'An tOcras Mór' The Great Hunger.



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Forum Home > How Each County Was Affected "The Great Hunger" > County Kerry - Ciarraí / Co. Chiarraí

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Famine and Emigration

Pre-Famine Life


Pre-famine percentage of the population in regards to literacy

and poor (4th class) housing in Kerry circa 1841:


60% Lowest class housing

23% Literate


Excerpt from a description of his tour in Ireland

by Gustave de Beaumont (1830s):


"Imagine four walls of dried mud (which the rain, as it falls, easily restores to its primitive condition) having for its roof a little straw or some sods, for its chimney a hole cut in the roof, or very frequently the door through which alone the smoke finds an issue. A single apartment contains father, mother, children and sometimes a grandfather and a grandmother; there is no furniture in the wretched hovel; a single bed of straw serves the entire family.


Five or six half-naked children may be seen crouched near a miserable fire, the ashes of which cover a few potatoes, the sole nourishment of the family. In the midst of all lies a dirty pig, the only thriving inhabitant of the place, for he lives in filth. The presence of a pig in an Irish hovel may at first seem an indication of misery; on the contrary, it is a sign of comparative comfort. Indigence is still more extreme in a hovel where no pig is found... I have just described the dwelling of the Irish farmer or agricultural labourer."


From a witness to the Poor Inquiry 1835-6:


"When they have dug the potatoes from the pits, they still have to collect fuel, and to wash them and boil them; in fact, between setting potatoes, digging potatoes, washing potatoes and boiling potatoes, they have hardly time to attend to anything else. They can never be clean or diligent at other matters until the nature of their food be changed." (www.local.ie) - Famine





Famine Years - 1845-50 (The Great Starvation)


Potato Famine Kerry

Lord Ventry - landowner, Corkaquiny Barony (Dingle Peninsula)

Dingle Hospital During the Famine

Why wasn't fishing a solution during the famine years?


The overall impacts of the Famine included:


*the decline of the Irish language and customs (in 1835, the number of native Irish speakers was estimated at four million -- in 1851, only 2 million spoke Irish as their first language) *the devastation of the landless laborer class and small tenant farmer.

*a treeless landscape in many parts of Ireland.

*the shells of homes that were rendered uninhabitable after the landlords evicted their tenants.

*a massive decrease in farms of 15 acres and less. The 1841 census showed that 45% of land holdings were less than five acres.

*Irish emigrants scattered around the globe.


Today there are over 5 million people in Ireland, while it is estimated there are upwards of 70 million people of Irish descent throughout the world.


The British Government on the Famine:


"The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson,that calamity must not be too much mitigated.... The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people"

Sir Charles Trevelyan head of famine relief

Famine of death


Trevelyan decides the following: 22 Poor Law Unions in the west and south-west are to receive assistance from "national funds"; able-bodied men are to receive relief only within the workhouses, in order to discourage applicants. The aged, infirm, widows and children are to be turned out of the workhouses and given aid in the form of cooked food only. This will prove impossible to implement, not least because the vast majority of Poor Law Unions are in debt.


£1 is keeping one person for 34 weeks, and Edward Twistleton, the Chief Poor Law Commissioner, recommends not making this public for fear of the Government being accused of "slowly murdering the peasantry by the scantiness of our relief". Trevelyan believes that "natural causes" must be allowed to operate.


Edward Twistleton resigns as Chief Poor Law Commissioner and Alfred Power, a well-to-do solicitor, succeeds him. Twistleton is said to be resigning because "the destitution here is so horrible, and the indifference of the House of Commons (British Government) to it so manifest, that he is an unfit agent of a policy that must be one of extermination."


Lord George Hill, a landlord who had attempted without success to consolidate his estates prior to 1845 says:


"The Irish people have profited much by the Famine, the lesson was severe; but so deep-rooted were they in old prejudices and old ways, that no teacher could have induced them to make the changes which this visitation of Divine Providence has brought about, both in their habits of life and in their mode of agriculture." Local Ireland (www.local.ie)- Famine


April 29, 2015 at 4:35 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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1846 London, Parliament:


The Westminster Parliament was fiercely divided by the crisis. The radical MP Daniel O'Connell (Kerry born) told the Commons: "The people are not to blame! It is your business to mitigate it as well as you can. Famine is coming, fever is coming and this House should place in the hands of the government power to stay the evil."


Sir Charles Trevelyan, head of the Treasury, vehemently opposed calls for state aid, asserting that: "If the Irish once find out that there are any circumstances in which they can get free government grants, we shall have a system of mendicancy such as the world never knew." Charles E. Trevelyan, who served under both Peel and Russell at the Treasury, and had prime responsibility for famine relief in Ireland, was clear about God's role: "The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated"




Emigration and the Decline in Population in Kerry: 1841-1851


Famine Emigration: "For many the only alternative to disease and starvation, and the only option to eviction from their tenant lands, was emigration. The Passenger Act of 1847 was passed and it granted each emigrant 10 cubic feet and a supply of food and water. Realistically captains didn't obey this act and many people starved or died of disease in cramped quarters aboard the emigrant ships. An estimated one and one-half million Irish emigrated from 1845 to 1851, upwards of 30-45% dying in the "coffin ships" on their journey or shortly after their arrival in their new home. In 1846, the ship fare from Ireland to Quebec was about 6 pounds for a man, his wife, and 4 children. The fare to NY was about 21 pounds. (source: Magnus Magnusson, 1978. Landlord or Tenant?" (A View of Irish History).


Kerry suffered a drop in population of 19% between 1841 and 1851. In 1845-1848 the peak years of the Great Famine, Kerry lost about 30% of its population to death and emigration, with an excess mortality rate of +15%. Most of the emigration from the county took place in the later decades of the nineteenth century and in the twentieth century; in the 125 years from 1841 to 1966, the population fell by 58%. Emigration from Kerry began on a large scale circa 1845, then mainly to the east coast of the USA. Later emigration tended towards UK with a peak in 1940-60 period. Places to which people went include Springfield, Mass., Boston, Birmingham, London. Deportation to Australia and Tasmania in 1840-1900 period accounts for most of those of Irish extraction there.


Ever wonder why your ancestors immigrated to Canada?:


"The British Passenger Acts attempted to deflect immigration from the British Isles to Canada rather than the United States by making it much more expensive to travel to the latter. Instead of the four or five pounds a fare to New York would cost in those years, the rate to the Canadian Maritime Provinces was sometimes as low as fifteen shillings (there were twenty shillings to the pound). In addition, Canada-bound ships left from every seaport in Ireland and were both much more convenient for Irish immigrants and much cheaper than making the twelve - to fourteen-hour crossing of the Irish Sea to Liverpool, the chief port of the immigrant trade proper. But there were few economic opportunities in Canada and the curious combination of patterns of trade and anti-American British legislation produced what Marcus Lee Hansen called "the second colonization of New England," a colonization that was largely Irish. Immigrants quickly discovered that they could get cheap transportation south from Canadian ports or, if they lacked money as was often the case, they could walk. This became well known to both captains and emigrants. When the master of the ship Ocean, sailing from Galway to New Brunswick in 1835 advertised for immigrant passengers, he pointed this out, adding (with a bit of Blarney) that "those living on that line of road being very kind to Strangers as they pass." Although the road led to Boston, many Irish found work and settled along the way, and Hansen pointed out that one can trace the Irish migration route by the pioneer Catholic churches established in Maine in those years." Coming to America by Roger Daniels


There were no deep water ports in Ireland. So where did the Irish board the boats? Well, some sailed from Tralee, Cork City, and Cobh even before 1862. By that time a railroad had been completed from Tralee to Cobh, so few left from Tralee anymore, most went to Cobh or Cork to start their journey. Making Cork the last port of call put the ships in warmer and more gentle waters and were on the English route from Plymouth to the new world. Many of the people that "went from Cork" actually went from Cobh. Sailing out of Cobh/Cove, the Port of Cork, the large ships would anchor at sea and they would ferry the "topping off passengers" out to the ship. Ships also left from Limerick to Canada, taking people and bringing back lumber.


The only main ports of departure from Ireland were (1) going to Liverpool, mostly families from the northern counties did that (2) Cobh/Queenstown, mostly from the southern ports and (3) some northern people also went to Glasgow. In much earlier years there were also departures from other ports such as Larne. The major ports for the years of 1846-1851 were Dublin, Newery, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Belfast, Londonderry, Waterford, Liverpool and Silgo.


Kerry Census 1841: 293,880

Estimated Census 1851: 238,000

1841 -1851 Populaton Decrease: 19%

Estimated Deaths 1845-1850: 32,000


From 1856 through 1910, the following ten counties in Ireland had the highest rate of emigration:


1. Kerry

2. Cork

3. Clare

4. Longford

5. Leitrim

6. Galway

7. Limerick

8. Mayo

9. Tipperary

10. Cavan


Learn more at these links:


In the Penal Days

Local Ireland - Famine

Irish Famine / Genocide Committee

Irish Holocaust

From: Ireland History in Maps


April 29, 2015 at 4:36 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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An account of the Irish Famine (1845-1852) in the area of Kenmare, Co. Kerry/ Collected by Seán Ó Súilleabháin (of the Irish Folklore Commission) http://digital.ucd.ie/view/ivrla:20262

April 29, 2015 at 4:37 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Posts: 1033

The Godfrey estate, which covered over 7,000 acres in County Kerry,

was granted to Major John Godfrey of Kent, under the Cromwellian

settlement of Ireland in payment for military service. Under the

Restoration, the estate was confirmed on Major John by letters patent

dated 13 June 1667. It consisted of the following townlands:

Abbeylands, Annagh, Ballyoughtra, Ballinamona, Ballygamboon,

Ballymacprior, Callinafercy, Castledrum, Clouncarrig, Kilcoleman,

Kilderry, Knockagurrane, Knockavota, Rathpoque and Steelroe, all

situated in the Barony of Truckanancy. The estate town of Milltown was

laid out adjacent to the Godfrey demesne in the 1750s by Captain John

Godfrey, whose eldest son was made a baronet in 1785.1 The

development of Milltown was a deliberate attempt at urban planning by

the landlord who hoped such development would increase the income

and prosperity of his estate through rents, market tolls and the promotion

of industries.2 By in large it succeeded and Milltown flourished until the

economic depression after 1815.

Sir William Duncan Godfrey


April 29, 2015 at 4:40 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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This petition seeks your support for a campaign to:

* Persuade relevant authors, editors and website content providers to stop using the word ‘Famine’ for what took place in Ireland between 1845 and 1850, and start using terms such as, "The Great Hunger" or 'An tOcras Mór'

* To call on the Government of Ireland and its Ministers, and members of all political parties to correctly call it

'An tOcras Mór' The Great Hunger.

It should be signed by anyone, of any religious, political or intellectual background, who wants the truth about Ireland’s history to be faced and justly discussed, not evaded or concealed.

In proud and loving memory of the Men, Women and Children of Ireland who suffered and died in the Great Hunger.


April 29, 2015 at 4:41 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Posts: 1033

Transcript Kerry


23rd May, 1846.

CONSTABLES of Sub-Districts are to lose no time in carefully making the following

inquiries, inserting correct answers opposite to each Query, and returning the

papers by Post, as endorsed on the other side.

It is to be observed that this is a PAROCHIAL Return. If, therefore, any SubDistrict

comprises more than one Parish or part of a Parish, a separate Return is

to be made by the Constable for each such Parish or part of a Parish.


Inspector – General.

County of Kerry

Barony of Clonmaurice

Parish of Duagh Part of

1. What extent of Land was planted with Potatoes, in the above Parish, in each of

the Years 1844 and 1845.

In 1844 = 194 Acres = 1845 = 214 Acres = 1846 = 162 Acres

2. What proportion of the Land planted with Potatoes, was let in Con-acre?

In 1844 = 70 = 1845 = 85 = 1846 = 65

3. What is the extent of Land planted with Potatoes this Year — 1846?

162 Acres

4. What proportion has been in 1846 let in Con-acre?

65 Acres

5. What Crops have been sown in the Land which would, under ordinary

circumstances, have been planted with Potatoes?

More Flax Seed has been sown in this year than in the former ones and oats

by some acres less.

Signature, John McCarthy Head Constable

Dated at Listowel

3rd day of June 1846.

[Relief Commission Papers, RLFC 4/12/3]




This petition seeks your support for a campaign to:

* Persuade relevant authors, editors and website content providers to stop using the word ‘Famine’ for what took place in Ireland between 1845 and 1850, and start using terms such as, "The Great Hunger" or 'An tOcras Mór

PETITION LINK- TO CHANGE THE WORD FAMINE http://www.petitions24.com/when_famine_became_genocide_ireland_1845_-_1850

October 17, 2015 at 7:31 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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