Reports and Returns Relating to Evictions
in the Kilrush Union (1847-1849)

Extract from Mr. Phelan's Report - May 16, 1849

"I WAS accompanied by Captain Kennedy through the whole of these districts, into the several cholera hospitals, and into some of the houses, huts, and other indescribably wretched places in which those destitute and diseased swarm; these chiefly were observed in the Carrigaholt district, and in those of Killard and of Kilmurry. I have, in many of the western and southern Unions, seen sights of the most harrowing description, but I do not think that I have ever seen so much wretchedness arising from destitution, as in these places in 1847-8. Epidemic fever and dysentery produced, it is true, in considerable measure by want, caused great misery, but here, in the absence of fever, and of dysentery, except that arising from want of food, destitution although endeavoured to be met by in-door and out-door relief, has assumed a shape which even in Clifden was not, I think, presented. Families are here literally naked, and at the same time progressing surely and quickly to the grave, by diarrhœa and dropsy. I often found several of these families in one room or hut; for instance, there were four such families in the Kilmurry district; the house, consisting of one room, belonged to a single woman, who resides in it: a man, his wife, and five children, a man and his three sisters, a boy and his sister, and a woman, all lodged with her; nearly all were ill, some dying. Each family was on out-door relief, except the single woman, the owner of the house, who got four pounds of Indian meal per week from the first mentioned, in lieu of fourpence for lodging-money, three pounds from the second, two pounds from the third, and one pound from the fourth. This practice extensively prevails in this Union especially, in consequence of the numerous evictions which have taken, and are taking place in it. In other Unions the hut is often let to the pauper who lives in it on out-door relief; but here, generally, the reverse is the case, so that a great proportion of those on that relief are congregated into a few such houses as that alluded to, when, of course, they still more add to the tendency to disease which always exists amongst persons so circumstanced; but many of these wretched creatures have not the benefit of an one-room house, nor even of a hut. I felt it my duty to go into several temporary shelters got up on the road side, in fields and in bogs, which shelters were merely a few hurdles thrown across from the ground to the ditch or wall, with some loose straw or rushes, or scraws laid on; these places can only be entered on hands and knees; the utmost height is not above three feet; even a boy or girl cannot stand up in them, yet I found a family of four or five in these places, usually all or most sick; but in some I have found the children naked in bed, the mother gone for ‘the relief,’ and the father ‘stone-breaking.’ I have neither time nor capacity to give even a faint outline of the miserable condition of a large portion of the population in those districts, nor is it my province to do so, except so far as I may find it necessary to give an idea of those physical and moral appearances which I must suppose to be powerful agents in producing disease, and in causing extensive loss of life circumstances which in such a population must inevitably occur, unless arrested by more means than I fear are at the disposal of the Union authorities, who, I believe, have strenuously exerted themselves as far as their means enabled them."  

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