. Donegal was one of the four counties that escaped.
Certain figures are puzzling (of the '51 census) Dunfanaghy workhouse was opened in June, 1845, to serve a part of Donegal which suffered heavily from famine & disease; also a temporary fever hospital, independent of the workhouse, was set up in the same place in Dec. of that year. Yet according to the figures of the census, the deaths from fever of the whole period of the famine numbered 5 in the workhouse & 38 in the fever hospital. If these figures are correct, it must be assumed that the people of Donegal preferred to stay in their own homes & died there.
- The Great Famine
P. W. (Patrick Weston) Joyce, The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places
. London; New York: Longmans, Green; Dublin: M.H.Gill, 1901.
Daphne Desiree Charlotte Pochin Mould, The Mountains of Ireland
. London : Batsford, 1955.
This note appears on a card with information about schools and education, but there is no indication of its relationship to this subject.
Stephen Lucius Gwynne, Highways and Byways in Donegal and Antrim
. London, New York: Macmillan and Co., 1899.
James Camlin Beckett, The Making of Modern Ireland, 1603-1923
. New York: Knopf, 1966.