The Great Famine of 1845-1850 was a devastating calamity in the history of Ireland. It is believed that approximately a million people died from disease and starvation and another million of our people emigrated. There are several factors which contributed to the Great Famine. Irish living standards on the eve of the famine were very poor. The majority of the people had become tenants on their own lands. At the top of the scale were the estate owners followed by tenants farmers – at the bottom of the scale were the cottiers to whom the poorest parts of the estate were rented. They tried to eke out a living on land that was of poor quality and often had holdings of less than five acres.

The population of Ireland had increased from about 5.4 million in 1800 to about 8.2 million in 1841. This was mainly due to the plentiful food supply in the form of the potato which was ideally suited to the soil and climate of Ireland. Many people were dependent on the potato as their main food source since other produce was relied on to pay rent to the landowners. When the potato blight hit Ireland in 1845 it heralded the beginning of a very black period in this story of the Irish people. It is thought that the potato blight spores were brought from Europe by the South East winds. That year a third of the potato crop was destroyed and a lot of the seed crop was eaten. Prior to the onset of the famine, changes in agriculture had been taking place. Small tillage farms were being replaced by larger grazing farms which could not support many people. Many small holders had had to leave the land to make way for bigger farms. Between 1839 and 1843 over 20,000 evictions had taken place. Even before the famine, there were about two million people without employment.

Faced with destitution and starvation many people found that the only way to survive was to go to the workhouse or take part in one of the Famine Relief Works. The Poor Law of 1838 had been designed to provide accommodation for those who were absolutely destitute. In 1845 there were 130 workhouses in Ireland. Food Depots were set up to distribute food and Local Relief works were set up to provide employment. Other relief schemes include provision of food through soup kitchens and later through Outdoor Relief Schemes.

Foreign aid came mainly from private organisations. Between 1846 and l 851 evictions continued, with another 69,000 families forced to leave their homes. The dispossessed sought shelter wherever it could be found – even in bogs and ditches or in the workhouses which were already crowded. Thousands died in the streets of nearby towns or on the side of the roads where they had been reduced to eating nettles and whatever plants they could find to try to stay alive. In addition to those who died from starvation, thousands began to die from the spread of infectious diseases such as dysentery, cholera and typhus. To escape starvation and disease about a million Irish people emigrated, mainly to America, Australia and Canada. Thousands died on what became known as “Coffin Ships” where conditions were appalling. Although the worst of the famine was over by 1850 the effect lasted for a long time and a different Ireland emerged in the second half of the century.

Famine Memorial erected in Annaghdown Cemetery in 1997

Sickness, Disease and Death

It is estimated that 15 million tonnes of potatoes were consumed annually in Ireland in the early 1840’s. Labourers, cottiers, smallholders and their families depended almost exclusively on the potato as a source of food. An adult male would require 14lbs. of potatoes daily, an adult female or an older child 11.2 lbs., and a younger child 4.9 lb. While there was such a ready and cheap source of food available the population increased dramatically. The rise in population was accompanied by an increase in the amount of potatoes sown. This in tum, caused more of the crop to be sown on poor land.

During September, 1845 it was reported that potato murrain had arrived in Dublin. By November the disease was noticed in the pitted potatoes in Donegal, Tipperary and Kildare. Because the poorer classes depended almost exclusively on the potato as the source of food they were already beginning to despair but by July 1846 they were devastated when the whole crop was destroyed. They now faced hunger, starvation, disease and death. People scavenged the countryside for anything that could be eaten. Nettles, dandelions, silverweed, seaweed, roots and berries were eaten; rabbits, hares and birds were trapped; pigs, poultry, cats and dogs were also used for food. Nothing however except adequate supplies of grain could replace the potato and so the slide to famine continued unabated.

It is probable that of the one million or more people who died in Ireland during the Famine, in 85% to 90% of cases, death was attributed to fever/disease rather than starvation. Once fever was brought into an area it became epidemic and raged for months. The Fever Bill of April 1847 by putting medical facilities in place, ensuring the burial of bodies and hygiene, helped in some measure to control the epidemic.

The main diseases which raged during this period included:
Typhus: The disease was transmitted by lice and was known as “Black Fever”. The death rate from typhus was high.
Relapsing fever: This was recurring fever, transmitted by lice.
Dysentery: Diarrhoea, not usually fatal except in children, caused by sparsity of diet and liquid diets.
Bacillary Dysentery: Transmitted by infected persons handling food supplies. It caused death in many cases.
Hunger Oedema: Swelling of the limbs and then the body until the body finally burst.
Scurvy: It was also called “Black Leg” and was well known to sailors. It caused the joints to become enlarged, teeth to fall out and the blood vessels under the
skin to burst. This disease was caused by a lack of vitamin C in the diet.
Opthalmia: This affected the eyes, especially in children, causing blindness, generally in one eye. Over 13,000 cases were recorded in 1849 and 27,000 cases in 1850. It was caused by a lack of vitamin A in the diet.
Asiatic Cholera: This disease was epidemic between January and May, 1949.
(Irish Famine Facts)

There was a Dispensary in Corrandulla, located across the road from the present day Clarke’s Tavern, according to the Ordinance Survey map of 1841. Another one was located in Annaghdown, adjacent to the national school, on a site now occupied by the Nolan family. In February, 1849 a sum of £82-8-0 was approved for the funding of the Annaghdown Dispensary. It is difficult to know for certain if this refers to a Dispensary in Annaghdown townland or elsewhere in Annaghdown parish. During 1848 the Tuam Herald carried an advertisement for the appointment of a Relieving Officer (Health Officer) in the Annaghdown/Cummer districts with a salary of £30.00 per annum. The Medical practitioner for the district was Dr Charles Donnellan who had a dwelling house in Tonagarraun. During March of 1846 he reported that diarrhoea and fever were on the increase:

C. Donnellan M.D. states that diarrhoea and fever are on the increase which he attributes to the unsoundness of the potatoes. Number of patients increased (about 50 a week). A great number of labourers unemployed. Fears this disease will increase.

Tuam Herald, 21 March 1846

Famine fever could be inhaled or enter through the eyes and not always through the blood. Many charitable people who attended to victims including clergy, nuns, doctors, resident landlords and government officials contacted typhus themselves and died, though they themselves may never have harboured a louse. Frs. Patrick Forde, PP, Kinvara, William Hanrahan, C.C., Ennistymon, Timothy Geoghan, PP. Craughwell, Andrew Martyn, PP, Castlegar, Patrick Quinn, P.P., Ardrahan and John Roche, C.C., Castlegar all fell victims to the fever during the dreadful famine. We read that Francis Blake of Cregg Castle and High Sheriff for the County was convalescent from fever under the care of Dr. Prendergast, Medical attendant. Of the doctors who died in 1847 there were 4 between Galway and Clifden, 3 between Oranmore and Athenry and 4 between Annaghdown and Kilmaine including Dr. Charles Donnellan, Annaghdown parish who died on December 24th, 1847.

Doctors advised the general public through the medium of local newspapers of the risks involved with fever and how to prevent the disease from spreading:

1. Let your doors and windows be kept open in the day; if you have not a window in the back part of your house, make one; have them so hung as to be easily opened; have a chimney with a good draught, so as to encourage a free current of air through your house.
2. Remove dung and putrid matter of every kind from before, and from behind your houses, as the vapour and smell proceedings from them (called malaria) has been found by physicians to generate infectious fever.
3. Scrape your floors with a spade, and sweep them every day; also the yards before and behind your houses, as often as you can; keep your hair cut short, and combed every day; wash your hands and face; keep your clothes, furniture and utensils sweet and clean.
4. Don’t by any means indulge in the use of spirituous fermented liquors, as intemperance in their use will, to a certainty, render you more susceptible to contagion.
5. All kinds of food badly cooked, or half-boiled, as is a prevailing custom amongst the poor, are most unwholesome.
6. Lying on beds placed on the ground is very injurious to health. Every family is recommended to be provided with bedsteads, be they ever so homely.
7. Attention should be paid to have the bowels kept daily open, but not free, and if necessary, some gentle aperient medicine should be occasionally made use of for this purpose.
8. Don’t go into any house where a person is sick, or has been ill of fever; don’t attend the wake of any person who has died of fever; if you do you will be infected yourself, and will communicate fever to your family.
9. Don’t let strolling beggars enter your house, as they they frequently carry infection from one house to another.
10. Whitewash your walls inside and outside, with lime slacked in the house and while it continues hot and bubbling; let this be done once a month while the fever is prevalent.
11. If fever attacks your family, as soon as the calamity is removed by recovery or death, employ the above means as soon as possible; bum the straw of the beds; put all the clothes of the house into cold water or into a strong solution of chloride of lime – one ounce to a quart of water – wring them out and wash them in hot water, soap and potashes; let every box, drawer, chest, &c be emptied and washed and let the floor under the patient’s bed be strewed with lime, fresh slaked and hot. Let no person upon recovery go into a neighbour’s house or into any place of public worship for fourteen days…

Galway Vindicator, 23 June 1847

The Galway Vindicator of Saturday May 5th, 1849 bears the following news item concerning the parish of Annaghdown which was then in the Claregalway postal district:

Destitution in Claregalway

A correspondent writes to us as follows from the neighbourhood of Claregalway:- “A number of persons are dying in this locality of cholera. We have been urging on the Vice-Guardians to establish a Temporary Hospital in Annadown. Nothing can exceed the destitution in that place, though Mr. Fitzmaurice is doing much to relieve the poor creatures, still the want of a hospital for receiving them is sadly felt. They are, I assure you, dying by the ditch sides.”

Galway Vindicator, Saturday 5 May 1849

A most heart rending letter of appeal was written to the Government authorities by Fr John Burke P.P. of Lackagh in which he gives a stark, pathetic description of the destitution in that parish.

Lackagh, Tuam Feb. 27th, 1847.

I have received a communication rejecting my applications for relief on behalf of the poorest and most distressed population in any pact of Ireland. In addition to our want of food I beg to assert that it was the will of providence to afflict my locality with fever and disease to a very alarming extent since last October so that scarcely a house was free from sickness and disease in many numerous villages in this parish, as I have not the benefit of fever hospitals or medical aid. I appealed to the government (thro’ the under Secretary) for relief but as in the present instance I was let pass unnoticed and unheeded and hundreds of my people were carried to an untimely grave. My locality is an exception to every pact of Ireland, for I have neither Gentry, landed proprietors, nor wealthy inhabitants, but a poor miserable population of over four thousand five hundred souls, scattered over an isolated mountainous locality and at this moment at the last stage of destitution. Should my assertions be not credited it would be easy for the Government to order one of its officials to examine the realities of those statements. I send you a list of my Committee and a copy of the letter of approval of same made by the Deputy Lieutenant, Sir John Burke Batt. As they are all respectable Cesspayers, resident in the Electoral division of Lackagh, I request their approval for the new relief system to be introduced. The distress of this poor parish is at present undescribable. I attended this very week with the comforts of religion five creatures in one hut with scarcely a covering over them and another young creature on the roadside, forsaken by friends and relatives and awful to relate the remains of a destitute creature was left five days unburied for the want of a coffin. I have the honor to remain your very obedient servt.
John Burke P.P & Secretary

Documents from the National Archives, Dublin, are reproduced by permission of the Director. Barony of Clare No. 12384

In the townland of Liscananaun alone there were 114 houses with a population of 688 persons in 1841. This was reduced to 46 houses and 257 people by 1851, only one third of its pre-famine population. The distress and deaths in Annaghdown parish is comparable to that of neighbouring Lackagh.

Relief Works

In Annaghdown there were local relief works such as the building of a huge perimeter wall (10 feet high) around a section of the French/Newell estate, Rinnaharney. Road making was another great source of employment with men working for less than a shilling a day, carrying stones on their backs or in make-shift barrows. The road from Corrandulla towards Shanbally was improved at this time according to the Famine folklore and was known as Bóthrín na bPaupers because of the poorer people who found work there. Another relief scheme was the partial drainage of rivers such as the Clare. A story is told of a man from the townland of Tonegurrane who walked to Lackagh every morning where he found employment. It was noticed that at midday while others were having some food he was in the habit of going away alone. One day the overseer decided to find out the cause and found the man lying behind a wall. Seemingly he was not in a position to provide for himself and rather than let it be known to his companions, he hid while his fellow-workers were eating.

Eating was a bonding agent in the family; yet it could cause major divisions and leave guilt feelings in the hopelessness of the situation. When there was insufficient food for all family members, some were forced to go hungry. Decisions had to be taken as to priority and needs, causing pangs of hunger and mental anguish: Should the food be given to the father so that he would have the strength to earn money for more food? What about the weakest in the house; the sick; the youngest or indeed the oldest? Wasn’t the mother, who had to care for everybody else, in greatest need?

Seo scéal faoi’n Gorta Mór a d’inis sean-fhear Seán de Búrca, Ath Cloigin le Liam Mac Coisteala, Comisin Béaloideasa Éireann i 1936 – this is a story about the Great Famine told by Seán de Búrca, Aucloggeen, to Liam Mac Coisteala of the Irish Folklore Commission in 1936:

Bhí feilméar ina chonaí anseo in aice linn. Ins an droch-shaol bhi dis mhaith aige – feilmneachaí aige go leor agus fir na tire ar fad ag obair aige. Nuair a thaghadh an t-Earrach, agus rud le déanamh aige, ni bhiodh cion cheo le n-ithe ag na fir. Théidis ag obair aige 6 mhaidin to faoi ar chloch turnapaí, tráthnóna. Bhfuil, bhi feilmneachaí go leor aige, agus go leor curaíocht, agus an fear a bheadh ag obair aige sa bhFómhar ‘sé an pháigh a bhféaradh sé dó tráthnóna ná ceithre pighne, Agus séard a thugaidis ar na ceithre pighne an uair sin “tistiún”. Agus mur mbeithe id fhear mhaith ni bhfaigheá an tistiún fhéin. Bhuil, biodh chomh maith le fiche fear ag obair aige ag bualadh cruithneachta ins an sciobóil, agus lá breá dá ndeacha ceann de na seanfhir amach bhí ocras air. Thainig sé comh fada leis an áit a raibh an carnán turnaipí agus dhféach sé uaidh agus shil sé nach raibh aon duine ag féachaint air agus tharraing sé turnaip amach as an gcarnan is an scian, agus bhain sé cúpla ruinnín amach lena scian agus é dhá ithe. Agus chonaic an feilméar é ag ithe an turnaip, agus d’fhiarr sé tuige a raibh sé dhá dhéanamh sin. Dúirt sé go raibh ocras air. Chuir sé abhaile é. Ni bhéarfadh sé aon lá oibre dó níos mó.

Permission of Head of Dept of Irish Folklore, University College, Dublin. MSS.182,pp. 426-427

Strict instructions were issued to Overseers of Public Works in 1846 regarding their personal conduct and that of their workers. They were to be constantly on the Works, from the commencement of the working hours in the morning till the men left off in the evening. No Overseer, or Gangsman was to keep a Shop, still less a Public House or Spirit Store; nor was he to drink with the men; nor in any case to receive money or goods of any description by way of loan or gift from Contractors or persons employed on the Works. In order to promote sober, regular and industrious habits among the persons employed, it was expected that they themselves would set the example. To encourage industry and good conduct the Overseer could recommend to the Engineer a small increase of pay per week, (say 6d.,) to a few of the labourers, not exceeding one fourth of the number employed. He was to discourage smoking during working hours and working in great coats as well as any such habits denoting a want of due exertion.
Gunpowder, when required, was to be particularly attended to and every precaution adopted to prevent waste, pilfering and accidents. Overseers were not to put their own horses on the Works nor were they to ride or drive nor allow others to ride or drive any horses hired for or belonging to the Works.

The Annaghdown Relief Committee

A number of the landlords, clergymen and others of Annaghdown parish met to deliberate how best to assist the labouring poor. Among them were Francis Blake, Esq., Cregg Castle; James Blake, Esq., Vermont; Captain Wm. Burke; Mark A. Lynch, Esq.; Rev. M. Sheridan, P.P.; Rev. Francis Keogh, R.C.C.; Charles Donelan, Esq., M.D.; John French, Esq.; and Messrs. P. Wade, J. Cavanagh and T. Cavanagh. They resolved to ask the Board of works sanction the construction of the New Line of road through Curraghmore to Headford to afford employment to the destitute of the district. They regretted that an appeal for donations met with such poor response from the absentee landlords of the parish who seemed to regard the plight of the poor in an “out of sight, out of mind” manner. Those who met subscribed as follows: Francis Blake, Cregg Castle, £50; Mark A Lynch, £20; Rev. M. Sheridan, P.P., £5; Captain W. Burke, £5; James Blake, Vermont £5; John Egan, Tuam, £5; Richard Kirwan, Cregg, £5; P. Wade, £5; Dr Donelan, £5; John Cavanagh, £5; John S. Kirwan, £5; John and Joseph French, £5 and the Rev. Francis Keogh, R.C.C., £2.

About a month later the Annaghdown Relief Committee was gravely disappointed to receive a curt, negative reply from the Board of Works which they allude to in a further news item:

The truly benevolent gentlemen composing this Committee, are most laudably performing their duty, as far as the limited means at their disposal will permit towards extending relief to the unfortunate destitute of that district. We regret to think, that by the refusal of the Board of public Works, in violation of their promise to recommend the Galway and Headford new line of road &c. the labouring population of Annadown, as well as of the district, will be exposed to even increased misery and privation, until that decision is reversed. It therefore, behoves the humane gentry connected with that locality, to use their utmost endeavours in the meantime, to extend such relief to the unfortunate people, as will preserve them from starvation. With even the humble means in the hands of the Committee they have already done much towards alleviating the misery of some portion of them. On Tuesday last they gratuitously distributed to five hundred families about half a stone of meal each, and up to that period expended £50 out of the local fund in dispensing provisions to the famishing poor. The one fact proves the awful extent of destitution in that district. Yet the Board of Works have refused to employ men on works of the greatest public utility, who are being obliged to be fed for nothing to prevent them from being starved to death. We have much pleasure in stating the Horace Rochford, Esq., Co. Carlow has through his agent Mr. Griffen, contributed £IO to the local Relief Fund.

Galway Vindicator 13 June 1846

It is related how a number of the starving people sought food at a small mill situated across the road from Cregg Mill. Being ravenous with the hunger, they immediately devoured much of the meal given to them. Not being able to digest the uncooked food the poor victims suffered excruciating pains as they made their way back to the priest who lived in Drumgriffin, in a house opposite Drumgriffin boreen. Unfortunately, they collapsed and died on the roadside before reaching their intended destination.

We read of an auction of household and farm goods of Henry J. Blake, Cahermorris House. It gives us an insight into the quality of life enjoyed by the landed gentry an,
the type of farming carried out on the Cahermorris estate during famine times.

Within 6 miles of Tuarn; 10 of Galway and four of Headford.
The subscriber has the honour of instructions of Henry J. Blake Esq. to sell without reserve, at his residence as above,
The entire in and outdoor establishment, comprising as follows:- Feather Beds, Bedding, Bedsteads, Hair Mattresses; Sheets and Dunothy hangings, Toilets and Toilet glasses; Basin Stands; Biddets; Commode Stands; Wardrobes; Cases of Drawers; Clothes Presses; Bedside Carpets; Parlour and Drawingroom Carpets; and Rugs; Saving Carpets; Stair Carpets; bronze Fender & Fire Irons; Window Curtains; a set of Pillapand Claw Dinner Tables on Castors; a Pedestal Sideboard; Plate warmer; Wine Cooper; Plate Bucket Gardavine; Tea Store Dish Covers; Breakfast, Dinner and Evening Services of China and Delph; China Dessert Service; Cut Flint Decanters, Tumblers and Glasses; a variety of Queen Pattern Solid Plate and Plated Ware; Sideboard and Table lamps; Grecian Lounger; Sofa and Sofa Table; Rosewood Loo Table overlaid with root of oak; Work Tables, Trio Tables, Bookstands; Parlour and Drawingroom Chairs, Arms do; Fire Screens; Invalid Table; a handsome chimney Glass; Paintings and Prints; Copper Stew and Preserving Pans; An Eight Day Clock; Hat Stand; Half lamp; Flower Stand; Pannelled Mahogany Supper Trays and Stands; Japaned and Papier mache Trays and Salvers; Large Branch Candlesticks; Silk Bell Pulls; with the furniture of the Servants Apartments; Dairy Utensils; Mangle and several laundry articles; Culinary etc.; also about 50 gallons of 7 year old Whiskey in Wood; a large Bottle Drainer, Water Cart and Barrel and about 5 tons of coal.
A beautiful Britska nearly new by Hutton, with German blinds complete, Harness good as new; a small Cab Phaeton and Harness; Gig and Harness; Outside Car and Harness; a set of Tandem Harness; several Bridles and Saddles; Horse Clothing etc.
Iron Triangle, Scales and Weights; tumbrels and Harness; Carts and Harness; two Iron Ploughs by L’estrange, with mounting Break and Seed Harrows; Rollers and Winnowing Machine; Sheep Dipping Machine; Turnip Barrow; Straw Cutter; Sheep Racks; Crowbars; Sledges; Hoes, Rakers, Grapes, Forks, box Barrows, Melon Frames; Cap Glasses and Garden Tools. The produce of 25 acres of Oats, Wheat and Barley in stacks; 8 acres of prime Upland Hay in field Cocks; nearly two acres of Turnips; Eight farm Horses including brood mares; a handsome black Connemara pony Mare 4 years old; 50 prime two year old Ewes, now running with Tup; some Ram lambs and about 50 Stone of Wool.
Terms – Approved bills at 3 months for all sums over £20; discount allowed for prompt payment; cash in full for all minor transactions, and purchaser to pay 5% auction fees. N.B. The interest in the lease of the House and 63 Irish acres will be sold by auction on the same day if not previously disposed of by private contract; no preference has been promised or will be given.

The Subscriber has great pleasure in recommending the foregoing property to public notice, and begs to assure those whom it may concern that in either the indoor or outdoor branches of the Establishment will any persons of taste be disappointed if they want any portion of them; they will be found of useful and substantial service. The Furniture, Carriage and Plate in a perfect state preservation; and the Stock, Fanning Produce and Implements each in its own place, practically useful and free from the wild theory of useless articles.
JAMES GANLY, Auctioneer, Longford.
October 10th, 1846

(Tuam Herald, 24 October 1846

A contrasting description of Cahermorris was given earlier in the century by a travel writer, J.C. Curwen J.P. who travelled through Ireland about 1818. Describing his journey from Ballinrobe to Galway, he referred to Cahermorris as a wretched pot-house (ale-house). Nearby he noted the ruins of a fortified post and of an abbey as well as the thriving sheep eating the sparse grass from the fissures of the rock, a sight he may have noticed at Turloughgarve. The owner of Cregg castle, Major Kirwan is commended for his noted hospitality and generosity though the two gentlemen never met. The common name ofKirwan/Curwen led him to believe that they both had descended from the same ancestry. Major Kirwan was reputed to be one of the greatest graziers in the country, frequently having two hundred head of oxen and four hundred sheep at Ballinasloe fair.

The Annaghdown Relief Committee was established in 1847 with Francis Blake. Cregg Castle, Chairman; Thomas Cavanagh, Secretary and Fr. Myles Sheridan, P.P Treasurer. Its function was to collect funds locally for the establishment of a Soup Kitchen and its requirements. The monies collected was to be augmented by an equal sum from public funds. On February 26th, 1847 the Secretary forwarded a list of subscribers, lodgement receipt and covering letter to the Relief Commissioner.

I am directed by the Committee to enclose a list of the subscriptions towards establishing a Soup Kitchen in the Parish of Annadown and also the receipt of the money lodged in the Bank of Ireland. I beg most gratefully to call to your attention to the trifling sum we have been able to collect, and likewise to the very few subscribers compared with the vast number of landlords in the Parish, all of whom are absentees with the exception of one who devotes all his time and is doing all in his power for the relief of the starving poor. These two circumstances induce us to hope that the Government will not confine their grant to a sum equivalent to our local subscriptions, but will make it in some measure commensurate with the appaling distress that pervades through this district.
I have the honor to be, Sir, Your obedient servant
Thomas Cavanagh.
Secretary to Annadown Relief Committee.

Subscribers Names (£ s d)
Francis Blake and family 10-5-0
Richard Kirwan, Ditto 8-10-0
Walter Joyce 5-0-0
Revd. R. Marley 5-0-0
Do. for Soup tickets 5-0-0
Captain Butler 5-0-0
Henry Blake, Dartfield 5-0-0
Horace Rochfort 3-0-0
Revd. M. Sheridan 2-0-0
Patrick Wade 2-0-0
James Blake, Vermount 2-0-0
Dr. Donelan 2-0-0
Pierce Joyce 2-0-0
Revd. F. Keogh 1-0-0
Walter Blake, Rosslodge 1-0-0
Captain Burke 1-0-0
James Gunning 1-0-0
Thomas Cavanagh 1-0-0
Dominic Donelan 1-0-0
William Clancy 1-0-0
John French 1-0-0

We certify that all the subscriptions set forth in this list have been collected and paid to the Treasurer of the Annadown Relief Committee, and that there is not included in it any sum contributed from funds applicable to charitable purposes.

Francis Blake, Chairman.
Thomas Kavanagh, Secretary.

Documents from the National Archives, Dublin, are reproduced by permission of the Director. Barony of Clare No. 12358

Others requested to subscribe but failed to do so were noted also: Michael Brown, Moyne; John Nolan, Ballinderry; Brabson Newcommin; Francis Blake Knox; Mark Lynch; Denis Kirwin and Dr. Egan.

During the famine period Rev. Myles Sheridan was Parish Priest with Rev.F. Keogh as Curate. Later in 1849 Rev. Keaveney was transferred from Mountbellew as P.P. with Rev. Eugene Coyne as C.C. The Rev. R. Marley referred to in the subscription list was the Protestant clergyman in residence at the Glebe, Drumbaun. Francis Blake, Chairman of the Annaghdown Relief Committee, was the eldest son of James and Jane Blake of Cregg Castle. He was High Sheriff for Galway during famine times and also Chairman of the Lackagh Relief Committee. He married Georgina Burke, daughter of Richard Burke, Esq., of Glinsk, Co. Galway on January 13th, 1819. They had ten children, five boys and five girls; the eldest boy, James, inheriting the property on the death of his father in 1869.

When the public relief works were abandoned by the government it established 1,850 soup kitchens throughout the country to be paid out of Irish rates and subscriptions. The ratepayers opposed this because the rates had already increased fourfold since the Famine began. By July, 1847 over 3 million people were collecting daily rations. However, by October 1847 all those soup kitchens had closed their doors again on the orders of the Treasury.

Soup kitchens or food distribution centres were also established by charitable organisations and others. It is related that centres or kitchens were set up was at the Drumgriffin Post Office, Cregg Castle, Cahermorris, Gardenham, the dispensary at Annaghdown, Rinnehamey and the Glebe House, Drumbaun. In one section of the parish (within the Galway electoral division), the maximum number receiving food on any given day was reckoned to be 3,765 persons, about 76% of the population there.

The soup was prepared in large cauldrons many of which can still to be seen throughout the country. The soup recipes were generally not balanced for minerals and vitamins and over time gave rise to scurvy and other diseases. Some were too thin (watery) leading to diarrhoea. One such recipe was used on the estate of the Right Hon. James Grattan, Vicarstown, Co. Laois and was called “Gratten’s soup”:

1 ox head without tongue
28 lb turnips
3 1/2 lb onions
7 lb carrots
21 lb pea-meal
14 lb Indian meal
30 gallons water

In the mid-ninteenth century during the years of the famine, the Castle (Cregg) was noted as a centre of refuge to the many people who came seeking food and shelter bowls of soup and oat-meal porridge were distributed in the large kitchen to those who were taken in famished and hungry. Some people collapsed and died on the avenue as they tried to reach the Castle in search of food. During this period of unparalleled austerity a man would would sometimes be given a turnip in payment for his day’s work
on the estate.
(Article “Cregg Castle”)

Letters of appeal were written frequently by clergymen or Religious and published in the local press. A letter appears in the columns of the Tuam Herald of July 1848 giving a description of the hardships of the poor in the Tuam Deanery including Annaghdown parish, now confronted with the notorious Quarter Acre or Gregory Clause. This clause, introduced in Parliament by William Gregory M.P. for Dublin and husband of Lady Gregory, stipulated that a person who occupied a quarter acre of land or more could not receive relief either inside or outside the workhouse. As a result many small land holders were excluded from government assistance by this stringent restriction.

To His Excellency, the Earl of Clarendon.
Cathedral, Tuam, July 6th, 1848.
May it Please your Excellency –
We, the undersigned Roman Catholic Clergymen of the Deanery of Tuam, respectfully and most earnestly request your Excellency’s kind attention to the state of the small farm-holders in our respective parishes. The class to whom we allude, comprising at least 75% of the Rural population, have to our own personal knowledge, made exertions almost superhuman to crop their little holdings during the past spring. For this end they have in many instances parted with almost everything; they have sold, or pledged, articles of furniture, clothes, cattle, nay, the very corn and potatoes requisite for their subsistence, they put into the soil. However, all their efforts will not avail, unless they receive some aid to help them over the few weeks intervening between this and the ripening of the harvest crops. We declare most solemnly, and in the face of heaven, the class here referred to, have already fallen victims to the effects of intense privations; and that hundreds of those creatures are literally starving before our eyes every day, sooner than quit their little farms and apply for relief under the provisions of the “quarter acre” test. In some instances, rather than apply for aid from the Union, they have been obliged to sell the corn now growing. The great proportion of the class alluded to here by memorialists, have continued to pay the “poor rates” levied up to this time on the union. Unless aid, either in the shape of food or employment, be extended for the next few weeks, those creatures will either starve or otherwise be compelled to become a permanent burden upon a district already overtaxed. In some of our respective parishes, the distress of this class is intensely increased by the late order for the suspension of drainage works in operation. Memorialists will respectfully venture to suggest, that an industrious body of the people who have struggled with such laudable exertions to retain their holdings rather than live upon the honest industry of others, are deserving of the most attentive care of a paternal government. Moreover, those men are the most peaceable and order-loving in our respective parishes. If they are compelled by the operation of the “quarter acre” test to become mere paupers, the last tie that bound them to respect the laws of property are snapped for ever. Memorialists being aware of the lively interest taken by your Excellency in the Agricultural industry, and the fostering of the well-deserving tenant, entertain the most sanguine hope that your Excellency will direct such immediate steps to be taken as will enable the poor creatures to pass over those next few weeks, and your memorialists will always pray.

Myles Sheridan, P.P., Anadown
Richard Walsh, P.P.,Headford
John O’Grady, P.P., Abbeyknockmoy.
J. Dwyer, P.P., Lackagh.
Eugene Coyne, R.C.C., Annaghdown.
John J. Noone, P.P., Menlo.
Patrick Conry, R.C.C., Tuam.
Thomas Kearney, R.C.C., Mountbellew.
Richard Hosty, R.C.C., Clare-Tuam.
John Charles, R.C.C., Donapatrick.
Peter Waldron R.C.C., Headford.
John Burke P.P. Moylough.
Luke Ryan, R.C.C., Tuam.
John Hughes, R.C.C., Monivea
Peter Reynolds R.C.C., Tuam.
Patrick Duggan, R.C.C., Cummer
Dublin Castle, 13th July, 1848.
Sir – With reference to your letter of the 6th instant, forwarding the memorial of the Roman Catholic clergymen of Tuam, I have the honour, by desire of the Lord Lieutenant, to state that his Excellency has directed the attention of the Poor law Commissioners to the state of the Tuam union, with a view to the provisions of the law for the relief of the poor being effectually carried out. It is not, however, competent for his Excellency or the commissioners to extend the operation of that law beyond the limits provided by the legislature, I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant.
T.N. Reddington

Tuam Herald, July 1848

The last signatory to the above letter from the clergy, Fr. Patrick Duggan, was C.C. in Cummer from 1842 – 1847, Administrator there from 1847 to 1856 and Parish priest from 1856 to 1871 when he was appointed Bishop of Clonfert. Dr. Duggan was a fearless champion of the poor during the Famine years and afterwards. He was Secretary to the Cummer Agricultural Society which contributed enormously to the betterment of the local people during those trying years. This Society encouraged the cultivation of vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, carrots, peas and cabbages as a partial substitute for the potato crop and as the basis of an extended and improved system of farming operations. As an incentive towards the cultivation of a greater variety of vegetables, growers were offered assistance through practical advice, through the purchase of iron rakes, hoes and rollers for the use of the poor together with prizes offered for the various classes cultivated. Another aspect of the Society’s endeavours was to encourage cleanliness and ventilation of the cottages of the poor. In 1849 the awards for the neatest kept cottages in Cummer district were awarded to Pat Solan, Ballintubber, Charles O’ Brien, Ballinderry and Widow Nohilly, Ballinacregg.

The Society of Friends set up a central Relief Committee in Dublin to co-ordinate all their relief work in Ireland and was instrumental in saving many lives though its provision of food and resources thus enabling the poor to find a means of livelihood. The Quakers were among the first to set up soup kitchens and they were involved in the importation of food supplies from the United States, in the distribution of clothes and re-organisation of the fishing industry. In Galway city they gave generous loans to the Claddagh fishermen to rebuild their fishing fleets and supplied them with food so that they could remain in fishing operations for longer periods. Another insight into the leadership given by religious groups is to be found in the lengthy but fruitful correspondence between the Franciscan Brothers, Brookelodge, Abbeyknockmoy parish and the Society of Friends, Dublin. These twelve letters and replies, written between 1847 and 1848 portray a vivid picture of the hardships endured by the poor and how the Brothers responded to their needs.

Kilmoylan Monastery, Dangan, Co. Galway. May 29th 1847
With diffidence and the greatest respect we, the Monks of Kilmoylan presume to address your honourable and humane society through the bearer, Br. Peter Kivlan who is one of our members, on behalf of the fever-stricken and starving population by which we are surrounded, in the hope that your honourable society will enable to continue to give relief to the hundred walking skeletons in the shape of human beings whose wild cries are to be heard daily around the doors of our monastery, supplicating us, aye, even for a single mouthful of food to save them from death. It would be needless to harrow up the feelings of the humane and benevolent by the recital of any particular cases of sufferings; it is sufficient to say that no parallel to there is to be found save in Skibbereen. We have given relief to an average number of eighty poor persons per day up to the present from our own funds which are now quite exhausted, and unless aided by some charitable society we will be obliged to abandon them to the fate. We beg leave to draw to your attention the extreme sufferings of these destitute people for which our representative awaits your kind answer. Pardon gentlemen, the liberty we have taken and we beg to subscribe ourselves,
The Monks of Kilmoylan – Superior, Br. Joseph Griffen, Dangan
Reference: Rev. John O’Grady, P.P., Abbeyknockmoy.

Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friend:
43, Fleet Street, Dublin. 5th of June, 1847
Joseph Griffen, Monastery, KilmoyIan, Dangan.
“The Committee had before them hy letter of 29th ult. direct us to transmit herewith an order in thy favour on the Govr. Stores, Galway for Eight sacks Indian Meal, 280 lbs. per sack to be distributed in a cooked state if possible among the most necessitous of the poor around thee, care being taken to select those who are not receiving government relief; and a particular account the manner of distribution and number relieved returned to us when completed”
We are respectfully, Joseph Bewley, Jonathan Pim
Per Wm. J. Hughes Assnt. Sec.

Franciscan Brothers’ Archives, Mountbellew

In the above reply we note a request that the meal be served in a cooked state. The serving of cooked food instead of raw meal prevented inadequate cooking facilities and lack of hygiene in people’s homes from aggravating already widespread diarrhoea and dysentery. Also, it was claimed that serving meal led to corrupting practices such trading meal for tea, tobacco and alcohol. Nevertheless. people preferred to receive raw meal which they could cook in the privacy of their own homes giving them the satisfaction of contributing in some fashion to their own family tasks and tastes.

Requests from the Brothers coupled with positive replies from the Society of Friends continued through 1847 and up to July of 1848. The poor of Ballyglunin district were assisted with Indian meal, peas, rye meal, beans, rice and meat at various times. In a reply to the central committee on April 25th, 1848, Br. Joseph Griffen states that “The relief has been confined to the sick, convalescent and young children… 3,000 men, women and children have partaken of a comfortable meal, ready prepared and eaten within the Monastery walls and attended on by the Monks, so that comfort and economy have been combined…”

There was a network of 130 Poorhouses/Workhouses in place throughout the country by the onset of the Famine, soon increasing to 163. The parish of Annaghdown was divided between two Poor Law districts: one area within the Galway union and the other in the Tuam union. The Galway workhouse was built and fitted on an eight acre site at the cost of £9,799 1to accommodate 1,000 inmates and recorded its first admission on the 2nd March, 1842. By the 1st May, 1847 there were Fever sheds erected in the Workhouse yards to accommodate 100 patients. In 1853 the Workhouse afforded accommodation for 2,000 inmates with an auxiliary Workhouse having facilities for a further 1,204 inmates. Tuam Workhouse was built and fitted at the cost of £8,100 on a seven acre site to accommodate 800 inmates recording its first admission on the 4th May, 1846. Fever sheds for 50 patients were in the course of erection there by 1st May, 1847.

By 1853 the accommodation afforded in Tuam Workhouse had risen to 1,584 inmates. The Annaghdown parish town lands within the Galway union were Addergoole, Annaghdown, Annagh East, Annagh West, Aughclogeen, Ballylee, Barranna, Barravilla, Baunmore, Caherlea, Carheeny, Carraghy, Carrabeg North, Carrabeg South, Castlecreevey, Castlequarter, Cloonboo, Cloonleenaun, Corrandulla, Corbally, Coteenty, Cregg, Creggduff, Drumbaun, Drumgriffin, Gardenham/Garrymore, Glebe, Gortroe, Grange, Lisheenoran, Mace, Mullaghadrum, Muckrush, Nine Acres, Park, Racoona, Rinnaharney, Shanbally, Shankill, Slievefinn, Tonegurrane,Tonemace, Woodpark and Lough Corrib islands. The townlands within the Tuam Union were Ardgaineen, Balrobuckbeg, Balrobuckmore, Bolisheen, Bunnahevellybeg, Bunoghanaun, Cartron, Carrowrooaun, Cloonagh, Glenreevagh, Kilcahill, Kilgill, Tomnahulla, Turloughgarve, Biggerabeg, Biggeramore, Bunatober, Bunahevellymore, Cahermorris, Cluidreevagh and Corrandrum.

The Irish had a great dislike of the workhouse system. Many had no alternative but to go there especially from Autumn of 1846 when food became so scarce in the country. Families who entered the workhouse were segregated: there were male wards, female wards and children’s wards all completely separate from one another. Men had to work – grind corn, break stones or work on the land while women were engaged in house duties, washing, cleaning and child minding without receiving any remuneration. It not known how many people from Annaghdown parish entered either Workhouse but we may assume that a number of families were forced to go there branded as paupers.


Containing about 120 acres of good grazing land, situate at Cahermorris on the road from Shrule to Galway, as lately in the possession of Robert Ffrench.
Application to be made to Richard B. Jennings Esq., Mount Jennings, Hollymount, June 1848.

Tuam Herald 3. June 1848

To be let.
At Knockdoe and Ardgaineen

The property of A. H. Kirwan Esq., in lots of 10 to 200 acres as may suit purchasers, Grazing stock may be taken in. The above lands are commodiously situated midway between Galway and Tuam near the coach road. Application to Ml. Glynn, Milbrook, Claremorris. William Joyce, who lives at Knockdoe, next house to the mail coach stage, will show the lands.

Tuam Herald 7 June 1848

There was an annual fair held at Drumgriffin on May Ist in a field known as “Páirc an Aonaigh”. According to a news item of May 16th, 1846 Headford fair was well attended. There was an average show of stock with a good demand. Fat weathers 50s., ewes and lambs 40s. to 44s., hoggetts 28s. to 33s., milch cows £9 to £11, store heifers £6 10s to £8, fat cattle £10 to £14. On August 15th of the same year the Galway Mercury reported of the market held in the city on that day, stating that there was a poor supply of wheat for sale at 7s. 9d. to ls. 3d. per cwt. No oats was offered for sale, and only a few cart-loads of potatoes, for the most part diseased, at a penny halfpenny per stone.

The failure of the potato crop in Galway was reported by August 1846:

Our accounts from all parts of the country represent the potato crop as utterly destroyed. Mr. John Murphy of Abbey-gate Street, has called in this office to state that on Tuesday last, he had twenty-seven feet dug out of his land at Ballybane, and did not get one stone of sound potatoes, although on the Thursday before four-fifths of them were good. ln truth, the failure is universal.

Galway Mercury 29 August 1846

Exports of grain continued throughout the Famine though the tonnage decreased considerably from 1845 to 1847:

YearExports (tons)Imports (tons)*
Exports of grain from 1844-1848 (Famine Facts)

To a starving population the export of any grain did not make sense. This led to food riots but the Government responded by sending in troops to protect the grain trade. The 284,000 tons of grain exported in 1846 would not have prevented the famine as up to 3 million tons of grain was needed to compensate for the potato loss. It could, however, have provided 1lb of meal a day for 4 million people for 160 days and so would have allieviated the hardship while waiting for a supply of Indian meal to arrive.

The cultivation of potatoes in the parish of Annaghdown was extremely sparse in “Black 47” considering the exclusive reliance on the crop as the staple diet for most of the inhabitants. As in many other places in the west of Ireland there was little seed left from the previous year for sowing. The total acreage in Annaghdown for 1847 was 11? acres, increasing to 754 acres during the following year while the acreage of turnip stood at 78 acres in 1847 but increased to 368 acres in 1848.

In the majority of cases it was not in the interest of the landlords to allow many small tenant holders remain on their lands. The burden of rates, which increased fourfold duing the famine years, fell on the landlord where the valuation was £4.00 or less. Together with the levy imposed to support the workhouses, the land owners had now to contend with the costs involved in the maintenance of the recently erected fever hosptials. Cattle grazing was more lucrative now than cereals and crop cultivation for the majority of the Landlords. There was little demand for the services of so many labourers or colliers who had assisted in the sowing and harvesting heretofore and who had rented small portions of land on the estates. Rack-renting, which enabled landlords and middlemen to raise rent at will, evictions, homelessness, the drift towards workhouse living and emigration became the order of the day. In 1846 the number of evictions which were carried out in Ireland stood at 4,000 families. By 1850 this had increased to 20,000 families.

People who had previously regarded emigration only a last resort now were anxious to get out of Ireland. Over 25% of the population left the country in the decade 1845-1855. No other population movement of the 19th century was on so large a scale. In 1847 the 115,000 citizens of Boston alone were joined by 37,000 Irish emigrants. first it was the better off that went especially those with some money but soon the poor who could raise fares joined them. Even tenant farmers who could no longer pay the rates were leaving. Passage money was sent home to relatives by those who could afford it so that they too could arrive safely in the “land of the free”. In many instances, the starving people sold their household goods, crops and animals to pay for their passage to America.

The Splendid New Bridge
500 tons burden, John McKay, Commander
Will sail for the above Port on the 12th January, 1847,
(Wind and Weather permitting)

In consequence of the increased demand for Agricultural produce in the United States, from the failure of the Potatoes in this Country, the demand for Labour next Spring will be more than double what it has been heretofore, and Wages, will, no doubt, be high in proportion, Emigrants will therefore do well to
secure a passage by the above Vessel, as they will arrive when Spring Work is commencing and fall in for immediate Employment.

The above Vessel will be fitted up in a superior manner and the Captain, who is long accustomed to the American Trade, will afford every necessary information to Passengers. Each emigrant will be supplied with one pound of meal or bread per day, according to Act of Parliament, and abundance of Fuel and Water. As the Vessel will be dispatched positively on the day named, early application is necessary to R. D. Persse, Merchants-road; Messrs Rush and Palmer, Dominick-street; R. N. Somerville, Eyre-square, and Edmund Duffy, Back-street, Galway.

N.B. This vessel will be succeeded by the Brig “RED WING”, Yorke, Commander, burden 400 Tons, to sail in FEBRUARY; by the Barque “ALBION”, Wallace, commander, burden 600 Tons, to sail in MARCH; and by the Barque “BARBARA”, Mackey, commander, 800 Tons burden, to sail in APRIL next. Those are all First Class Vessels, and commanded by the most experienced Masters, who will pay every attention to the comfort of the Passengers during the voyage.

For Passage apply to R. D. Persse, Galway.

Galway Mercury, JanUARY 1847

In 1847 approximately 100,000 emigrants set out for Canada alone. Fares were cheaper than those to the USA, regulations were less strict and the ships involved were mainly engaged in bringing timber to Britain, returning to Canada with ‘Irish emigrants. Fever, shortages of water and food, overcrowding and unhygienic conditions led to a 20%- 40% mortality on board what were later termed “coffin ships”.

In the same year at least 5,300 immigrants died on arrival at Grosse Isle and a further 6,000 at Point St. Charles. Many of those who survived spread inland in Canada whi others made their way across to the United States. At first they had to accept low wages and appaling living conditions. For many years, being Irish and particularly Irish and Catholic was a stigma in America. Gradually however, the Irish in the USA and Canada became fully established and prominent in business, labour, political, religion and cultural life. A constant stream of letters home, praising the new life, was the pointer for others follow. About one million people left Ireland between 1846 and 1850 while emigration was still greater over the following five years. In the transition to life in America, families were sometimes separated, addresses lost and confused and or newcomers disappeared in the vastness of the new land.

Advertisements from the settled Irish population there were carried in the American newspapers appealing for the whereabouts of recently arrived relatives. The Boston Pilot newspaper gave such a service during these times when new immigrants began to settle down and seek their relatives or friends:

14/11/1846 INFORMATION WANTED Of HONORA SCULLY, native of Co. Galway, parish of Anydawn. who left her parents 8 years ago in Adams County, Pennsylvania, and went to New York. She remained there 8 or 9 months when information was received that she arrived. The girl is 19 years of age. Any information respecting her will be thankfully received by Martin Loftis, Mount Savage, Jennings Run Postoffice, Alleghany County, Md.

Of MARK FEENEY, Tounagrawn, parish Anydowney, Co. Galway, who landed in Boston in 1847. Any information respecting him will be thankfully received by his wife, Julia Cannovan alias Feeney. Address her at Cabotville, Ms.

June 1851 Of WILLIAM and MARTIN CUNNINGHAM, sons of Michael Cunningham lived at Buntober, parish Anadown, Co. Galway, – landed in New York last September. Any information of him will be thankfully received by his friends, WILLIAM and JAMES NOONE, Bristol, Ulster County, N.Y.

11/8/1855 Of JOHN FORD, of Annydown, Co. Galway, who left for the U.S. 10 years since; When last heard of, about a year ago, he was in Maysville, Ky. Information of him will be received by his brother James, Richmond, near Philadelphia, Penn.

The Search for Missing Friends

While many of the Irish emigrants found their way to the U.S.A. and Canada, others found a new life in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Of those who went to Australia were 4,175 female orphans selected by government officials from among the inmates of Irish workhouses between 1848 and 1850. Forty seven went from Galway Workhouse and Tuam is listed as having sent fifty seven. Loneliness for friends and homeland, early marriages, large families and years of widowhood was the lot of many of them. The majority married English settlers, while over thirty percent married Irishmen. When we consider the hardships they endured in a strange land, without the help of family or friends we are amazed at the courage, resilience and endurance of these women. In a register of the Irish Female orphans who arrived in Australia between 1848 and 1850 were the following from Annaghdown parish:

Board of Immigration Shipping List

Sydney orphans per ship INCHINNAN arrived 20/2/1849
FORD, MARY. Age 16. Annadown, Galway. Parents: Patrick and Judy (both dead). Religion Roman Catholic
Ship THOMAS ARBUTHNOT. Arrived Sydney 3/2/1850 BRIGID YOUNG. Age 16. Hannadown, Galway. Parents: Michael and Ellen (both dead). Religion: Roman Catholic.
Ship THOMAS ARBUTHNOT. Arrived Sydney 3/2/1850 MARY YOUNG. Age 21. Hannadown, Galway. Parents: Michael and Ellen (both dead). Religion: Roman Catholic.

Barefoot and Pregnant?

On arrival, Brigid was employed by W.K. Smith, Minga, Gundagai as a house servant. She married Richard Hart, Gundagai on the 7th November, 1852 and had two children William and Lewis. Mary was also employed by W.K. Smith as a Nursemaid. She married Dennis Flynne, Mingay on the 9th October, 1850 and had one child, Cornelius. Brigid and Mary Young were among those who had to cross the Irish sea first to Plymouth by steamer, a thirty-six hour journey. This may have been the worst part of the entire voyage as the crossing was done during rough weather on open deck without shelter from wind or rain. Despite opposition from the immigration authorities at Plymouth, the ship’s doctor insisted they be given a hot bath on arrival as they looked so miserable and depressed before they embark on the main voyage to Australia. They soon set off on a three month journey across the wide and lonely sea to the unfamiliar destination of Sydney. On Christmas Eve, as they rounded the Cape of Good Hope, the orphans got together and began to keen, lamenting their departure from their native country. The matron on board ship, not understanding this Irish rite of farewell, threatened them with severe restrictions and dire punishments. Thereupon the orphans immediately broke out into dancing in another good Irish traditional fashion! What an unusual scene with the caoining bourne across the waves towards their homeland while the tempo suddenly changed to the stamping out of an Irish reel or jig on the deck of the Thomas Arbuthnot, Christmas Eve, 1849.

Emigration was now firmly established and continued unabated right through the century with 5 million leaving Ireland between 1845 and 1911. Australia and New Zealand continued to be a haven for a number of emigrants from Annaghdown through the post famine years. The Otago Witness newspaper, Dunedin of March 23rd, 1861 records the arrival of the clipper ship “Melbourne” from Leith with immigrants and general cargo. The crossing took 92 days in pleasant weather from Portsmouth to Otago. The 200 passengers who looked quite healthy after their journey had collected £5 for the cook to show their appreciation of his kindness and attention to their wants. Only one dealh occurred during the lengthy journey while one birth was also recorded. Among the passengers on board were: Daniel Caulfield, Drumgriffin; Mary Collins, Drumgriffin; Pat and Helen Crowe, Drumgriffin; John Ford, Annaghdown; Patrick Ford, Annaghdown; Patrick and Honor Ford, Annaghdown; Thos. Kilkelly, Annaghdown; James Leven and wife, Annaghdown; Patrick Lavelle, Drumgriffin; Thomas Fahy and wife, Drumgriffin as well as George Brown, wife and daughter, Drumgriffin who travelled as assisted passengers.

The addresses given as “Drumgriffin” or “Annaghdown” may refer to the postal address or parish rather than the particular townland. A post office was opened in Drumgriffin towards the end of the Great Famine with Mary Griffen as sub-postmistress for which she received a salary of of £3. The post from Dublin arrived daily at 10.20 a.m. and was dispatched for Dublin at 3.40 p.m. Prior to the famine times a Penny Post service was established between Corrandulla and Tuam. It ceased functioning with the introduction of the national Penny postage stamp service in 1839. Patrick Ford, one of the passengers from Annaghdown on board the “Melbourne” was born in 1839 and had experienced the famine in Ireland as a young boy. Following his arrival in New Zealand he married Ellen Crowe whom he probably became acquainted with prior to their departure from Ireland or during the voyage. One of their descendants, Tony Ford, a journalist in New Zealand, has written a comprehensive account of the Ford family history beginning with Patrick and Ellen.

Advertisements encouraging female emigration to New South Wales, Australia appeared frequently in print. The prospective emigrants were to get a free passage and on arrival were to be welcomed by the Governor until they would receive suitable employment while a committee of the most respectable Ladies in the Colony would benevolently superintend and advise them from the moment of their arrival and see to their being placed in proper families. They were reminded that many single girls who had already arrived married respectable settlers, clearly demonstrating that all such had importantly benefited their condition by proceeding to that healthy and prosperous Colony.

Despite this favourable account of life in Australia, the reality was different for Biddy Burke, Ballybeg, as she wrote to her parents and brother John. Although Biddy did not experience the Great Famine she heard many harrowing accounts of it from her parents at home and her uncle Patrick in Australia. She was frequently overcome with lonehness far removed from her parents and family, constantly watching for the postman to carry her news from her sister Mary or brother John. She longed to meet them all again in the old homestead in Ballybeg which she describes in some detail, enquiring if the area at the front of the house still got flooded in winter. Despite all her longing for home she has some good things to relate about Brisbane regarding job opportunities, food and climate.

I have far bitter (better) times of it now at servis than I had there but I feel very lonely on Sunday. When I see all the Girls gone to see their Mother Imust go to my bed room & cry my fill. I am 40 miles from my uncle. I feal Quare without a home to go to when on My sunday out. I often wish to Have you out Heare. I cannot make free with any body…

I am glad that stock is standing a good price but I am sorrow for the corn & things to get such a loe price. I suppose the potatoes ar still getting Black. Theire is no such thing as a black potae in Queensland & they native potates we can plant the stalks like gerreamen slips at home in pots. They plant them the same here in the fields & potatoes grows as large as turnips at home. These ar called sweet potatoes. We have the English Potates the same as the home potatoes & turnips & all sorte of vegetables the same as home & anny amount of Beef & mutton & also of meat…

Now I must tell you some about my Uncle. He came to pay me a visit about months ago. He feel alright & also all they family. He was saying something about gone home in a year or 2 if he would be spared. I might go that is if Patt comes well (we’ll) all go & see the old sod once more. But I don’t supose I could live there now altho its the deepest thought in my heart does the water still come into the Yard in winter times & I supose all the Visstoers (visitors) they same as ever. Dant I often think of them times.

Biddy Burke Letters

Many of the poorest famine emigrants went to Britain, travelling there by steamships normally used for the transport of cattle or goods. These emigrants spread around the country to cities such as Liverpool, London, Manchester and Glasgow. In 1845 the number of destitutes among the Irish emigrants arriving in Liverpool was 800. In 1846 it increased to 14,000 while in 1847 the number stood at 116,000. Many of those who arrived had contacted the dreaded “Irish Fever” with 8,000 dying there of the disease
in 1847. The trauma of hunger and starvation, eviction and emigration endured by so many of our people during the Great Famine is a stark reminder of what natural disasters can do to a neglected people. But the Great Famine was much more than a natural catastrophe. It highlighted the neglect of those in authority to act promptly and decisively when human life was endangered; where ideology prevailed over compassion. Conversely, we cannot but look with admiration on those individuals and organisations who reached out a helping hand to the distressed. The fact that so many of the emigrants prospered in the land of their adoption is a tribute to their resilience and to the nations who received them. This Irish catastrophe of 1845-1850 also highlights the appaling situations of the countless victims of famine in our world of today. The rest is silence.

Amhrán na Mine

The story of famine in Ireland is recorded not only in prose but also in art, oral tradition and poetry. A poem entitled “Amhráin na Mine” was composed in praise of Major Kirwan, Castlehackett for the assistance afforded to his tenants during a local famine of the 1820’s, probably that of 1822. A branch of the Kirwan family held lands in Bawnmore, Drumbaun, Ardgaineen townlands through the the Great Famme times; being forced to sell some of their estates during the l 850’s because of debts incurred.

In this particular poem Major Kirwan, Castlehackett House, is referred to as the one who would not let the people die when they came to him in their hundreds. He set up a crane in his own yard to weigh the meal for distribution and procured a ship load of “yellow gold and silver” (maize and wheat) because he was so good-natured. Nor is the Major’s wife left without mention for she is of the Burke clan and the true flower of our nobility!

Bhéarfamuidne an bheannacht do’n Major
Ó is é féin an fear réidte áit,
Ó is é thóg ó’n mbás na céadta
Is nach leigfeadh na Gaedhil bhocht’ chun báis.

Bhi siad ag teacht in dtréadaibh,
Agus neartaigh siad sgéal ann gach lá,
Ní chuirfeadh an prionnsa gruaim ar bith in a éadan,
N gurbh fhairsing Mac Dé ar shil Ádhaimh

Is é an “major” a thionnscail an méad seo
A’s a thiomáin uaidh sgéal i ngach áit,
Fosgluighidh stóirí na h-Eireann
A’s ná leigidh na Gaedhil bhocht ‘chun báis.

Roinnighidh min ina gcéadtaibh
Agus cuirighidh suas “crane” i mo “yard”
Agus fg an lucht síbín an peatar,
An pinta, mar dhéirce, ‘s an cart.”

Nuair a tháinic an gorta go h-Eireann
Seadh do phreab croídhe na féile i bpárt,
Thomáin uaidh long faoi n-a seóltaibh
S í lán de’n ór buidhe agus bán.

Níl sé i gcúig cúigibh na hEireann
A samhail bean an “Major” le fáighail,
Mar tá fíor-sgoth na h-uaisle an Búrcach,
Nó a bhuil ar shliocht clainne righte as an Spáinn.


le Cáit Congaoile, An Ghráinnseach, Cor an Dola. Fomhar, 1997

Faoi dheireadh shroich sé muid
Ag lámhchán
Ar nos gadaí oíche
Go ciúin, ciontach, cathmhar –
An Gorta!

Ocras na nOchras
Ó Eanach Dhúin go Cor an Dola
Ag fagáil scríobanna an dochair
Sa Chreag Dubh
Is an Baile Beag.

Ar nós scamaill thaibhsiúil
Lonnraigh sé
Is mhair sé
Is sciob sé leis iad
Gan trócaire
Fir, mná is leanaí
A gcreatlacha mar fhianaise
I mBáirr an Eanaigh
Is i Lisin an Fhuaráin
Mo thrua!

I bhFómhar na bliana ’47
Geimhreadh gan duilleog,
Gan d6chas
Gan dóthain…

An Gorta
A náirigh creatúr bhochta
Ach fós,
Nár bhain an uaisleacht uathu…
lobairtaigh an Ochrais
A d’fhan dílis
Is a d’fhulaing…

Srnaoinirnid orthu
Is beannairnid a n-iarrachtaí
Fir, mná is leanaí
Ó chúinní Eanach Dhúin…
Ó chuinní Chor an Dola…

Nár tarla a leithéid arís!
Nár taga an Dorchadas!
Ocras na nOcras,
Nár taga tú …


1. Tuam Herald Newspapers 1846-1850
2. Galway Vindicator & Galway Mercury. Galway Co. Library.
3. Australian Commemoration of the Great Famine. Victoria University.
4. Franciscan Brothers – Society of Friends Correspondence, 1847-48. Franciscan Brothers, Mountbellew.
5. History and Folklore of the Barony of Clare. Michael J. Hughes.
6. Irish Famine Facts. Teagasc
7. The Great Hunger. Cecil Woodham-Smith
8. The Great Irish Famine. Cathal Poirteir
9. The Great Famine in Galway. Professor James P. Murray
10. The Galway Magazine 1995
11. Barefoot and Pregnant?. Trevor McClaughlin
12. The Search for Missing Friends. New England Historic Geneological Society, Boston.
13. Before and after the Famine. Colm Ó Gráda.
14. Robinson Genealogy. Mrs. Peggy Higgins.
15. Corrandulla Church Registers. Rev. M. Newell, P.P.
16. Annaghdown Applotment Handbook, 1847. Devanney family.
17. Galway Roots: 1847 Famine in Galway. Padraic O Laoi.
18. Biddy Burke Letters. Mrs. Margaret Lynch.
19. The Farmer’s Gazette Yearbook, 1847. c/o Furey family.
20. Irisleabhar Cois Coiribe 1995. Annaghdown N.S.
21. The Otago Witness newspaper, 1861.
22. Famine 150. Teagasc/U.C.D.
23. Famine Relief Papers. National Archives/Galway Co. Library.
24. Workhouses in Ireland John O’Connor.
25. Encumbered Estates Auctions. Kirwan Properties. Galway Co. Library.
26. Ford Family History. Tony Ford, New Zealand.
27. Instructions to Overseers, 1846. Annaghdown Heritage Society.
28. Population Census 1841- 185 I. Galway Co. Library.
29. Irish Folklore Commission,1936. U.C.D.
30. Observations on the State of Ireland. (Vol. I) J.C. Curwen M.P.
31. Galway – History and Society. Gerard Moran.
32. Article: Cregg Castle. Michael Stewart.

Famine Times in Annaghdown

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