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No Potaties and Peat - 1925

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  • Cathy Joynt Labath
    Appleton Post Crescent Appleton, Wisconsin March 2, 1925 IRISH SUFFER FROM A HUNGER AND COLD WHEN BLACK RAIN DESTROYS POTATIES AND PEAT BY MILTON BRONNER
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 11, 2006
      Appleton Post Crescent
      Appleton, Wisconsin
      March 2, 1925

      IRISH SUFFER FROM A HUNGER AND COLD WHEN BLACK RAIN DESTROYS POTATIES AND
      PEAT
      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
      western Ireland.
      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
      nobody.
      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
      this shelter.
      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
      their lives.
      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
      successful.
      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
      http://www.IrelandOldNews.com/
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