'An tOcras Mór' The Great Hunger.

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Forum Home > How Each County Was Affected "The Great Hunger" > County Roscommon - Ros Comáin / Co. Ros Comáin

SWIFTY
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Posts: 1033

Q. Why did Co. Roscommon suffer so much?

1. Population problems

There was a huge population in the county

County Roscommon increased from 205,031 in 1821 to 252,118 in 1841, an increase of

20%.

By comparison, the population of County Roscommon in the

Some parts of the county experienced up on

of the famine while other parts of the county had a drop in population.

Great Famine in Co. Roscommon

Learning how the famine affected people and areas in county Roscommon is a mixture

of a history and a geography lesson.

During the decade of the famine, County Roscommon lost 31% of its population, the

loss of any county in the country. The national average loss of

population around the country was 20%.

People in some parts of the county suffered much worse during the famine than in

Roscommon was the worst affected county in the country!

Why did Co. Roscommon suffer so much?

Population problems

was a huge population in the county during the 19th century. The population of

County Roscommon increased from 205,031 in 1821 to 252,118 in 1841, an increase of

By comparison, the population of County Roscommon in the 2011 census was

Some parts of the county experienced up on a 30% increase in population around the time

of the famine while other parts of the county had a drop in population.

1

amine in Co. Roscommon

Learning how the famine affected people and areas in county Roscommon is a mixture

ounty Roscommon lost 31% of its population, the

The national average loss of

People in some parts of the county suffered much worse during the famine than in

the country!

century. The population of

County Roscommon increased from 205,031 in 1821 to 252,118 in 1841, an increase of

2011 census was 64,065!

30% increase in population around the time

Some landlords realised that their estates were too highly populated with too many people

living on small landholdings which could not support them. As a result some landlords

cleared the poorest tenants off their estates. These poor people were put out on the road

and had to try and move in with other members of their family, go to live in the workhouse

or emigrate to the UK or America if they could. So in some parts of the county population

dropped because the people were moved off their land and had to go somewhere else.

Some of those poor people moved in to other parts of the county – where ever they could

find a place to call home, such as on very poor land that up until then no one else wanted

to live on like bogs, mountains like Sliabh Bawn etc; that’s why population in other parts of

the county increased during the famine.


October 14, 2015 at 4:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

SWIFTY
Site Owner
Posts: 1033

2. Poverty

During the famine, how rich or poor someone was could be judged by the quality and

condition of their house. The better the house the better off the people were who lived in it.

The poorer the house the poorer the people who lived in it were. According to the 1841

census, 90% of houses in County Roscommon were either a 2nd class house (a good

farmhouse or in towns a house in a small street with 3-9 rooms and windows) or a 3rd

class house (a house built of mud walls with 2-4 rooms and windows). This was not any

worse than in other counties in Connaught at that time. However, some parts of the county

had poorer houses than others. The Strokestown area was mostly poor houses, especially

on the poorest land, such as up along the slopes of Sliabh Bawn where many poor people

had come to live at that time. This shows that the Strokestown area was one of the

poorest parts of the county during the famine.

October 14, 2015 at 4:54 AM Flag Quote & Reply

SWIFTY
Site Owner
Posts: 1033

3. Unemployment

When people have no job they have no money to buy food or improve their living

conditions. There was no social welfare during the famine. There was high unemployment

in some parts of the county during the famine. In 1846 people from the Moyglass

townland in Kilglass parish, near Strokestown pinned a notice up in their area saying that

they had no work and were very hungry and asking for help to survive.

4. Assisted Migration Schemes

Some landlords realised that there were far too many tenants on their estates and thought

it was cheaper to pay them to move abroad rather than pay for their upkeep on the land or

in the workhouse. In the Strokestown area for example more than 3000 people emigrated

from the estate in 1847. This was more than was sent from the entire county of Cork in

that year!

5. Potatoes

In the mid 19th century many people depended on potatoes as their main source of food,

even more so in County Roscommon than in other counties in Connaught. In county

Roscommon 60,000 acres of potatoes were planted in 1844. That’s a lot of potatoes! In

1845 and 1846 blight killed the potatoes so much less potatoes were planted in the

following years. In 1847, the worst year of the famine, only 3,916 acres of potatoes were

planted in the whole county. That’s only 6.5% of what had been planted in 1844. In 1847

there were on average 58 people for every acre of potatoes grown in county Roscommon.

There were not enough potatoes - much less were available for the amount of people that

relied on them for food. In some parts of the county very few potato crops were planted

and in those places there would have been over 200 people for every acre of potatoes

planted. People in parts of the county where very few potato crops were planted would

have been very hungry indeed!

October 14, 2015 at 4:54 AM Flag Quote & Reply

SWIFTY
Site Owner
Posts: 1033

The impact of population pressure, poverty and unemployment for many people in County

Roscommon during the famine was starvation.

The Nation newspaper reported in March 1847 ‘In Roscommon deaths by famine are so

prevalent that whole families who retire at night are corpses in the morning’.

Q. Why did some parts of the county suffer more than others?

1. Relief

Some parts of the county had people in their area who tried to help those worse off. Some

areas of the county had no one to help them. In 1846 a Relief Committee scheme came

into operation where if money to help those suffering from the famine was raised locally

this money was matched by the Government. The catch was, if the committee couldn’t

raise money locally, they couldn’t get any money from the Government. There was a lot of

paperwork involved. Some committees applied for government funding but were refused.

Some committees were busier and better than others. By November 1846 there were 30

relief committees operating in county Roscommon, the third highest number of relief

committees in any county in the country. So, it was pot luck – the better the committee

was in your area the better chance you had of getting help to survive the famine.

2. Indian Corn Depots

In August 1846 three corn depots were established in county Roscommon – in Castlerea,

Roscommon town and Strokestown. The plan was that each Relief Committee would buy

corn from the depots and distribute it in their locality. This didn’t work out so well. There

were riots around the corn depots and reports of corruption – people giving the corn to

their friends and family. There were also problems with the supply of the corn. By October

1846 it had run out. In January 1847 the depots were re-stocked but were not open

because of problems with public order, such as rioting. Corn depots were also closed

because of local objectors – local shop keepers objected to the depots as they were not

able to sell the food in their shops if cheap food was available locally from the corn depots.

3. Public Work Schemes

The first public work schemes were established in county Roscommon in 1846. These

schemes were for work like drainage and roadworks. In the Strokestown area many

people were employed on public work schemes. These schemes gave people employment

and money to survive on. However some people were so weak from hunger that they were

not physically strong enough to do a days work.

Some people objected to the Corm Depots and Public Work schemes. They argued that

they impacted on local trade, created a culture of dependency and caused labour

shortages.

October 14, 2015 at 4:55 AM Flag Quote & Reply

SWIFTY
Site Owner
Posts: 1033

4. Soup Kitchens Act

A temporary Soup Kitchens Act came into effect

soup kitchens provided rations of food to people in need. Around the Boyle area there

were 14 soup kitchens set up by the local gentry whereas around Athlone there was only

soup kitchen set up by May 1847.

there were 25,000 rations being given out every day in soup kitchens in the Boyle area

that’s a lot of people dependent

5. Poor Law Act 1847

Under this act local rate or tax payers had to pay a rate or tax t

poor people in their area. This tax paid for the upkeep of the workhouses and for t

provision of outdoor relief - food for people who were not living in a workhouse.

the county there was a big variation between those who

tax and those who were depending on the money raised through the tax for their survival.

In some parts of county Roscommon 96% of the people couldn’t afford to pay the Poor

Law rates and only 4% of people could afford to pay the tax. That

support the other 96% of people in their area. It wasn’t this bad all over the county such

as in some parts around Boyle and in south Roscommon. People didn’t like paying the

Poor Law Rates. They didn’t know how long the famine was going to last

had debts of their own because many of their

landlord for years.

6. Work Houses

The workhouse in Boyle opened in 1841. The workhouse i

though in Co. Leitrim would have also served

1842. The workhouse in Roscommon opened in 1843 and the workhouse in Castlerea

opened in 1846. Workhouses provided food and shelter for many people during the

famine. They depended on local taxes to cover the costs involved in running them. In the

Carrick on Shannon area only

could not to take in everyone that was looking for a place in the workhouse.

Workhouse in Carrick

temporary Soup Kitchens Act came into effect from February to August 1847

provided rations of food to people in need. Around the Boyle area there

were 14 soup kitchens set up by the local gentry whereas around Athlone there was only

soup kitchen set up by May 1847. When the Soup Kitchens Act ended in August 1847

000 rations being given out every day in soup kitchens in the Boyle area

ent on the Soup Kitchens for survival in that part of the county.

Under this act local rate or tax payers had to pay a rate or tax towards the maintenance of

poor people in their area. This tax paid for the upkeep of the workhouses and for t

food for people who were not living in a workhouse.

the county there was a big variation between those who could afford to pay the Poor Law

tax and those who were depending on the money raised through the tax for their survival.

In some parts of county Roscommon 96% of the people couldn’t afford to pay the Poor

% of people could afford to pay the tax. That 4% of people had to

support the other 96% of people in their area. It wasn’t this bad all over the county such

as in some parts around Boyle and in south Roscommon. People didn’t like paying the

. They didn’t know how long the famine was going to last

had debts of their own because many of their tenants had not been able

The workhouse in Boyle opened in 1841. The workhouse in Carrick on Shannon (which

. Leitrim would have also served parts of county Roscommon) opened in

1842. The workhouse in Roscommon opened in 1843 and the workhouse in Castlerea

Workhouses provided food and shelter for many people during the

famine. They depended on local taxes to cover the costs involved in running them. In the

area only 5% of the rates were being collected so the workhou

October 14, 2015 at 4:55 AM Flag Quote & Reply

SWIFTY
Site Owner
Posts: 1033

Q. So, what does all this tell us about the famine in county Roscommon?

a. The famine played out differently in different parts of the county.

b. The Strokestown area stands out nationally as a black-spot for population

decline during the famine.

c. The areas that suffered the most during the famine were parts of the county

that suffered from:

i. Population pressure

ii. Poverty

iii. High dependence on potatoes

iv. High imbalance between rate payers and non rate payers

v. Limited contribution or absence of local gentry/landlords/agents

d. The Strokestown area was very badly hit by the famine, especially after the

murder of local Landlord Major Denis Mahon in 1847. All aid from English

and other charitable societies was withdrawn because of his murder. Many of

the gentry who were living in the area left or were afraid to leave their homes

or to run their business because of threats against them. The rich people

were very afraid.

October 14, 2015 at 4:56 AM Flag Quote & Reply

SWIFTY
Site Owner
Posts: 1033

Q. Why were some parts of County Roscommon not so severely hit by the

famine?

In some areas in county Roscommon the impact of the famine was not so severe. In

parts of the north of the county around Boyle on Lord Lorton’s Rockingham estate

(including the present day Lough Key Forest and Activity Park) and in the west of the

county around Castlerea where the O’Conor Don was the landlord (He was based at

Clonalis House and it is open to the public every summer and is well worth a visit) the

famine was not as severe as in the rest of the county. Why not?

• These parts of the county had more mixed land values – a mixture of good farmland

as well as poor farmland.

• There was a more mixed society

• People were not as poor.

• Less people lived in this area and the landholdings were not all small which meant

many families could survive on their farm holding.

• There were more active local agents such as Lord Lorton and the O’Conor Don,

who were better at applying for relief and aid for their tenants.

• There was a better balance between rate payers and non rate payers.

 

This information is based on a lecture by

Mary Kelly, National Centre for

Her talk ‘The Great

Strokestown Park International Famine Conference 2011

http://www.strokestownpark.ie/gallery/video

 

This information is based on a lecture by

Mary Kelly, National Centre for Geo-Computation, NUI Maynooth.

Her talk ‘The Great Famine in County Roscommon’ from the

International Famine Conference 2011 can be viewed on

http://www.strokestownpark.ie/gallery/video-gallery


October 14, 2015 at 4:56 AM Flag Quote & Reply

SWIFTY
Site Owner
Posts: 1033

http://www.strokestownpark.ie/famine-museum

October 14, 2015 at 4:58 AM Flag Quote & Reply

SWIFTY
Site Owner
Posts: 1033

Roscommon Famine Commemoration 2015

Famine-CommemorationIt is a great honour and privilege for County Roscommon to be chosen to host the National Famine Commemoration in 2015. The Great Irish Famine was one of the most catastrophic events in Irish History. The famine altered the demographic, economic, social, political, cultural and psychological development of modern Ireland.

 

The impact and repercussions of the famine in circumstances where one million people died and a further one million emigrated left an indelible mark that is still evident today in each and every parish in the country. We, as a local authority, with a strong sense of our cultural, historical, heritage and community identity are committed to fostering an appreciation and understanding of events that shaped our County and recognize the opportunity this National Famine Commemoration presents to highlight the very real impact of the famine in County Roscommon.

 

Between the years 1841 – 1851 the population of County Roscommon decreased by over 80,000 people, representing the highest population loss (31%) of any county in the country. Within that ten year period lays the very real tragedy of starvation, evictions, emigration, disease and death.

 

Remembering and commemorating the complex story of the famine is being undertaken through a comprehensive programme taking place from 20th - 21st June 2015. With Strokestown Park House and the Famine Museum at the centre of the commemorations the programme includes events ranging from the literary festival, famine exhibitions, library displays, lectures, talks and readings, children's workshops, schools' art exhibition, genealogy centre, street theatre, wreath laying and commemorative famine wall unveiling.

 

I would like to acknowledge the support and contribution of all partners including the Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Roscommon County Council, Strokestown Park House, Strokestown Community Development Association, NUI Maynooth and the local community, who have all worked together to ensure the success of the programme and provide a very warm welcome to all visitors to the county for the occasion.

 

Martin Connaughton MCC

Mayor of County Roscommon

--

 

WHEN GENOCIDE BECAME "FAMINE" : IRELAND, 1845 - 1850

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 14, 2015 at 4:59 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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