No Potaties and Peat - 1925
- Appleton Post Crescent
March 2, 1925
IRISH SUFFER FROM A HUNGER AND COLD WHEN BLACK RAIN DESTROYS POTATIES AND
BY MILTON BRONNER
Galway - Hunger sits down at table as an unwelcome and bitterly feared
guest and Cold keeps him company in thousands of cabin homes today in
That is what a partial potato crop failure and peat shortage mean for
Galway and Donegal and Kerry and Mayo.
Here I am up against the real thing in this 1925 dearth in Ireland.
Listen to the talk of Mrs. Bartley Connelly - out this way they pronounce it
"Konneely" - as she tells in curious sing-song English how it came about:
"And the black rain fell. All day and every day. All spring it fell and
all summer and all the rest of the year. Always the rain, the dull roar of
it. Sorrow and sorrow's sorrow. The potaties are washed away or rotted. And
the turf melted away with the wetness. No food for the pot. No turf for the
fire. Emptiness and blackness in the house. And the children crying because
of the hunger and the cold."
The people here always have been divided from acute suffering by a
hair-line. Plenty they never know. Congestion is beyond relief. Centuries
ago when Ireland was a conquered country the natives were driven from the
fat lands of the east and found final refuge in the west which tempted
The Connelly cabin is the usual shanty of this coast - stone walls,
badly thatched roof, one room 20 by 10 feet. The one door stands open so
light can penetrate. The floor is the bare, rocky earth. The whole family
and the chickens - when they have them - and the dog - and the pig- live in
Mrs. Connelly tells me her man is away working on a neighboring and
bigger farm. He gets a job there two days a week, and his total earnings are
four shillings, about a dollar. With this and the potatoes he can raise, the
turf he can dry and the fish he can catch, Bartley Connelly, 45, must
support himself, his wife and his eight children. Also, for his wretched
place he calls home he must pay 18 shillings a year rental.
The housewife - with never a word of complaint or of cadging - invites
the visitors within. On the hearth two pieces of turf flame feebly, emitting
their acrid smoke. In the corner I see a bundle of rag. They move. They are
children cuddling against each other in a vain search for a little warmth.
They are Michael 2, and Thomas 3, and they are dressed in petticoats as are
so many boys in this section, even those as old as 14. Over Connemara way,
Mrs. Connelly says, people are worse off. Their fires are out.
Farms in this section consist of little post stamp patches of land
between rocks, boulder and bogs, carefully fertilized with rotting seaweed.
When the saints are favorable the cabin dwellers have potatoes, bread, and
fish for food and are kept warm by the turf fires on their hearths. But this
year, nothing has been good. And although so far in an extensive trip up and
down the western counties of Ireland I have not heard of a single
authenticated case of death from starvation or from typhus fever, famine's
accompanying plague. I have marveled that the people survive the hardship of
Light laughter is rare. Sadness is stamped on their faces and especially
in their eyes.
The present trouble has been a test of the Irish Free State government.
Fairness requires that it be stated that the government has risen well to
the occasion. Last December, foreseeing what was coming, the government
allocated 500,00 pounds of relief funds and relief work.
Over 6,000 tons of coal are being shipped to the places where there is a
peat shortage. It is sold at six pence (10 cents) a hundredweight. Wood for
fires is also being sent in by the government. Seed potatoes for the next
crop are being distributed. Eighteen thousand school children are being
given a daily midday meal of bread, margarine, and cocoa. Doctors are out in
the districts to see that there is no epidemic, and so far they have been
The relief work being done is mostly in the shape of road building which
is thus a permanent asset to the country. Hundreds of men are thus being
given employment at useful work, enabling them to tide their families over
until the spring comes.
I talked with many parish priests up and down the coast and in many
cases I got this message for charitable America.
"Send us shoes! Our own government is taking care of the people as
regards food and fuel. But to clothe the bare feet of the women and children
is not so easy. Send us shoes!"
Cathy Joynt Labath
Ireland Old News