Extract from Report of Captain Kennedy - May 7, 1849
"THE general state of the Union causes me serious anxiety and
pain. I cannot conceal from myself that the condition of the poor becomes daily worse, and
the mortality more distressing.
"I have conducted Mr. Phelan (the medical inspector) through the western portion of the Union, and I would hope that the Commissioners would call upon him to state his opinion, and afford the benefit of his matured experience, as I freely confess that I distrust my own judgement in such trying circumstances.
"I find that my constant and untiring exertions make but little impression upon the mass of fearful suffering. As soon as one horde of houseless, and all but naked paupers are dead, or provided for in the workhouse, another wholesale eviction doubles the number, who, in their turn, pass through the same ordeal of wandering from house, or burrowing in bogs or behind ditches, till, broken down by privation and exposure to the elements, they seek the workhouse or die by the roadside. The state of some districts of the Union during the last 14 days baffles description; 16 houses, containing 21 families, have been levelled in one small village in Killard division, and a vast number in the rural parts of it. As cabins become fewer, lodgings, however miserable, become more difficult to obtain. And the helpless and houseless creatures thus turned out of the only home they ever knew, betake themselves to the nearest bog or ditch, with their little all, and, thus huddled together, disease soon decimates them.
"Notwithstanding that fearful and (I believe) unparalled numbers have been unhoused in this Union within the year (probably 15,000), it seems hardly credible that 1200 more have had their dwellings levelled within a fortnight.
"I have a list of 760 completed, and of above 400 in preparation. It appears to me almost impossible to successfully meet such a state of things; and the prevailing epidemic, or the dread of it, aggravates the evil. None of this houseless class can now find admittance save into some over-crowded cabin, whose inmates seldom survive a month. I have shown Dr. Phelan some of these miserable nests of pestilence, which I am at a loss to describe.
"Five families, numbering 20 souls, are not unfrequently found in a cabin consisting of one small apartment. At Doonbeg, a few days since, I found three families, numbering 16 persons, one of whom had cholera, and three in a hopeless stage of dysentery. The cabin they occupied consisted of one wretched apartment about 12 feet square. It was one of the few refuges for the evicted, and they were unable to reckon how many had been carried out of it from time to time to the grave.
"In another of these deserted and ruined cabins I found a family of these wandering evicted. The father of the family lay dead upon some mouldy straw, two of his children lay sound asleep on and across his lifeless body, and his wife lay, all but dead, in a corner beside a smouldering turf. The history of the family is short, and that of thousands in this miserable and neglected locality. They had been evicted some months ago; found temporary shelter in a low lodging, where they received out-door relief; sickness, the natural result of overcrowding, overtook one of the family; all were (as it is here termed) thrown out; when, after wandering and exposure, they found this miserable shelter wherein to die.
"In a cow-shed adjoining this wretched cabin, I found "Ellen Lynch," lying in an almost hopeless stage of dysentery. She had been carried thither by her son when "thrown out" of her miserable lodging, and was threatened with momentary expulsion from even this refuge by the philanthropic owner of it; her only safety rested in the fears of all but her son to approach her. I was ankle deep in manure while standing beside her. This poor woman is nearly related to an elective member of the Ennis Board of Guardians, and also to one of the late Kilrush Board. Her husband had been lately evicted and died. I had all conveyed to the workhouse. They were all in receipt of out-relief, and had even got medical assistance. It is quite impossible for a relieving officer to watch over these helpless creatures, wandering from place to place; sickness overtakes them where they are not known or cared for, and these horrors ensue.
"The state of a great portion of those receiving out-door relief under the 2nd Section is very pitiable.
"While inspecting a stone-breaking depôt a few days since, I observed one of the men take off his remnant of a pair of shoes and started across the fields; I followed him with my eye, and at a distance saw the blaze of a fire in the bog. I sent a boy to inquire the cause of it, and the man running from his work, and was told that his house had been levelled the day before, that he had erected a temporary hut on the lands, and while his wife and children were gathering shell-fish on the strand, and he stone-breaking, the bailiff or driver fired it.
"These ruthless acts of barbarity are submitted to with an unresisting patience hardly credible.
"I need not enter upon the financial condition of the Union, which the estimates forwarded will sufficiently explain. I need only remark, that I anticipate a respectable collection this week, and for some weeks to come, but certainly not sufficient to meet more than half the current expenses of the Union for food alone."
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