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!! Times; Sep 20, 1851 "Notes from the West"

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  • Cathy Joynt Labath
    London Times London, Middlesex, England September 20, 1851 NOTES FROM THE WEST OF IRELAND. TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES. Sir,- I returned yesterday from a run of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 22, 2004
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      London Times
      London, Middlesex, England
      September 20, 1851

      NOTES FROM THE WEST OF IRELAND.
      TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.

      Sir,- I returned yesterday from a run of eight or nine days in the west of
      Ireland, and it has occurred to me that a few notes of my observations may not
      be without interest in the eyes of some of your numerous readers.
      I shall fix the commencement of my ramble at Limerick, whence I started on
      the 9th inst., and, passing on through Ennis, Ennistymon, and Lahinch, proceeded
      along the western coast of Clare, form the Hag's Head to Blackhead, and thence,
      by the southern shore of Galway Bay, through Ballyvaughan, to Kinvara. From this
      point I crossed the bay to Galway, and, making my way through Oughterard,
      Ballynahinch, Clifden, Westport and Newport, to Achill Island, I returned by
      Castlebar, Ballinrobe, and Headford, and again reached Galway on the evening of
      the 16th. I may, perhaps, be permitted to mention that my object in undertaking
      this little tour was simply amusement. I had neither the establishment nor the
      overthrow of any theory in view. I am neither an incumbered landlord no an
      anxious creditor; neither a Poor Law official straining a point to make relief
      acts work, nor a professional philanthropist bent on extending them, at all
      hazards, to the full accomplishment of their professed object. I did not turn my
      fact to the west with a design of seeking a field for investment, nor am I a
      "Saxon in Ireland" interested in engaging co-partners in a difficult
      speculation. Whether these negations will add or detract from my credit, it may,
      at all events, be right to take them into account; and having thus premised, I
      shall proceed to tell shortly what I saw and heard.
      The fine harvest weather that prevailed during the fortnight before we
      reached Limerick had the effect of emptying the numerous poorhouses of that
      union of the greater part of their ablebodied male inmates, and I was informed
      by the inspector that about 3,000 vacancies were then available. Considerable
      prejudice, however, exists against employing discharged paupers, and there seems
      to be little doubt that the pressure upon the poorhouse accommodation will
      return the moment the harvest shall be completed. As it is, the tale of stout
      boys and young women remains undiminished, and yet the farmers complained
      everywhere of a deficiency of labour. In the poorhouses of Ennis Union, of which
      there are seven, there is room altogether for about 5,000 persons, and there are
      now 2,000 vacancies. I went over the "Parent House" (as they call the original
      building), in which there is accommodation for 3,000 paupers; but there were
      then among the inmates nor more than seven ablebodied men, and they were engaged
      in sinking a well for the use of the establishment. It is, however, a miserable
      fact that the ablebodied women numbered 740 (stout, well looking, hearty wenches
      as need be) besides 500 young girls and 700 boys, under 15, and some 60 or 70
      infant children. There was nothing that I saw to find fault with in the
      management and discipline of this host; every one who was capable was at work,
      and all appeared clean, well fed, and lamentably contented. The master is
      manifestly gifted with the talent of organization, and he has contrived to
      institute the manufacture, within the house, of almost every article required by
      its inmates. Inside and outside clothing and shoes, both for men and for women,
      are made from the raw material by the paupers, and very good of their kind they
      all are. The greater part of the food consumed is also raised upon the premises,
      and thus the great and growing evil involved in the establishment of a class of
      contractors interested in extending and perpetuating the nuisance of pauperism
      seems to be diminished to a very low scale. Nevertheless the best management of
      a workhouse goes but a short way towards solving the perplexing question of what
      is to be done towards bringing the mass of youthful human power, now festering
      in those asylums of helplessness, into useful connexion with the industrial
      resources of this or of any other country? The prejudice against employment of
      paupers, to which I have already alluded, tells with peculiar power against the
      youth of both sexes. Scarcely any one, of any class, will take a workhouse boy
      or girl as a servant or apprentice, and there is even considerable difficulty in
      getting the few boys who are willing to enlist taken as soldiers. I was shown
      five or six very fine looking lads who had been persuaded to offer themselves as
      recruits, but who had been rejected upon some trivial or absurd ground. Some of
      these had marks of having been bled or cupped, evidently for their transitory
      ailments which had left no other vestiges of their presence; one was refused
      because of a slight scar of a burn, caused by a splash from a stirabout pot,
      appeared on the side of his chest. A faint spark of hope seemed to glimmer upon
      this darkness from out of the fact stated by the master, that since Christmas
      last about 70 persons had been removed from the house by relatives in America,
      who had transmitted funds for their emigration.
      From Limerick to Ennis the country throughout looked well, much better than
      I had expected to see it. The corn (oats and barley) was mostly cut, and
      appeared to be a good crop. We saw several fields of beans and turnips, the
      former not good, the latter excellent. The potato stalks are generally blighted,
      but as it seemed to me rather from premature decay than from a disease of the
      tubers. I heard good accounts, and those I saw were unexceptionable in quantity,
      quality and size. There are few ruins of houses visible in this district, and I
      was agreeably disappointed by the appearance of the peasantry; such of them as
      showed along the road, and in neighbouring fields, looked healthy and well fed.
      From Ennis to Ennistymon the road lies through wild and often rocky, but
      not barren hills. Such crops as were to be seen were good, nor was there any
      marked appearance of distress among the scanty population. There was, however, a
      manifest deficiency of stock in the pastures, and at Ennistymon sufficient signs
      of the times not wanting, in scattered houses, desolate shops, and a large,
      well-filled poorhouse. As we passed the latter we saw a band of some hundreds of
      its inmates (men and boys), returning from bathing, apparently in high spirits,
      playing roughly with each other, and throwing stones as we rushed along. At
      Lahinch, in the same union, there is an auxiliary poorhouse, comprising two
      large bathing lodges, in which we were informed there were then 1,000 young
      girls.
      About Ennistymon and between that town and Lahinch, we first heard grave
      complaints of the potato crop, and appearances were less favourable than any we
      had previously noticed. Here we came in contact with the Atlantic, and availed
      ourselves of its abundant resources to mend the scanty fare of our inn. A poor
      fellow on the beach volunteered to pull across Liscannor-bay, a distance of 3
      1/2 miles, to procure a lobster for our supper. We gratefully accepted his
      services and in a minute or two he had his canvas canoe launched and was making
      his way through a swell which every now and then hid him and his frail bark
      completely from our sight. We saw him start at half-past 6, and at half-past 7,
      after a row of seven miles, he presented himself at the inn with a fine lobster,
      for which he asked 8d.
      I fear I have stretched this communication beyond all reasonable limits,
      and, with your permission, will resume my tale to-morrow.
      I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
      Sept. 18. H.M.

      Cathy Joynt Labath
      Ireland Old News
      http://www.IrelandOldNews.com/
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