Primary Accounts? 
Gospel Truth? or Messages distorted by the fiery furnace- or Folk accounts blurred by  the fog of battle and the transmission process? 
Was all experience universal? Is it fair  to read only from one "Gospel"? 
-In any case, one form of history which like all histories must be used with care. 




Primary Accounts 

                          Read the voices of all-for  they were all there observing and writing -passing us their best human efforts at observation-lots of eyes and lenses and vantage points.Read through them so as to build a landscape rather than an opinion. 

"The "land of song" was no longer tuneful; or, if a human sound met the traveller's ear, it was only that of the feeble and despairing wail for the dead.  This awful, unwonted silence, which, during the famine and subsequent years, almost everywhere prevailed, struck more fearfully upon their imaginations, as many Irish gentlemen informed me, and gave them a deeper feeling of the desolation with which the country had been visited, than any other circumstance which had forced itself upon their attention"-George Petrie, The Ancient Music of Ireland (1855) 

"The rough and honest independence of the English cottager speaks the freedom he has so long enjoyed, and when really injured his appeal to the laws for redress and protection marks their impartial and just administration: the witty servillity of the Irish peasantry, mingled with occasional bursts of desperation and revenge--the devoted yet visionary patriotism--the romantic sense of honour, and improvident yet unalterable attachments, are evidence of a conquest without system, an irregular government, and the remains of feudal clanship, the barbarous and arbitrary organisation of a warlike people-Crofton Croker,Researches in the South of Ireland.1824 

"At Brandon we beheld a melancholy scene-several carts returning to thir homes in the country, which they had quitted in the morning with money to procure food, but compelled to go back without it.  Woman and children accompanied them with loud cries, literally "keening", as if they were following a corpse to its place of rest"-Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, Ireland: Its scenery, Character, and history, Vol 1, 1841. 

                                             "For the poverty and 
                                             distress and misery which 
                                             exist, the people have 
                                             themselves to blame"-- 
                                             T.C. Foster, "The Times" 

                                             March 15, 1846. 

County Donegal by Thomas Campbell Foster, 
appointed commissioner by "The Times" of London to inquire into "the condition of the people of Ireland" in 1845, Dunfanaghy, September 10. 
September 29, "The potato crop looks most luxuriant but some are complaining that a disease has prevailed to a partial extent” 
"I enter on this inquiry with perfect impartiality--for I have no possible interest in upholding an opinion either one way or the other, and only seek the conclusion to which common sense points." 

"I know right well that I write on tender ground, and that I lay myself open to the  charge of 'national prejudice' if I write a syllable in favour of the population of the north-east of Ireland. But I do not come to bandy compliments, but to ascertain facts and to state them. It is the nature of the men on the east coast of Ireland, by 
their activity, their enterprise, their intelligence, and their industry, to rise to wealth and prosperity--to push themselves--to accomplish greatness. It is their history in every quarter of the known world where they have been placed. It is the nature of the men on the west coast [i.e. Donegal] to cling with strong affection and prejudice 
to old habits, to their land, to their kindred. Enterprise is forced upon them; they do not seek it as one of the pleasures of existence. The middle classes live by subletting, and subletting, and again subletting the land at increased rentals. This is the extent of their enterprise." 
on the poorer classes: 
"As they increase, they divide and subdivide the patch of land they possess; they submit to live on poorer and poorer food; still they cling to the land, and subdivide it with their children till rent no longer exists, the land will not keep them, and all starve together. Their highest ambition is to obtain 'a blanket and a shelter for Sally,' 
and potatoes for themselves and their children. This was positively the fact at Tanniwilly, near Killybegs, in this county, on a property belonging to the Board of Education. The people being left to themselves subdivided land till they could pay 
no rent, and at length it would not keep them, and they were found a year or two ago by the Poor Law Commissioners lying in their huts, without food or clothes, all starving together in the most frightful state of destitution. There are numerous instances of the same result when the inhabitants of the west coast are left to 
themselves; leave the people on the east coast to themselves and they are sure to prosper." 

"The companies, by managing the greater part of the country around by intelligent agents--along with the gentry, who are mostly here resident, and vie with them--have completely changed the aspect of everything, as compared with more  western districts. Good farm houses, large squared fields, good fences, and abundant crops, exhibit ample evidence of the benefits derivable from the 
application of capital and enlightened industry. 

"I had the opportunity, on Thursday, of passing through a large district of country, the greater part of which is the property of the Grocers' Company. About seven miles from this town that company has erected a well-built village called Muff. 
Everything about it had the peaceful, industrious, well-cultivated, and cleanly aspect which distinguishes the better parts of England. Nothing could be more luxuriant and beautiful than the crops of wheat, just ripe for the sickle. This estate is managed by 
Mr. Wiggins, an Englishman, who is the agent of the company. The Drapers' Company have also a very well managed estate, which is superintended by Mr.Miller, an Irishman. The Fishmongers' Company are also equally well spoken of in their management, and several of the companies are following their example....” 

"...How clearly does all this indicate that the evils which oppress other parts of Ireland--which convert its fertile lands into deserts, and its people into starving and turbulent men--are social? The thriving population and generally high state of cultivation of the county of Derry, arising from the well-directed application of the 
capital of the landlords, and of the intelligent industry of the people, exist under the same laws with, and not many miles apart from, the starvation and wretchedness and waste lands of the Rosses and the Island of Arran, in Donegal." 

"The outrages and shootings (in) Tipperary and some adjacent counties are disgraceful to the nation--they mark the existence amongst the people of the most  cowardly and savage brutality. It is folly to apply to such a society the humane and 
moderate provisions of laws adapted only for a peaceful and orderly and  independent community." 

"A free and liberal Government--mild and humane laws, which depend as much upon the co-operation and aid of the people 
as upon the law or the Government--are only fitted for an enlightened and orderly and just community; they are hopeless and mischievous in a cowardly, a savage, a brutalized, and an ignorant one. Such a people will bear and require a more despotic 
rule. “ 

"Fine the community for every crime, and enforce the fine. If crime still goes on, send another thousand policemen into the county, and make the county bear the whole expense.... 

"If a criminal is sentenced to transportation pack him off at once. Do not give him time in gaol to leave behind him amongst his friends a legacy of revenge. Punish every crime with a fitting punishment. What cares the man who can gloat over revenge, perpetrated or determined upon, for a three months' imprisonment? 
Cat-o-nine-tail him at a cart's tail throughout the chief town of the 
neighbourhood--hold him up to the scorn and derision of his neighbours for having been a cowardly brute with just courage enough to skulk behind a hedge and try to shoot an unconscious victim, or knock him senseless with a stone from behind. “: 

"At the termination of his imprisonment give him a repetition of the same dose, and send him home to his friends to doctor his back for him. A few such examples as these would have a thousand times greater effect than all the rewards and proclamations in the world. “ 

"Strive by overwhelming force to make the punishment of crime certain, and make its punishment terrible. If an outcry is raised against you by vagabonds and the press of the "Vindicator" class, never mind it; uphold what is good in the community, and 
the clamour of the worthless will not injure you. “ 

"With a firm and determined hand put down agitation, whether that agitation be Orange or Repeal. If necessary, fear not to do it despotically. Remember you are dealing with a people who in the mass are almost uncivilized. Like children they require governing with the hand of power. They require authority, and will bear it. 
A more enlightened community would not require it and would not bear it." -1845-46 

Another account of the Famine can be found here just click here 

Ejectment Murder--As Major Mahon, a gentleman holding large estates in Roscommon was returning home about twenty minutes past six o' clock on the evening of Monday, from a meeting of the board of guardians of the Roscommon union, he was shot dead by an assassin, about four miles from Strokestown.  There were two persons engaged in the murder, according to our informant.  Both fired; one  piece missed fire, but the other proved fatal, lodging a heavily loaded discharge in the breast.  The victim exclaimed, "Oh, God!" and spoke no more.  Major Mahon was formerly in the 95th Dragoons,  now Lancers, and succceeded to the inheritance of the late Lord Harland's estates about two years ago, the rental bring about  #10,000.  The people were said to be displeased with him for two reasons.  The first was his refusal to continue the conacre system, the second was his clearing away what he deemed the surplus population. He chartered two vesseles to America and freighted them with his evicted tenatry.- The Nation,Dublin, 6 November 1847. 

Robert Whyte wrote of his experiences  on  a  Coffin Ship headding to America in 1847. 
Exerpts from: 
James Mangan ,Ed.,Robert Whyte's 1847 Famine Ship Diary. Mercier Press, 

        The Journey of an Irish Coffin Ship. 


Each moment plays 
His little weapon in the narrower sphere 
Of sweet domestic comfort, and cuts down 
The fairest bloom of sublunary bliss. 
Bliss - sublunary bliss - proud words and rain, 
Implicit treason to divine decree, 
A bold invasion of the rights of heaven 
I clasp'd the phantoms, and I found them air. 
O, had I weighed it ere my fond embrace, 
What darts of agony had miss'd my soul. 

-- Young 

30 May 1847 

                        Many and deep are the wounds that the sensitive heart inflicts upon its possessor, as he journeys through life's pilgrimage but on few occasions are they so acutely felt as when one is about to part from those who formed a portion of his existence; deeper still pierces the pang as the idea presents itself that the separation may be for ever, but when one feels a father's nervous grasp, a dear sister's tender,sobbing embrace and the eye wanders around the apartment, drinking in each familiar object, until it rests upon the vacant chair which she who nursed his helpless infancy was wont to occupy, then the agony he wishes to conceal becomes insupportable. But as the skilful surgeon tears off the bandage which the hand of affection gently withdraws from the wound, thereby unconsciously inflicting greater pain, so it is better not to linger upon the affecting scene but  rush suddenly away. 

It was a charming morning on which I left dear old Ireland. The balmy new-born day in all the freshness of early summer was gladdened by the beams of the sun which rose above the towers of 
the city, sunk in undisturbed repose.-1847 

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