The famine, time to peel away the myth

murf13

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I think the more interesting question is why are Irish people still talking about the famine? Every country has had famine's at one stage or another. I find our constant insistance on tragedy to be inappropriate at this point in history.

That, and why didn't the people just eat fish, they lived on an island.
I couldn't agree more.
Now if we could only get those pesky Jews to stop harping on about that little miss understanding back in the 40's or those blacks over in the states to shut up about slavery life would be just grand.I mean what's the big deal? they were nothing but a bunch of bogtrottors to begin with.
 


leftsoc

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:roll: :roll: :roll: Where do you get your knowledge of history from? The cartoon section of An Phoblacht? :lol: :lol:

I don't know about 22 famines but he is right about Spencer and his contemporaries. Civilising Ireland was about eradicating the native population. There is anexcellent history , 'Making Ireland British' that makes this plain. Just because a historical fact tallies with An Phoblacht does not make it right or wrong.

The 'policy' of the Government was to finally clear the land of excess population. This would never be accomplished by voluntary migration or immigration, the unspoken assumption that was that famine would be to the benefit of furture generations. There was no alternative policy of the British government except to let nature take its course.

Having said all that, the majority of the Irish population did nothing for the starving labourers and their families. They starved cheek by jowl with people who had food. The ingrained feuadal caste system of Irish rural society was never more in evidence. The people who died were regarded by most rural Irish like most rural Irish regard Travellers today, as sub-human.

We are not descendants of famine victims, there are none, we are descendants of those who let them die. There were potato famines in Scotland and all over Europe. Only in Ireland were the poor let die of starvation. We can balme the Brits for governement policy, we can't blame the Brits for the lack of charity on the ground.
 

leftsoc

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I think the more interesting question is why are Irish people still talking about the famine? Every country has had famine's at one stage or another. I find our constant insistance on tragedy to be inappropriate at this point in history.

That, and why didn't the people just eat fish, they lived on an island.

This was a famine in the richest country in the world, the UK, the richest country there had ever been. It was not the result of war or any over-whelming natural disaster, it the result of an economic ideology. Its political signicance lay in the fact that the government allowed death by starvation in one part of the UK but not in others.
 

derryman

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Probably the sanest sentence I have ever seen on this site.
While I can understand the thinking in his statement,
Surely his statement could only be true if we believe that for every single person (man Woman or child) who died as a result, so to did each and every member of their family. Not to mention that all of the parents families also died as well. Do you think this was the case?
 

Roberto Jordan

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While I can understand the thinking in his statement,
Surely his statement could only be true if we believe that for every single person (man Woman or child) who died as a result, so to did each and every member of their family. Not to mention that all of the parents families also died as well. Do you think this was the case?
Correct.

Undoubtedly many Irish people are descendants of those who suffered little. Given the limited social mobility in Ireland it is,For example, unlikely that anyone who comes from a background with a history of private jesuitical or similar education,or third level education stretching back more than two generations , or Protestants outside the extreme west ,or large farms or average sized holdings pre dating major land reform, or family business's pre dating foundation of the state etc are directly descended from "victims"' .

but thise who look back and see none of those things , in particular if family extends from the west or the southern seaboard.... are extremely likely to be descended from those who faced brunt of hardship.

Without creating a "daughters of American revolution " level of ridiculousness, in a society as staid as Ireland's it is not hard to extrapolate back. Especially when you consider the percentages involved -if 1 million died and 1 million emigrated how's my multiples of thus endured extreme hardship , suffering and disease?

as pointed out not every victim died or was every family wiped out. Children and old people in particular suffered.

Side note: Am I imagining it or has it not been shown that the population bubble in our demographics which manifests itself every generation e.g those born in 70 's versus numbers in 60s and 80 s can be followed back to the 1840s?
 

sauntersplash

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I couldn't agree more.
Now if we could only get those pesky Jews to stop harping on about that little miss understanding back in the 40's or those blacks over in the states to shut up about slavery life would be just grand.I mean what's the big deal? they were nothing but a bunch of bogtrottors to begin with.
You don't think historical events lose relevance over time? You think horrendous acts of genocide and/or cruelty weren't carried out by all tribes/cultures/peoples at some stage of history?

It was almost two hundred years ago. Dude, get over it.
 

Paddyc

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Listen son. Best thing you can do is maybe get a hold of a Junior Cert history book. Come back to us then sunshine.
He's taking the urine: "peel away the myths"; "smashed around the head" "chip on the shoulder" "rub in salt into anceient (sic) wounds"

We're worse for responding.
 

Dasayev

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Jeepers, this thread is so old it contains one of Tommy O'Briens alter-alter egos!

While I can understand the thinking in his statement,
Surely his statement could only be true if we believe that for every single person (man Woman or child) who died as a result, so to did each and every member of their family. Not to mention that all of the parents families also died as well. Do you think this was the case?
You are right. 3 million people were receiving soup at one stage during the famine, but obviously not all of them died.

The most famous victim of famine in Ethiopia during the 80s was Birhan Woldu - she also did not die.

 

SideysGhost

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The majority of windowlickers on this site would have you believe that Britain was just desperate to save the Irish and that they were just itching to make sure nobody died at all within the wondrous Empire, font of all knowledge and civilisation, and that indeed the tiny insignificant numbers who actually died, all 5 of them, are entirely the fault of Sinn Fein, and that SF and their radical anti-Irish separatist agenda didn't even exist for another 70 years is just An Phoblacht propaganda.

That's the kind of raving bug-eyed psychotic loon most p.ie history threads are up against. Yer average p.ie poster is delighted that his ancestors were exterminated so that he could live to continue to push the notion that we should all be Happy English Children, as is our natural right as good and Loyal British Irishmen.
 

murf13

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You don't think historical events lose relevance over time? You think horrendous acts of genocide and/or cruelty weren't carried out by all tribes/cultures/peoples at some stage of history?

It was almost two hundred years ago. Dude, get over it.
"those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"
 

Jack Maher

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I recently came across this very informative "History of Clonmel", which was published in 1907.

From page 174 onwards, it proudly details the massive economic growth in the first half of the 1800's and then goes on to outline the economic and political forces, which gave birth to the famine.

"But to stop here would be to cover up and hide away some of the most vital
facts in the history of the locality. For paradoxical though it may appear,
the highest point touched by the town, marks the lowest level in the condition
of the industrial population. The normal condition of a great mass of the
people from 1800 to 1850 was destitution, and out of this arose a state of
things which can only be described as smouldering civil war.

During the eighteenth century, as has been narrated, the county Tipperary
was parcelled out in huge grazing districts. In this way, partly through
economic causes, partly through the supineness of the landowners, partly
through the penal code which restricted the interest of a Catholic in land to
31 years and then at a rack-rent , the people at large had the sort of
connection with the soil the Bedouins have. Their habitations too were
about as substantial. Arthur Young saw the farmer leasing the land, and
his labourers forthwith marking out their plots and setting up their bothys.
This observant traveller in his rides around Mitchelstown, notices one day a
cabin with its occupants, the husband and wife, a number of children and the
pig, all in full swing where none had existed the day before. Cabins
were built in by-ways, in the corners of fields or in disused quarries, while the
lands were settled and leased, and bought and sold, with as little notice of
the people upon them as if they had been so many rabbits. Lord Glengall
informed the Devon Commission in 1843 that sixty years earlier the Cahir
property had been divided among some twenty lessees, at which period the
lands were all in grass " with scarcely any inhabitants on them." The truth
is that there existed on these lands a population of over 4,000, but they were
absolutely ignored in the legal arrangements. When, however, towards
the end of the century tillage was substituted for grazing, the great farms
were split up, sometimes by the landowners themselves, more often by the
lessees ; but in all cases the occupiers were so rented that their margin for
existence was still the potato. In the middle of the eighteenth century the
average rent of land in South Tipperary did not probably much exceed 5s. an
acre ; in the third quarter it had risen four-fold ; by the last years the
average reached £3 an acre. Wakefield, in December 1808, gives some local
details.

The high ground rent for houses in Clonmel is very extraordinary — from 70 to 100 guineas per acre, the leases being for three lives.

Mr. Sparrow [of Oaklands] let a piece of land consisting of 25 acres without a
habitation upon it at the rate of 12 guineas per acre, and another of 105 acres situated at a distance of a mile and a half at 6 guineas an acre. Near Clonmel a farm has been let on account of local convenience so high as 14 guineas per acre.

These extraordinary rents were due to the price of agricultural produce
during the Napoleonic wars ; but there was another cause in constant operation
which kept rents at a level that allowed the occupier a bare subsistence. This
was the rapid increase in population. The census of Tipperary in 1821 was
346,896 ; in 1831, 406,977 ; in 1841, 435,553. The additional population having
no outlet, had to turn back on the land ; farmers divided their holdings to
provide for their children, and these in turn to provide for theirs. The resists
of the process through two generations appear in the census returns of 1841.

County of Tipperary.

Number of Farms.

About I to 5 acres ... ... 13,032.

About 5 to IS acres ... ... 12,787.

About IS to 30 acres ... ... 4,938.

Above 30 acres ... ... 2,960.

In the backward state of agriculture these petty farms afforded but a
wretched livelihood to their occupants, and the rents therefore became an
intolerable burthen. The general misery was intensified by the condition of
the labouring poor. During a great part of the winter, and from May until
August, there was no employment to be had ; the wages for the rest of the
year varied from 8d. to lOd. a day according to the season.

The Clonmel evidence in the Report relative to the Destitute Classes,
1834, appears to verge on the incredible. From 500 to 600 labourers, we
learn, came from Kerry and Cork in the harvest; and their wives for the
most part went begging.

The native labourers have not the practice of sending wives and children begging,
but when it does happen it occurs in summer. Between servants there is a sympathy existing and they assist each other ; those in place assist those who are out. It rarely happens that they have recourse to begging. There are a vast number of respectable persons in great want who are ashamed to beg ; some live on a few dry potatoes for 24 hours. Many destitute persons die gradually from want of comfort and necessary food.
Corrigan, a tradesman, knew a tradesman's family consisting of eight persons, to go two days without food ; the friends gave something the third day ; they would rather die than ask for it. In the county of Watefford, near Clonmel, two orphan children died of starvation about six years ago ; they perished on the road side, in the middle of the day ; they fainted away as they were wayfaring. James Smith, boatman, gives the story, and is not sure whether an inquest was held.

Perhaps 100 people go out in a day from Clonmel gathering potatoes ; they consist chiefly of women and children. Sometimes farmers boil potatoes purposely for the beggars. They give in proportion to the number of the family applying, and give as long as they have to spare ; two handfuls to a family. It is very common for the farmers to give improvidently to beggars, so as to leave themselves in want at the end of the year ; many of the farmers were forced to anticipate their means this summer, to buy meal at a high rate. Farmers allow beggars to lie in the bams. The labourers generally give lodgings, and the farmers give them straw and potatoes ; very little milk, except they have large dairies. Farmers sometimes, too, give a cast-off garment, particularly to the children if they are naked. Three in one family died in less than a week, within three miles of Clonmel, of fever caught from a beggar's family who slept in the house. If a wandering beggar is taken ill of the fever and cannot get admission into an hospital, the people build a hovel on the road side, or in a comer of a field, and
leave the family there. The labouring people give them what few things they can spare and leave them at the door.

Charity, good feeling, and sympathy for the condition of the applicant, are the
motives which induce to relief. Children of beggars are brought to habits of industry after a certain age. No instance could be remembered of a professional beggar from childhood ; they enlist, emigrate, or become labourers. Farmers will not encourage stout beggars ; they will employ the sons of beggars from a charitable motive and a wish to discountenance begging. No persons take to begging from choice ; if they can procure the necessaries of life they will not beg ; begging is looked on as disgraceful ; even in a bad season the mother and children would go into a mendicity house, but the father would refuse.

There are about 150 street beggars in the town. The mayor employed two officers to take up all beggars, and send them to the House of Industry ; it was given up because public opinion was against it When they arrested a man in the streets the crowd rescue him, the working people passing by thinking it a ardship to confine a man for begging.

From all this it is clear that the evil of the time was not pauperism, but poverty, and this poverty passed into famine, in seasons when the potato crop partly failed— 1800, 1810, 1818, 1821, 1828, 1830 and 1834

The men are at that time ready to work for their diet ; the wives and children
spread over the land and beg ; and begging is then a bad profession, as the people have little to give. At this time labourers and even tradesmen can scarcely get one full meal in the 24 hours. It often happens that a labourer then goes to bed supperless.
Besides this they will often collect the cornkail, and rape and nettles and eat them ; the latter only happens in a dear summer such as this year.

The distress and privations those people silently endure are incredible except
to those who have the pain to witness them. There is a periodical starvation in this town among the poorer classes for want of employment. There are some of them who are scarcely able to procure one meal a day.

The whole population, therefore, depended on the land, and as the
possession of a piece of land was the only security against starvation, a
constant struggle for possession went on. At periods when a fall in prices
or a bad season led to rent being unpaid, and consequent eviction, the
country was brought almost to a state of anarchy. And these periods were
frequent In the beginning of 1814 in Clonmel market, wheat was 3s. 8d.
per stone, beef lod. and mutton lid. per lb. Six months later. Napoleon had
abdicated, and on July 1st, wheat was sold for is. per stone, beef and mutton
3/^d. per lb. For the next few years landlords and tenants were engaged in
fierce conflict Some landlords indeed, proceeding to extremes, were marked
out for vengeance. On 27th December, 181 5, Henry Long, at Toomevara,
while distraining his tenants for rent, was stoned to death. Within the next
few months three others were fired at, and the authorities in alarm posted
military at vantage centres, swore large numbers of persons as special
constables, and suspended the Habeas Corpus Act The event, however,
which stirred the county to its depths was the murder of William Baker of
Lismacue. Returning from Cashel Sessions, November 27th, 1 81 5, he was
met by two men at the gates of Thomastown Park and shot through the
head. Though a reward of £5,000 was offered, and though scores of
suspected persons were lodged in the bridewells, the secret which was known
to hundreds, was long kept and the efforts of the Crown baffled.

During the years 1814-50, a war without truce was waged between the
landlords, the law, the magistracy, and the forces of the Crown on the one
side, and the whole population on the other. From September, 1814, to
May, 1818, the baronies of Iffa and Offa, Middlethird, Clanwilliam,
Kilnemanagh, Slievardagh and Compsy, were subjected to the Insurrection
Act From April, 1822, to May, 1825, these baronies, together with Upper
and Lower Ormond, were again declared to be in a state of disturbance,
and Habeas Corpus suspended. Again in February, 1832, the proclamation
was renewed for all the baronies, except Iffa and Offa, which by this time
had become comparatively peaceful ; and again in 1847, the Act II., Victoria
c. 2, for the Better Prevention of Crime and Outrage was, by proclamation,
applied to the entire county of Tipperary. In addition to the police
establishment settled on the county by the Act of 1823, there was an
auxiliary force of 500 men constantly employed on special service. Parlia-
ment throughout this period instead of making an effort to adjust the
landowners' claims, with the right of the people to existence, literally threw
oil on the fire. For previous to 1815, tenants could not be ejected unless by
an expensive process in the superior courts. Even if the tenant did not
take defence, it cost the landlord about £18 to put him out, however petty
the holding. If the tenant chose to defend, the ejectment trial cost the land-
lord any sum from £50 to £150. But the Act 56, George IIL, c. 88, created a
process known as civil bill ejectment, by means of which a tenant whose
rent did not exceed £50 a year, might be got rid of for a sum of less than £2.
Again, the so-called Emancipation Act of 1829, by disfranchising the forty
shilling freeholders, took away from the landlords the sole motive for
continuing the poorer tenantry on the soil — their use at the hustings (it).
In the event a system of " clearances " was inaugurated, which probably had
no parallel in any civilized country. Whole townlands were swept of
inhabitants ; and without feeling or remorse, hundreds of small farmers and
cottiers were cast on the roadside to perish of hunger, exposure, or typhus.
For it is to be remembered that at this period there was neither workhouse
nor emigrant ship to succour the wretched people. As an evidence of the
spirit in which evictions were carried out, the following, which is taken from
an appeal of " a Tipperary landlord and magistrate " to Lord Eliot, the lord
lieutenant of the day, deserves to be quoted : —

As a proof of the necessity for some Enactment to facilitate the recovery of small
holdings, many cases might be given ; one may here suffice :- In the week now current the Sub-Sheriff of Tipperary attended, accompanied by a Police escort, to give possession under an " Habere " of certain houses and lands on a property in the barony of Lower Ormond. In the course of his duty, the Sheriff was obliged — heartrending as such a proceeding was — to have removed from their houses and from their beds some members of a family lying ill of a contagious fever! it being totally impossible for the Sheriff or even the Landlord or his Agent, if present, to admit them to retain, or re-enter into possession, such are the delays and expenses this proceeding would admit of— and which the Peasantry are too fond of taking advantage of. The consequences are, that they are, in those cases generally dependant on their neighbours' charitable feelings for a lodging — the Landlords frequently, perhaps at their own loss, levelling the houses to prevent re-occupation.

The attitude of the Tipperary landlords towards the people, is indeed
frankly revealed by the whole tenor of the pamphlet. When the agrarian
war had attracted the attention of the kingdom, an attempt was made to deny
the wholesale character of the clearances. Lord Donoughmore at the Roden
Commission, challenged the statements of Sergeant Howley, Chairman of
the County Court. Howley however professed his readiness to give the names of the wholesale evictors, and added that "from conferences which he
had with the other assistant barristers, he had found that ejectments at
sessions were more numerous in Tipperary than in any other county, and
that he himself had more than 150 at one sessions; the 150 defendants
represented about 900 individuals 'YitiM- As Lord Hawarden, one of the
commissioners, was himself among the principal exterminators, it is
unnecessary to add Rowley's oflfer was not accepted (II). And the statistics
of the higher courts confirmed the experience of the County Chairman.
During the years 1833-38 the Tipperary ejectments in the Superior Courts,
Dublin, numbered 882 — three times as many as any other county. As these
ejectments dealt with extensive holdings, each of them including several
sub-tenancies, it is probable that the number of persons affected ran into
thousands.

The consequences are summarised in the Report of the Select Committee
of 1830 : — " It would be impossible for language to convey an idea of the
state of distress to which the ejected tenantry have been reduced, or of the
disease, misery and even vice, which they have propagated in the towns
wherein they have settled; so that not only they who have been ejected,
have been rendered miserable, but they . have carried with them and
propagated that misery. They have increased the stock of labour, they
have rendered the habitations of those who received them more crowded,
they have given occasion to the dissemination of disease, they have been
obliged to resort to theft and all manner of vice and iniquity to procure
subsistence ; but what is perhaps the most painful of all, a vast number of
them have perished of want."

The unhappy people, protected neither by law, by public opinion, nor by
conscience, now set about obtaining for themselves fixity of tenure by the
method of assassination. " When a tenant," said the Devon Commissioners,
describing Tipperary in 1845, " is removed, he is looked upon as an injured."

Full text of "History of Clonmel"
 

Campion

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I grew up in a two storey farmhouse on a 90 acre farm in a townland north of Loughrea. next the house was a tumbled cottage, half of which we used as a byre, but in the 19th c. my great grandfather was born in it. Between 1850 and 1910 my family grabbed every bit of land that they could get until they were strong cattle farmers. This probably began during the famine but certainly gained steam during the Land War. The townland as a population centre is long gone. I suspect that this is the experience of most Irish families who live on farms or who lived on farms through the years when the national historical narrative was being written in the first half on the 20th c. You can't say that Dev's yeoman farmers, the backbone of the Irish nation gained their positions due to opportunism and the misfortune of others. To this day I would never say to my Da that his grandfather and father were land grabbers as I can only imagine what he'd say or do.

This, I believe, is why many Irish people don't want to talk about the famine. Contrast this with the anger of Irish Americans about the famine-- they see the famine as the birth certificate of Irish America.
 

Colin M

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Only middle-class West Brit types get this obsession for us to 'move on', and somehow stop mentioning this hugely significant period of history. Generations of Irish need to know what happened, and hope it will never get that bad for our people again.
 

MauriceColgan

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Only middle-class West Brit types get this obsession for us to 'move on', and somehow stop mentioning this hugely significant period of history. Generations of Irish need to know what happened, and hope it will never get that bad for our people again.
Yes, I have noticed. Many of us keep our eyes and ears open so cannot miss the impact the 'Starvation' had on Ireland. Thank goodness in recent years memorials to the victims have been appearing in many locations across Ireland, and elsewhere.
 

leftsoc

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While I can understand the thinking in his statement,
Surely his statement could only be true if we believe that for every single person (man Woman or child) who died as a result, so to did each and every member of their family. Not to mention that all of the parents families also died as well. Do you think this was the case?
Children were far more likely to die than adults, and presumably were doomed altogether if the parents died.
 

derryman

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Children were far more likely to die than adults, and presumably were doomed altogether if the parents died.
Then one would have to presume that all those who survived the coffin ships were not emigrating because of the famine.
One would have to presume that ALL of the hungry children died.
One would have to presume that no hungry/orphaned child was rescued.
Too many presumptions for me I am afraid. Whilst I personally do not claim to be a product of the survivors of the famine I believe there are plenty such who are. And I am sure some will have a good knowledge of their family history to prove it.
 

leftsoc

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Then one would have to presume that all those who survived the coffin ships were not emigrating because of the famine.
One would have to presume that ALL of the hungry children died.
One would have to presume that no hungry/orphaned child was rescued.
Too many presumptions for me I am afraid. Whilst I personally do not claim to be a product of the survivors of the famine I believe there are plenty such who are. And I am sure some will have a good knowledge of their family history to prove it.
This is getting pedantic.

The vast majority of Irish people are not descended fromn the rural lowest class that suffered starvation. No historian disputes this.
 


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