Elizabeth Smith nee Grant was born in Scotland in 1797 and married Colonel Henry Smith of Baltiboys estate in West Wicklow in 1829. They had three children, Janey, Annie and Jack (grandfather of famous ballerina Ninette de Valois). Elizabeth, a remarkably intelligent and articulate woman kept a journal from 1840 until her death, stating that her purpose was to provide guidance and instruction for her children, yet it offers so much more.
A Journal of Wicklow during the Famine
One of the major strengths of the journal is what it reveals about the Great Famine. Keeping a detailed record of the calamitous period, Elizabeth and her husband established their own programme of private relief in Baltiboys for their most distressed tenants. By taking advantage of the British government’s drainage loans scheme, the people were employed by the Smiths for as long as possible.
Smith became well-acquainted with the wives and female relations of the tenants and labourers and recorded these interactions in vivid detail, providing a rich social history of their lives and daily activities.