Local Relief Efforts

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)

Wicklow

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

£5-0-0

Ed. H. Gregg

17-6

Rev. Jn. Grant PP

£5-0-0

Robert Barry Wicklow

10-0

Messrs. Perrin and Nolan

£15-0-0

Samuel Smyth

10-0

Rev. Mr. Sullivan CC

£2-0-0

Joseph Martin

£1-0-0

Mr. Armstrong Liverpool

£5-0-0

Patrick Farrell

10-0

Rev. Mr. Eccles

£ 10-0

Thos. Fox

10-0

Rev. Jas,. Sullivan

£ 10-0

Mathew Travers

£3-0-0

Willm. Ellis Kilpoole

£5-0-0

James Farrell

£1-0-0

John Edwards Wicklow

£2-0-0

John Patterson

10-0

Richd Nolan

£2-0-0

Doctor Owens

£1-0-0

Mr. Pim

£2-0-0

Michl O’Rourke

£1-0-0

James Byrne

£2-0-0

Garret Byme Hawkstown

£2-0-0

Chas Flanagan, Ballyguile

£2-0-0

Valen Duff Wicklow

£1-0-0

Denis Byrne

£2-0-0

John Mangan Blackditch

10-0

John Hayden Wicklow

£2-0-0

Mr. McDaniel Ballyhara

10-0

James Barry

£1-0-0

Mr. Hayden Tubbervilla

10-0

James M. Barry

£1-0-0

John Chapman Wicklow

10-0

Chas Evans

£1-0-0

James Dillon

£2-0-0

Mr. Walsh

£2-0-0

Alex Carroll Esq. M.Joy Square

£10-0-0

Michael Byrne

£1-0-0

Robt Barry Esq.

£2-0-0

Richd Nolan Wicklow

£2-0-0

Will Wilkinson Wicklow

£2-0-0

John Bergin Wicklow

£2-0-0

Protestant Benefit Society

£4-13-8

Alexr. Stewart Esq.

£2-0-0

J.N. Lendruck Esq. Ast. Barrister

£2-0-0

 

Dr. and Nolan

£3-0-0

Mr. Chomly Marlton

£1-0-0

Dr. Hamilton, Leamington

£2-0-0

Col. Acton M.P.

£10-0-0

Earl Fitzwilliam

£20-0-0

Thos. Kemmis Esq. Ballinacor

£5-0-0

Joseph Pim Jun. Wicklow

£2-0-0

James Nolan Wicklow

£1-0-0

John N St. Georges Esq. Dublin

£1-0-0

James Perrin Esq. Liverpool

£5-0-0

Archdeacon Magee (Prebendary)

£2-10-0

Mr. Shaw

10-0

Martin Hagerty Bolarney

£1-0-0

Mr. Fishbourne Carlow

£1-0-0

John Carr Dunbar

15-0

Messrs Perrin and Wright Dublin

£5-0-0

John Lacy

15-0

Collection at concert

£20-0-0

Willm. Kavanagh

10-0

Town Commissioners

£50-0-0

Mr. Chapman 

10-0

Sundry small donations

£6-19-2

Honble. Miss Leesons

£2-10-0

 

 

Ethiopian Singers

£3-0-0

Total subscription

£250-0-4

John Pursor Esq. Merrymeeting

£1-0-0

Earl Meath

Nothing

Richd Porter Preston

£2-0-0

Robt Gunn Cunningham Esq

Nothing

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

Broomfield

Ashford

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    

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