1846. Famine Times

1846. Famine Times

The Relief Commissioners.

The following is a letter by John Smith describing the conditions at the Coastguard Station in Cleggan, May 1846 and a note written in witness of his observations by Peter J. Fryer, Chief Officer, Coastguard. In transcribing the letters, a few of the words were very difficult to make out, so I left dashed lines to indicate a word.

Cellerna Clifden
May 16th, 1846

The Relief Commissioners,


I assure you that it is with the greatest despair of reluctance that I am so troublesome to gentlemen who I ---- are --- with kindness but as there is no other person in this population so easily to do so. I am compelled to do it, I assure you to witness the abjects that surround the coast guard station, where the meal is dwelling who from infirmity or want of means to purchase is most heartrending indeed.

The hardest heart if he had it in his power would yield to their entreaties to obtain relief of hunger and I am sure the Relief Commission wishes to do all in their power to alieve the wants of the sufferers. I could say no more on the subject.

I have the honor to remain your obedient servant

John Smith


I submit most respectfully to the notice of the Relief Commission that John Smiths remarks are, I am sorry to add too true - and that I have witnessed with regret the numerous persons who have travelled over 10 miles with an expectancy of getting from me a portion of Indian meal free of charge but which I could not give - not being armed with authority.

(signed) P.J. Freyer, Chief Officer Coast Guard Service.


1st.April 1846.Poor Law Union. Clifden, Co. Galway.

1/2 crop lost. No return for labourers idle.

2nd.April 1846. Workhouse not open.


A note written in the margin of the commission┬╣s response to be sent to JN Smith)

Acknowledge and state that the govt. supplies are not intended to meet the wants of the population of many who are distressed but for __ merely as anscilians to local -- by the owners and occupants of property, to provide means of relief; and observe that if these classes had made provisions for Relief of the Poor, as the law requires, by opening the workhouse of the Union, the destitution described would be relieved, leaving the Public Works and other measures of Govt. for the succumbed of the classes suffering exclusively by loss of the Potato Crop


Letter submitted by Bob Thomas. Columbus, Ohio.

Reference: Famine Relief Commission Letters. National Archives. Bishop Street. Dublin 8

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