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)
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
Ed. H. Gregg
Rev. Jn. Grant PP
Robert Barry Wicklow
Messrs. Perrin and Nolan
Rev. Mr. Sullivan CC
Mr. Armstrong Liverpool
Rev. Mr. Eccles
Rev. Jas,. Sullivan
Willm. Ellis Kilpoole
John Edwards Wicklow
Garret Byme Hawkstown
Chas Flanagan, Ballyguile
Valen Duff Wicklow
John Mangan Blackditch
John Hayden Wicklow
Mr. McDaniel Ballyhara
Mr. Hayden Tubbervilla
James M. Barry
John Chapman Wicklow
Alex Carroll Esq. M.Joy Square
Robt Barry Esq.
Richd Nolan Wicklow
Will Wilkinson Wicklow
John Bergin Wicklow
Protestant Benefit Society
Alexr. Stewart Esq.
J.N. Lendruck Esq. Ast. Barrister
Dr. and Nolan
Mr. Chomly Marlton
Dr. Hamilton, Leamington
Col. Acton M.P.
Thos. Kemmis Esq. Ballinacor
Joseph Pim Jun. Wicklow
James Nolan Wicklow
John N St. Georges Esq. Dublin
James Perrin Esq. Liverpool
Archdeacon Magee (Prebendary)
Martin Hagerty Bolarney
Mr. Fishbourne Carlow
John Carr Dunbar
Messrs Perrin and Wright Dublin
Collection at concert
Sundry small donations
Honble. Miss Leesons
John Pursor Esq. Merrymeeting
Richd Porter Preston
Robt Gunn Cunningham Esq
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
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