Eye-witness Accounts of the Famine in Co. Wicklow

Last year’s issue of this Journal contained an account of County Wicklow during the Famine years 1845-50. In this issue the opportunity is taken to reproduce at greater length some documents referred to in that article. With the exception of the last two documents, these describe conditions in the area from Wicklow Town to Ashford. The documents are reproduced by permission of the Director of the National Archives.


The commission chaired by Lord Devon to inquire into the law and practice with regard to the occupation of land in Ireland was set up by the Government in 1843. It took evidence all over Ireland and interviewed more than a thousand witnesses. Its massive report, complete with thousands of pages of evidence, was published on the eve of the Famine in 1845 and provides a comprehensive picture of life in pre-Famine rural Ireland. The extracts below, containing evidence given by Simon Moran of Milltown, Rathnew, and Samuel Fenton, agent for the Carroll Estate in Ashford, provide contrasting but revealing accounts of how cottiers in Ashford were displaced in the decade before the Famine. Many of these displaced cottiers moved onto the Commons of Rathnew.

 1.1 Evidence of Simon Moran (Milltown) to the Devon Commission taken in Bray on 24 October 1844

Mr. Simon Moran, sworn and examined.

Where do you live?

At Milltown, near Wicklow.

Is it the district round Wicklow that you are well acquainted with?

I am acquainted with the greater part of the county, but rather on this side of the mountains. I have been a tithe commissioner, and a land valuator, and an agent on small properties for several years.

Are you now a farmer?


What land do you hold?

I hold 112 Irish acres.

Is the district you live in mostly tillage or pasture land?

Tillage land to a great extent. There are some farms kept for grazing, and others not. The district I live in is not the worst part of the county.

What is the more general size of the farms in the district?

Very unfortunately the farms in the County of Wicklow are too large. The late agent of Lord Fitzwilliam was too fond of making large farms, and consolidating and getting a respectable yeomanry, and getting rid of the poor tenants. I am not aware whether the present man is following the same policy. I know one farm set, of 200 acres of unreclaimed land, to one tenant, and he will not be able to reclaim one fifth of it. There are a great many small holders under him, and if there had been allotments made of twenty acres to different tenants, it would all have been reclaimed and the men would have been more comfortable. The only nobleman that I know, who, when land fell into his hand, did not dispossess the tenants is Lord Carysfort, and Admiral Proby, who is the next heir to the estate. I never heard of them dispossessing any tenant, to my knowledge. It is not so with Lord Fitzwilliam’s agent.

Have there been many persons dispossessed of their holdings within the last ten years in your neighbourhood?

I could not give an accurate account, but by report there have been a good deal of farms consolidated. I know of some, but the amount I cannot say. There are two landlords that live near me, and it is horrifying the way they have dispossessed the finest set of labourers that ever existed.

State the circumstances in the instances to which you allude?

There was a number of houses thrown down, to my knowledge, upon the property of the late Mr. Robert Hall, who lived in the county of Tipperary. Those houses were on the townland of Ballylusk; I cannot state the number.

Was it upon the expiration of a lease, or what was the occasion of it?

They were not held by a middleman, they said; they were got up. I do not know how or who consented to it. I believe it was first held by a man of the name of Kelly for a long lease; he was an improvident sort of man, and he and another man sold their title and lease to this man, Mr. Hall, and in the meantime these houses were put up, and he let them stand for some time, and then he afterwards took them into his head to throw them down.

What class of people were those who lived in the houses?

For the most part they were labourers.

Are you able to state whether they had paid rent to Mr. Hall?

They had paid rent to his agent, Mr. Coates, and they were his tenants.

Do you know the process by which they were ejected?

To the best of my recollection I spoke to the agent, and he told me it was by ejectment, and that they would be thrown down.

Do you know whether they owed any rent at the time?

I do not.

Do you know whether they received any compensation on leaving their houses?

Not a shilling to my knowledge.

Do you know what has become of these persons and their families?

One of them was with me on Sunday looking for labour in potato digging- a very poor wretched man.

What description of houses were they that were thrown down?

Mud houses.

By whom had they been built?

By themselves I believe.

Was there any garden or land attached to them?

Yes, more or less to all of them. I think one of them had a very respectable house in his way, and had three or four acres of land.

Who was Mr. Hall’s agent?

It was a man of the name of Coates; he is not the agent now. The estate is now in Chancery, and they have got a very good agent over them.

What became of the land from which those house were thrown down; was it thrown into the adjoining farm?

Yes the man had the farm and he was compelled to throw down the houses.

State the other instance to which you refer?

There was a comfortable class of labourers living on the estate of Mr.Carroll of Ashford, and the houses were thrown down three or four years ago; that was when the new Poor Law was coming into operation, and that was the reason of it as we supposed.

Had the persons who lived in those houses been the tenants of Mr. Carroll?

No, of the middleman. He had frightened the middleman by some covenant in the lease, and he made some compromise with him, and when he got it into his hands he levelled all the houses.

Was it by ejectment?

I believe so, but I believe he in most instances allowed them a year’s rent.

Do you know whether they owed any rent at the time they were ejected?

I asked some of them personally, and they said they owed half a year’s rent beyond the running half-year, and he bade them go about their business.

Do you know whether they built the houses themselves?

Yes I believe more than one half on them built, and the others purchased them. They were not built by Mr. Carroll; I am quite positive of that.

How many houses can you state have been levelled?

I cannot say, but there was a street of them as far as we can see.

Eight or ten houses?


Was there any land attached to these houses?

Yes, a garden to all of them. One of them had built upon another man’s ground. One man had a daughter, and got her married to a nice labouring boy, and the father-in-law let him build upon his land.

What has become of those people?

Some of them have gone into what we call the common, between that and Rathnew. It is said that this common was given by some lady but it was refugium peccatorum for these men. There are hundreds of them there, and it was very fortunate for the country that it was there.

How had these people employed themselves before they were turned out?

They were very good labourers, and very decent labourers, and worked with the gentlemen all round.

Were they in pretty constant employment?

Yes, except in the winter season, when it is difficult to get work.

Had they a fair share of employment in the district?


What has become of the land which was occupied by those houses?

One tenant has it, and he is in possession; it was all in one field.

Who is Mr. Carroll’s agent?

Mr. Samuel Fenton; he is an attorney, and lives in Dublin, and is clerk of the peace for county Wicklow.

What is the condition of the farming population in general; is it improving?

No, it is not; it is getting worse, and I do not know how to account for it. There is some sort of want of confidence in the farmers. They are not employing their labourers. By the time the potatoes are out of the ground and the wheat sown the labourers will have nothing to do.

What is the conditions of the labourers?

It is most wretched. Their cabins are of the most wretched condition.

 1.2 Evidence of Samuel Fenton to the Devon Commission taken on 2nd November 1844

Where do you live?

At 23 Upper Gloucester Street, Dublin. ,

What is you occupation?

A solicitor and agent to Alexander Carroll Esq of Mountjoy Square, the proprietor of Ashford.

Have you read the evidence given by Simon Moran at Bray relative to that estate; and have you any thing you wish to bring before the commissioners upon the subject?

Having read the evidence, which would appear to show an act of oppression on the part of Mr. Carroll, it is my wish to explain the facts of the case. Mr. Carroll, by lease in 1823 demised a portion of the lands of Ashford to a man of the name of Thomas Byrne. There was a covenant against subletting, and also a covenant to enforce the keeping of the houses in the ordinary repair. We wished to prevent any disgraceful appearance of the buildings and also receptacles for filth; but a great many mud cabins being erected in this beautiful village of Ashford, Mr. Carroll’s attention was drawn to it, and he took the opinion of counsel, and being advised he could evict those parties and get rid of the tenants, he did not do so, thinking it might be an arbitrary act. He purchased the lease of the middleman, and paid what appeared to me to be an exorbitant price for it.

When was this?

In 1835 , and long before any idea of the poor law coming into operation, and not with any view to evade the poor law; it was done to improve the appearance of the property. In 1836 he took a surrender of the lease, and took the tenants into his own hands; he did not pull down a single tenement, but I continued to receive the rent of those cabins year after year from 1835 down to 1840 or 1841, I think so late as 1842. Those tenants got considerably into arrear from time to time, and the houses became dilapidated. Mr. Carroll forgave the rent and allowed the tenants to go away and take the materials of their cabins, which they did in every instance most cheerfully. There was not an ejectment served in any one instance.

Was any allowance made to those persons?

Some of them owed up to two or three year’s rent, as well as I can recollect in the absence of my book, and those arrears were forgiven them.

What might it amount to?

These cabins were from £1 10s up to £2 or £3. About £2 a house upon the average.

Had they any land attached to them?

A small plot, not so large as this room.

Was any allowance in money given them?


What number of persons were removed?

I cannot state exactly the number of persons removed, but the number of tenants upon the holdings surrendered were twenty; of these four are remaining in those tenancies. Three or four of those tenants absconded. There were some of them convicted at the sessions for larceny, and sent to gaol.

Generally what was their character through the district?

About one half of them bore very good characters, and some six or eight men were very bad characters. It was a receptacle for rogues and very bad characters indeed. A great many thefts were traced home to this place. Mr. Carroll’s woods were very much plundered by the inhabitants of this place. The removal of the tenants occupied the period from 1835 down to 1842, as the parties were disposed to leave of their own accord and free will.

Do you know the quality of the ground they had among them?

They occupied about 200 yards along the road, and not more than six to eight yards deep. One tenant had a field in the rere of about one acre; and with that exception the others had no land, but merely an enclosure behind, with a pig-stye. There was no instance of any legal proceedings being taken except in one case, where a person was convicted of stealing potatoes, and he had never paid a farthing rent. In that case I processed him under a civil bill decree, and afterwards discharged him without payment upon giving up the house, which he did freely, and I re-let it to another person. As long as the houses remained good they were never pulled down; the parties levelled them themselves and took away the materials. They were most thankful for the indulgence shown. I have here the lease to show that we did not frighten the party by any covenant, but that we gave him the value.


Report by Dr. Richard Stephens, medical inspector, on Wicklow Fever Hospital to the Central Board of Health, 5 July 1846 (National Archives, Relief Commission Papers, RLF COM II/1/4011)

This report provides a graphic illustration of the initial difficulties faced by those who were attempting to deal with the fever epidemics which swept the country during the famine years.

There were twelve fever hospitals, both temporary and permanent, operating in County Wicklow during the Famine. Wicklow town had two; the County Infirmary which dated back to 1766 had a capacity for 30 inmates, 20 male and 10 female; the Fever Hospital which had been established in 1836 had a capacity for twenty eight patients. At the time of Stephens’ visit it had 61 patients. In the ten years from 1841 – 1851 the hospital admitted 2293 patients of whom 143 died in the hospital.  Overall in the county’s twelve fever hospitals there were 656 deaths in the period 1841 -51. The total number of deaths from fever in the county in this period was 2172.



   5 July 1846


I have the honour to state for the information of the Central Board of Health that in compliance with their orders I proceeded to this town and immediately after my arrival yesterday evening I put myself in communication with Dr. Nolan and Rev. Mr. O’Sullivan and without delay visited the fever hospital, the circumstances connected with which I have now to entrust to the consideration of the Commissioners.

Upon entering the house I found the hall covered with straw which I was informed was intended to answer the purposes of two beds, on one portion of which I perceived two females of the ages of seventeen and twenty years lying, as it appeared, convalescent from fever. The other portion I was told was the bed of the assistant nurse for which there was no token, nor any material to contain the straw. I found that there were no bedclothes nor any covering for her and that she should remain in the same clothes in which she had been during the day.

In the next ward I visited there were fifteen [indecipherable (making four?)] beds with two persons in each, two being on the floor. In another ward there were five bedsteads and two beds on the ?oor, two beds with three cases in each, two with two cases.

On the lobby I found seven portions of straw as beds for nine patients with the most scanty covering upon them, some with a blanket or a portion of one, others with merely an old rag, and some with their own miserable clothes placed over them; the ?oor was scarcely passable. Another ward had fourteen cases in nine beds, this had been intended for only seven cases.

The air of the wards was most offensive and scarcely tolerable; the clothing of the patients generally not having been changed during the course of their disease. I understand that no washing could be done from want of servants there being in the house but two nurses for sixty one patients the number contained in it at the time of my visit…

…I this day visited the cases of fever in the town which I found to be but four. In the village of Rathnew, three miles distant, I saw nine cases of fever much indeed in want of hospital accommodation . There is another district in which fever is said to be which I propose visiting tomorrow in consequence of which I fear I shall not be in Dublin until Tuesday.

Being obliged to draw up this report in a great hurry to be in time for the post, which is just about to leave, wishing it to be before the Board at their meeting tomorrow I have to entreat their favourable reception of it with the imperfections it presents caused by want of sufficient time for the preparation of it.

I have the honour to be


Your most obedient humble servant,

Richard Stephens.

On foot of Dr. Stephens’ report it was decided to appoint Dr. William Nolan of Wicklow as a Medical Officer of Rathdrum Union. He was instructed to requisition the Board of Guardians of Rathdrum Union to provide hospital and dispensary accommodation in the town of Wicklow for patients afflicted with fever.


Report from Lieutenant Anderson, Inspecting Officer for county Wicklow, 27 December 1846 (Parliamentary Papers, Accounts and Papers 1847, Correspondence [Board of Works Series] July 1846-Jan 1847, p.452)

In the Spring of 1846 plans to provide poor relief by means of employment on public works were introduced by the Government. These schemes consisted mainly of road building and although funds were provided by government, it was intended that most of this finance should be recouped by local taxation. In the case of schemes operated by the Board of Works, half the cost was paid by government in the form of grants and half by loans. Before public works could commence in any barony special presentment sessions had to be held in order to pass approval on the schemes. This delayed their implementation and it was the end of the year before the schemes began to take serious effect. Employment on schemes organised by the Board of Works was generally limited to those in possession of tickets issued by the local relief committees. By the end of 1846 half a million people were employed on these schemes throughout Ireland. The total number employed on official schemes of public works in Wicklow by March 1847 amounted to 6678, or five and a quarter per cent of Wicklow’s population. Because of fears that farm labourers would refuse to accept normal spring and summer agricultural work for lower rates, the public works began to be phased out early in 1847 and government-assisted soup kitchens were relied on to meet the needs of the destitute poor. Resort to the soup kitchens was considered by many of those needing relief to be demeaning in a way in which employment on the public works never was.

The road referred to in the report transcribed below is the present coast road south from Wicklow. Many visitors who use this road to reach the beaches of Silver Strand and Brittas Bay are probably unaware of its historic origin. Locally, however, it was referred to within living memory as the Famine Road. Like many such relief works it was a road to nowhere, as work stopped abruptly in the spring of 1847, leaving it uncompleted. For a century after the Famine it remained like this and ended at the Silver Strand. It was not until the early 1950s that the road was extended to meet the original road south from Wicklow at Magheramore.

Rathdrum December 27 1846

I have the honour to inform you that the Wicklow men who struck work on Thursday last returned to the works yesterday. From all I could learn, the reason they struck work was, the pay clerk having in compliance with an order he received on the 30th from the superintending engineer, told the labourers they should be paid for Christmas Day, and his having subsequently received an order to pay them up to Thursday the 24th but not to allow them for Christmas Day; they had no sooner received their pay on Thursday morning than they left the work. In consequence of what the priest said to them they were persuaded to retum to work yesterday moming and give the day’s work, for which they had previously received payment. One of the overseers on the Drumbur [sic] Road, where 110 men are employed, told me five men were sent from the work on which the men had struck to get the men on his line to “tum out” for an increase of wages, at the time they were being paid one shilling per diem (day). I warned them that if I heard any further complaints, I would recommend the works being stopped. I have also to inform you that I consider it necessary to have another extraordinary presentment session for the Barony of Newcastle with as little delay as possible, as many of the works will soon be finished. I was told yesterday publicly by several of the Rathnew men that they had been idle for some days though they had tickets, and that if work was not given them they “could not starve, and would turn out and rob”. They could all be employed if the work marked (5) in the schedule was commenced, and I hope you will send an order to Mr. Leonard, the assistant engineer in charge, to employ the people on Tuesday morning on whichever line has received the sanction of the Commissioners. I feel called on to urge this most strongly, for I fear there will be an outbreak, and if once commenced we know not where it may end. The people of Rathnew are certainly enduring great privations, and much delay will make them desperate.


The initial response of government to the failure of the potato harvest in 1845 was to establish in November of that year a Relief Commission. This began by attempting to assess the extent of crop failure and by distributing advice, not always well based, on how the disease might be contained and existing stocks of potatoes preserved and utilised. As the scale of the crisis became apparent the focus was directed towards liaison with locally-established relief committees. Grants-in-aid, usually amounting to two thirds of the sums raised by local relief committees, were made by the Central Relief Commission. In order to qualify for such aid, relief committees had to comply with stringent regulations. Except in cases of extreme hardship, gratuitous relief was forbidden. Funds were to be used to provide food at lowest market prices and to encourage schemes of employment.

Wicklow Town’ s Relief Committee seems to have been formed at a meeting of clergy, gentry and inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood which was held on 15 January 1846 with Colonel Acton M.P. presiding. James M. Barry was appointed Secretary. The committee which was formed in January met regularly throughout the year, organising subscriptions to a fund for the relief of the poor, purchasing supplies of cheap food, and organising relief works. According to Lieut. Anderson, the Commissariat’s Inspecting Officer for County Wicklow, the members of the town’s relief committee were of a different class from almost every other committee in the county (presumably in the sense that merchants, traders and professional persons, rather than landowners, predominated).

4.1 Letter from James M. Barry, Secretary of Wicklow Relief Committee, to Sir Randolph Routh, Commissary General, 24 January 1847 (National Archives, Relief Commission Papers, Incoming correspondence Newcastle Barony RLF COM II/2b/9454)


24 January 1847

I am directed by the Relief Committee to transmit to you the accompanying list of subscriptions received in aid of the fund for the relief of the destitute poor of this town and to beg you will lay the same before his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant in the firm hope that he will be pleased to order a donation in support of same. I am directed to state that there are 471 families numbering 2277 souls takenbyactualinspection receiving relief from this fund which together with the establishment of a soup kitchen is barely sufficient to prevent the most deplorable consequences. The committee direct me to state that the people in this district are bearing their sufferings and privations with the most exemplary patience. They therefore implore his Excellency to order such aid as will enable the Committee to continue their exertion in relieving their suffering fellow creatures through their present difficulties, as the Committee fear any resources they could calculate upon in the district itself for the future are entirely exhausted. . .

Enclosed with above:

List of subscriptions received in aid of the funds for the relief of the labouring poor in the town of Wicklow.

Rev. Frans Chomly Rector£5-0-0Ed. H. Gregg17-6
Rev. Jn. Grant PP£5-0-0Robert Barry Wicklow10-0
Messrs. Perrin and Nolan£15-0-0Samuel Smyth10-0
Rev. Mr. Sullivan CC£2-0-0Joseph Martin£1-0-0
Mr. Armstrong Liverpool£5-0-0Patrick Farrell10-0
Rev. Mr. Eccles£ 10-0Thos. Fox10-0
Rev. Jas,. Sullivan£ 10-0Mathew Travers£3-0-0
Willm. Ellis Kilpoole£5-0-0James Farrell£1-0-0
John Edwards Wicklow£2-0-0John Patterson10-0
Richd Nolan£2-0-0Doctor Owens£1-0-0
Mr. Pim£2-0-0Michl O’Rourke£1-0-0
James Byrne£2-0-0Garret Byme Hawkstown£2-0-0
Chas Flanagan, Ballyguile£2-0-0Valen Duff Wicklow£1-0-0
Denis Byrne£2-0-0John Mangan Blackditch10-0
John Hayden Wicklow£2-0-0Mr. McDaniel Ballyhara10-0
James Barry£1-0-0Mr. Hayden Tubbervilla10-0
James M. Barry£1-0-0John Chapman Wicklow10-0
Chas Evans£1-0-0James Dillon£2-0-0
Mr. Walsh£2-0-0Alex Carroll Esq. M.Joy Square£10-0-0
Michael Byrne£1-0-0Robt Barry Esq.£2-0-0
Richd Nolan Wicklow£2-0-0Will Wilkinson Wicklow£2-0-0
John Bergin Wicklow£2-0-0Protestant Benefit Society£4-13-8
Alexr. Stewart Esq.£2-0-0J.N. Lendruck Esq. Ast. Barrister£2-0-0


Dr. and Nolan£3-0-0Mr. Chomly Marlton£1-0-0
Dr. Hamilton, Leamington£2-0-0Col. Acton M.P.£10-0-0
Earl Fitzwilliam£20-0-0Thos. Kemmis Esq. Ballinacor£5-0-0
Joseph Pim Jun. Wicklow£2-0-0James Nolan Wicklow£1-0-0
John N St. Georges Esq. Dublin£1-0-0James Perrin Esq. Liverpool£5-0-0
Archdeacon Magee (Prebendary)£2-10-0Mr. Shaw10-0
Martin Hagerty Bolarney£1-0-0Mr. Fishbourne Carlow£1-0-0
John Carr Dunbar15-0Messrs Perrin and Wright Dublin£5-0-0
John Lacy15-0Collection at concert£20-0-0
Willm. Kavanagh10-0Town Commissioners£50-0-0
Mr. Chapman10-0Sundry small donations£6-19-2
Honble. Miss Leesons£2-10-0
Ethiopian Singers£3-0-0Total subscription£250-0-4
John Pursor Esq. Merrymeeting£1-0-0Earl MeathNothing
Richd Porter Preston£2-0-0Robt Gunn Cunningham EsqNothing

Noted on this “recommend £250-0-0”

 4.2 Letter from Arthur Stanley Bride, Broomfield, Ashford, Co. Wicklow, 14 March 1847, enclosing a petition signed by the labourers on the public works in Ashford. (National Archives, Relief Commission Papers, incoming correspondence Co. Wicklow, Barony of Newcastle, RLF COM II/2b 14084)

This is one of many letters written by Arthur Stanley Bride which survive among the papers of the Famine Relief Commission. Apart from its general description of conditions in Ashford, this document is of particular interest as it records the names of labourers who lived and worked in the area at this time.

14 March 1847



I have the honour to forward you by order of our committee a petition from as honest and well conducted body of men as there exists in the kingdom and trust it may be well received and duly considered. I am grieved to say that the appearance of the men is much altered of late. The young are looking old and but barely able to work and poverty and distress are rapidly increasing in this neighbourhood. I have here to remark that about the 13th Feb I sent a certificate regularly signed by our chairman etc stating the names of subscribers to our fund to the amount of £38-2-6 and we begged an equal sum from the government as usual. I wrote to Asst Commr Genl Cameron again this month calling it to his mind but have never received an answer. I fear we can hardly issue more meal. Had we this sum now I would undertake to feed the poor until the new regulations of the Govemment would come into force but as long as wages are not in proportion to the cost of the common food of the country we can have nothing but poverty and discontent and consequently crime. . .

Arthur Stanley Bride,

Secretary and Treasurer, Ashford Relief Committee

Enclosed petition:

To the gentlemen constituting the Ashford Relief Committee

The humble petition of the undersigned heads of families and others employed on the public works in that district most respectfully sheweth

That your petitioners and their families are suffering the most severe privations in consequence of the great disproportion between the price set upon their labour and that of food.

That your petitioners would deem it an insult to the understanding of gentlemen who feel so deeply for the sufferings of the poor and who have laboured so long and so zealously with heart and soul for the alleviation of those sufferings to more than mention the above inadequacy of a shilling a day to provide for the wants of a single man, much less of a large family; that your petitioners are firmly convinced that you have studied our state too well not to know as well as we do that melancholy fact, the great difference being, however, that we alas feel the appalling presence of the withering hand of famine upon us and our children!

That your petitioners most respectfully submit that but for the [indecipherable] given in addition to their wages by the Revd. Mr. Crofton whose benevolent kindness and charitable commiseration in common with the other gentlemen of your committee they will ever remember with sentiments of the deepest gratitude, many of your petitioners would have been unable to continue in the work.

That your petitioners therefore would humbly beg an advance in their wages or a reduction in the price of provisions for while your committee distributed meal at reduced prices your petitioners knew little comparatively of want. We know you have the most anxious desire to relieve us and comply with our humble request and we therefore with the utmost confidence place our case in your hands.

John Dougherty        Patrick Madden        James Pluck

Edward Jameson     William Short                        Terence Byrne

Murtha Cullen           Patrick Doyle                        James Jameson

William Doherty        William Long             John Turner

John Condran           Andy Corcoran         Phealy Rycot

James Kavanaug     John Marha               Willim Cleary

Silvester Cleary        Thomas Molloy         Peter Jameson

John Connor             Henry Faulkner

Mathew Connor        James Forrester       Walter Kavanah

John Cullen               William Sennet

John Gallagher         Joseph Ward             Charles Lacy

Richard Gallagher    William Keevers       Francis Kelly

Francis Redmond    Daniel Leavey          James Reid

Francis Kelly             Chrisr. Mallin             Saul Hall

Patrick Cotter            James Doyle             Denis Noctor

John Healy                Christopher Frawly  Thomas Byrne

James Winders         Thomas McDonald  James Walkner

William McDonald    Christopher Nolan

Andy Kelly                 James Toolen Jun   William Flanagan

Pat Turner                 Ger Hawkins             William Roach

Danl Byrne                John Connors           John Pluck

Patrick Kelly              James Neale             Patrick Crowley

James Tool               Peter Fitzharris         Christy Connor

James Travers          Michael Connor        John Byrne Senior

Edward Boyse          Alexander Doyle      Geo Booth

John Taylor               Thomas Killeen        John Ward

Francis Johnson       James Reeves          John Davis

Bryan Byrne              Richard Judd                        James Dealeany

William Byrne           James Roachford     John Byrne

Peter Bryan               Mich Hall                   Alex. Doyle

Mick Byrne                Mich Hickie               John Connor Jun.

James Adams           Thomas Merigan      Geo Wynne

Thomas Quinsey      Geo Mullen                Nichl. Kelly Sen.

Daniel Killeen           Edward Byrne           Nichl. Kelly Jun.

Edward Sheal           Patrick Lenehan


Report of Bartholomew Warburton RM, 2 July 1849, concerning his impressions of an increase in crime in Co. Wicklow during the Summer quarter sessions (National Archives, Outrage Papers 1849 32/103)

Many commentators noted a rise in crime during the Famine years and most contemporary commentators firmly expected a breakdown of law and order. Yet most of the surviving contemporary accounts from the local gentry and clergy show that they were surprised that the people had remained so docile.

Bartholomew Warburton whose report is transcribed below had, however, been warning of worsening crime statistics since the spring quarter sessions of 1847. He reported then that there had been nearly twice the number of cases as in any other sessions since he had been in the county. In July of that year, following the Summer Quarter Sessions, he reported from Bray that the number of convictions had been unprecedented. Because of the increase in crime, he claimed, the magistrates had felt obliged to meet it with exemplary punishments. At the spring quarter sessions he claimed they had tried using more lenient punishments but this had not had the desired effect. By 1849 he was again reporting an increase in crime.

Although Warburton appears in his reports to have been overreacting to the situation and certainly displays a lack of compassion, the statistics on crime during these years certainly reveal a marked pattern. The effect of the crisis in increasing crimes against property, clearly famine-related offences, as opposed to crimes against the person, is strikingly apparent. The vast majority of reported crimes in the county during the years 1846 to 1850 involved cattle and sheep stealing and these reached a peak in the worst year of actual famine, 1847. (A comprehensive table of all reported crime in the county during the years 1846 to 1850 was published in the last issue of this journal).

Nevertheless, despite the increase in crimes against property and the alarm of the resident magistrates, the often repeated fears about a more general breakdown in order did not materialise. There were no major disturbances and, despite reported cases of intimidation against farmers who attempted to take men off the public works, the overwhelming demeanour of the county remained peaceful throughout. Landlords who wrote to the Relief Commission expressed surprise at the docility of their labourers.

Bray 2nd July 1849

The summer Quarter Sessions for this county terminated here at a late hour on Saturday the 30th June.

I regret to say since I came to the county we never had so fearful a calendar. Nine cases out of ten under the head of larceny, many of them being very heavy and complicated and were it not that Mr. Rogers Sessional Solicitor finding such to be the case most kindly volunteered his valuable assistance which although he had no time to inquire into the merits of the case or direct summons to be issued for witnesses, the ends of justice were not so often frustrated as at former sessions since the change of prosecutions took place. I take leave to mention some cases which were tried at Wicklow. A large gang of men were indicted under the statute for breaking into the barns and outhouses of several respectable farmers. The principal witness Michael Bryan an approver. This gang did very considerable mischief breaking into the barns of respectable farmers and carrying away their com in quantities, in one case upwards of 3 barrels of wheat and another nearly 4 barrels of wheat. Most praise is due for the manner in which Constable Hore of the Arklow Station got up these cases by having the informer sufficiently supported by trustworthy witnesses as brought home the most satisfactory convictions. I take the liberty of most respectfully recommending that this informer should get what would enable him to leave this country as from the feeling I witnessed towards him I am sure his life would not be safe if he remained in it and I have been requested by the magistrates who heard the trials to bring the case before his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant.

In this town we had several cases of Larceny for some of which the parties have been indicted under the statute. Here as in Arklow the principal witness was an approver but unfortunately his principal supporters were also almost looked on in the light of approvers. The several cases present a most frightful amount of crime and the number of persons indicted as receivers made the cases much worse. These persons were in such a position that they were able to bring down two eminent counsel Mr. Curran and Mr. Harper who of course made every exertion for their clients and I am sorry to say were but too successful as after one or two acquittals Mr. Rogers thought it much better to abandon the cases that were only supported by the same witnesses. From the moment Mr. Rogers got directions to prosecute in these cases he made every exertion to make the best arrangement for other cases but of course was not able to enquire sufficiently for want of time into the character of those on whom he was to depend to bring home convictions.

The failure of these cases is very much to be regretted when the amount of crime they disclosed was of such magnitude as warrants me in saying there is no part of the county where there has been such a disclosure of crime.

The greater number of cases in the other divisions of the county principally arose from robberies committed in the several workhouses with a view of getting sent to gaol where they are better fed and also by persons not admitted to the workhouse that they might be sent to gaol. On this state of things being represented to our respected Assistant Barrister he recommended that the parties should not be indulged by a long confinement but that the term of imprisonment should be short accompanied by hard labour, solitary confinement and whippings as the cases might be with the strictest prison discipline all of which would we felt assured be carried out by the excellent governor of the Gaol. This arrangement has been carried out all through the sessions to the great disappointment of the prisoners who expressed their dissatisfaction at not having been transported and disclosed that as soon as they got out of gaol they would commit some offence which would ensure their being transported.

I shall return to my station this day where I shall remain until Friday on which day I must proceed to Wicklow for the assizes to meet the grand jury on vital business respecting the several malicious burnings I have inquired into.

Bartholomew Warburton RM


Report by Police Constable David Lynch of sermon by the Rev. Thomas Hore in Whitefield, Tinahely, 3 June 1850 (National Archives, Outrage Papers 1850 32/105)

Thomas Hore was born in South Wexford in 1796 . He left for the United States in 1820 and was ordained in Richmond, Virginia. On his return to Ireland in 1827 he was appointed to Camolin in Co. Wexford. In 1841 he was appointed parish priest of Annacurra (Killavaney). In October 1850 he led a group of approximately 450 emigrants, mostly from South Wicklow and Wexford, to America with the intention, as outlined in his sermon reproduced below, of establishing a settlement there. The settlement which was called Wexford was eventually established in the state of Iowa in April 1851, though many of the original emigrants who had accompanied Hore had settled elsewhere in the United States by then. Hore returned to Ireland in 1857 and died there in 1864.1

County of Wicklow

Tinahely June 3rd 1850

I beg to state that I attended Divine Service on yesterday at the R.C. Chapel of Whitefield.

After service the Revd. Thomas Hoare P.P. addressed a numerous and mixed congregation who had assembled for the purpose of hearing him explain his views for giving up his parish and emigrating to America and the reasons which induced him to leave this country.

Mr. Hoare commenced by saying that he had promised on a previous occasion to explain to his parishioners his views for leaving this country for America as it might seem strange to them that a man of his age and position in the country should think of doing so.

He then stated his reasons were chiefly these:

That he commenced his mission in America where he remained for many years and therefore he was more competent to judge of the relative interests and prospects of both countries. That he done so as he had the permission of his late bishop and to encourage younger clergymen as well as the laity of this country to follow his example believing as he did that the clergy were required more there than here and that the mass of the people would much benefit their condition by going there as he (Mr. Hoare) saw no prospects improving by remaining in this country but the certainty of inevitable ruin should they remain. He then proceded to dwell in forceable language on the contrast that existed between America and this country stating the independence prosperity and comfort which the American people enjoy while in this country there exists but misery degradation and starvation. Said that he believed that the people had in a great measure invited these evils on themselves through their party animosity bigotry and ill will which they entertained towards each other that such had been the curse of Ireland the evil consequences of which left Ireland and Irishmen as they were, “the bye word and scorn of all civilised nations” That Catholic as well as Protestant were alike to blame for keeping alive those feelings of animosity towards each other, that England always fostered it and by which she was able to make use of either party at her will for her own purposes.

He then said that as this was probably the last time he would address them on this subject he would speak to them freely and went on to say that Ireland had to thank England and English legislation for all the miseries and sufferings which this country had endured and under which it still suffered. That he was no prophet but that he could see that at a distant day England would suffer for her misgovernment and ill treatment of Ireland, that it was a notorious fact that England was at the present despised and distrusted by nearly every nation in the world and had not scarcely a friendly power in Europe to assist her in the event of a war which every day threatened her. That her Irish subjects were every day ?ying from the country in thousands and he believed and trusted that the tide of emigration was only commencing to flow. That the time would come when England would want Irishmen to aid her in her battles but would not have them to get. That the downfall of England was certain at no distant day and that Ireland too would sink with her.

He then dwelt for a long time in describing the climate, soil etc. of America, the comfort and prosperity of its inhabitants etc. and mentioned as a mark of the growing prosperity of the former emigrants from this country the vast sums that they were daily remitting to their friends at home to enable them to join them and quoted several cases of individuals with whom he said he was personally acquainted who in a few years became men of independence and fortune and who if they remained in this country would never be anything better than paupers.

That there their lands were free soil. No rents tithes or tax to pay save country cess that there was no such thing as bigotry known there that there every man might worship his god in the form he liked without incurring the ill will of his brother man as was unfortunately too often the case here where man made god and his scriptures the causes of ill will and hatred instead of love.

He next went on to say that he intended leaving this country about the commencement of September next and that he would that day commence to take down a list of the names of such as were willing to accompany him as by going with him it would be a great saving to them as he intended to charter a vessel if he found he had as many ready to go as would enable him to do so, and that he expected that each applicant would be ready to deposit the sum of 10/- (ten shillings) as a guarantee to him and as a portion of their passage money. Said his place of destination was the State of Ohio remarking that it was one of the best in the union for climate soil etc and that he intended to purchase land there himself and hoped to be able to form a colony there of his own people.

Mr. Hoare then concluded by exhorting all such as could accompany him to do so if they valued their own or families’ future welfare and as he believed that there was not the slightest of hopes of doing good by remaining in this country but on the contrary inevitable destitution.

About 2000 persons were present many of whom came a distance of seven or ten miles. I understand that about one hundred persons gave down their names with the intention of accompanying Mr. Hoare and it is supposed that from six to seven hundred persons will leave the country with him.

David Lynch

Constable 3865


1. For information on the Rev. Thomas Hore I am indebted to Jim Rees whose biography of Fr. Hore is in preparation.

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