5th May 1847
Back to List

The famine toll in Carrick-on-Shannon Workhouse: in April 1847, 295 died in that month alone (compared to 98 in April 1846).

[Freeman's Journal - Wednesday 05 May 1847]   


From the parish of Kiltoghert, county Leitrim, per the Rev. P. Dawson, P.P. and V. G. of Ardagh.

"Number of deaths from the 1st October 1846, to 1st  April 1847, 320.  

"Awfully great as this mortality is, the return would be much larger but that the district workhouse being in this parish very many go in to die, that they may ensure coffins.  

In the workhouse built for 800, 469 died between 1st October 1846, and April 1847, and 295 last month. 150 died of actual starvation and of the remainder fully one half by disease produced by hunger. "Number of deaths during same period Iast year, 98. 

"The state of the whole parish is such that it is impossible to select particular cases – father, mother, and children have been carried off in many cases. I will send you the names of those who died of starvation in a few days, with the names of the proprietors and middlemen under whom they lived, as also what those have done to relieve their dependents. Every day makes things worse;  fever spreading – no employment, as we have no resident proprietors, and our prospects for the next four months still more gloomy.

Four grown persons died this day (2nd May) of actual starvation in one townland, yet our committee will afford no relief to grown (or, as they say, to able-bodied) persons, nor to any person holding over two acres of land although the land will not be taken from them, and in some cases the whole family is in fever.'

The people are in such a state of alarm (or rather of utter despair) that many adults are allowed to die and are buried without the priest ever hearing of it. My return, therefore, is considerably under the reality.

A son was asked  "why he did not bring the priest to his father," he answered, "I was seeking something to keep the life in seven  children myself and wife."

Think of sending two lbs. of meal, four half rations to the younger four in a family of eight, four being adults and so of all families whatever their number. "


  • One account, one moment in this Famine period gives voice to the terrible, grinding presence and despair of such hardship - and the incredible tenacity of survivors over time - but also brings us to the saddest of silences that many of us face in seeking family.  From the present to the past - you can only wish a distant peace across the towns, valleys, hills, roads - and a desire not to let all be lost.


    Sunday 10th February 2019 12:21AM