Wednesday 18 October 2017

A history of the Great Famine in the locality

Johnny O’Mahony and John Joe Collins, Ballydesmond, attended the launch of Donie Murphy's book ‘The Great Famine’ at the CYMS Hall, Newmarket
Johnny O’Mahony and John Joe Collins, Ballydesmond, attended the launch of Donie Murphy's book ‘The Great Famine’ at the CYMS Hall, Newmarket


THE Great famine which ravaged Duhallow has been poignantly charted by Newmarket historian Donie Murphy.

In his book, 'The Great Irish Famine', he makes reference that while he had heard many stories he had no written proof, so he set about researching one of the most traumatic periods of Irish history.

However, first on his list was Fr Jerh Beechinor, who did amazing work for the starving people of Duhallow during the cruel famine.

In a letter to the then Cork Examiner on January 31, 1847, Millstreet was on "the brink of death."

It was outlined how the entire labouring population and many of the class of small farmers in the parish were on the brink of death. 'During the last few days crowds of half living spectres are flocking into this small town as their last resource,' read the letter.

Another letter from John Sugrue in January 1848 outlined the plight of the people of Kilmeen, Ballydesmond, Boherbue, Kiskeam and Knockclarig. In the detailed letter, it outlined how he has seen some turnip fields where the crops had been removed which are then "covered with half naked, half alive human beings contending for the refuse left by the owners as not worth the trouble of removing."

Mr Murphy also said that an unknown amount of people died in the Rockchapel, Knockaclarig, Brosna area in the famine. With no money to buy food or pay the rent there was large scale evictions and Mr Murphy was shown famine graves by the late Jim Stack of Stagmount.

In a further letter, again in the Cork Examiner on February 16, 1848, it was reported that on one day there were '400 creatures waiting for admission to the workhouse in Kanturk.' There were already four workhouses in the town. In Mallow, there were 50 funerals a week, again reported in the Cork Examiner on April 21, 1847.

"With the potato disease in the Charleville, Golden Vale and Mallow area, it had a very bad effect in the Duhallow and Sliabh Luachra area.

No work for the wandering labourers, some of them sold whatever they owned, walked out of their small holdings and made for Queeenstown, now Cobh and went to America. More to various parts of England and Australia," wrote Mr Murphy.

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