Black 47: Sketches on Clonakilty

13th February 1847
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In the entire period of the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1851) the most dramatic population decrease from death and emigration occurred in "Black '47".

The accounts from the Irish provincial papers continue to detail the unmitigated sufferings of the starving peasantry. Indeed, they are stated to be on the increase, notwithstanding the very great exertion of public bodies and individuals to assuage their pressure.

With the object of ascertaining the accuracy of the frightful statements received from the West, and of placing them in unexaggerated fidelity before our readers, a few days since, we commissioned our Artist, Mr James Mahoney, of Cork, to visit a seat of extreme suffering, viz., Skibbereen and its vicinity; and we now submit to our readers the graphic results of his journey, accompanied by such descriptive notes as he was enabled to collect whilst sketching the fearful incidents and desolate localities; premising merely, that our Artist must already have been somewhat familiar with such scenes of suffering in his own locality, (Cork), so that he cannot be supposed to have taken an extreme view of the greater misery at Skibbereen.

“I started from Cork, by the mail (says our informant), for Skibbereen and saw little until we came to Clonakilty, where the coach stopped for breakfast; and here, for the first time, the horrors of the poverty became visible, in the vast number of famished poor, who flocked around the coach to beg alms: amongst them was a woman carrying in her arms the corpse of a fine child, and making the most distressing appeal to the passengers for aid to enable her to purchase a coffin and bury her dear little baby. This horrible spectacle induced me to make some inquiry about her when I learned from the people of the hotel that each day brings dozens of such applicants into the town. 

SOURCE Illustrated London News - Saturday 13 February 1847


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