Black 47: State of Destitution around Carrickmacross

20th 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". Board of Works correspondence warned of imminent death from starvation, plague and disease unless drastic measures were taken for the relief of distress in Ireland.

"There is to be presentment sessions here on the 1st of March; the Rev. Fr.  Edward McGowan P.P. with whom you are already acquainted has, I believe, urged upon the Government.

It is not difficult to gain information as to the amount of destitution for it is now becoming very great. Hitherto the extensive employment afforded to men, women, and children of all ages secured to each family some means of subsistence; this kept away famine and disease. There are few families in the barony (of Farney) requiring employment who did not receive from 6d. to 1 shilling 6d. a day for labour. This enables them to procure turnips upon which they chiefly live; but upon such food, they cannot work, so that at high prices for what they do they are barely able to live. Until the last snow, there was not much disease, not much more than in ordinary years but dysentery is now making its appearance very fast.

Upwards of 7,000 people have received employment on the drainage works though the 5,000 has been our greatest daily number. Our works are now drawing to a close and the employment is, of course, becoming limited; the people thrown out of work have no resource whatsoever; hundreds spend days without food and in the absence of proper subsistence have recourse to the most unwholesome diet. their deserted and wretched cabins their forlorn and distressing look, with pain and sickness so dreadfully depicted in every countenance, is horribly painful to look at; and with all this human misery there is no person putting his shoulder to the burthen -- no proper efforts are being made to relieve the people. how it will end, God only knows. 

The large farmers are tilling their lands but the smaller are not. In Farney the way the small farmers cultivate their land is they and their children carry the manure to the ground in baskets they then hire horses to plough. I think that proprietors ought now to supply them with means to dig or plough their land and give them seed which would ensure the land is being chilled I see no other course that will. I have urged in the strongest manner I could the necessity of looking to these matters in time but nothing is yet done and if works are presented for at these approaching sessions and public employment is given to the people in March, Farney is lost.

I find great difficulty in closing the works, that is, making them complete for the exact amount to be expended this you may conceive when I tell you that there are 75 Lots or depots of work in the barony averaging 120l. (pounds) each."

Mr Roberts to Mr Mulvany, Carrickmacross, February 20, 1847

Board of Works, Barony of Farney, Co. Monaghan 


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