In the decades before the Great Famine of the late-1840s numerous parliamentary inquiries were held into the condition of the poorer classes in Ireland. Political and social elites wished to understand the nature of Ireland’s seemingly endemic poverty in the hope of improving the social, economic and moral condition of the peasantry, as well as quelling the country’s tendency for social upheaval and political radicalism. The most significant of these inquiries was the Royal Commission for Inquiring into the Condition of the Poorer Classes in Ireland (aka the Poor Inquiry). Chaired by the Church of Ireland archbishop of Dublin Richard Whately (1787-1863), the commission sat between 1833 and 1836, holding extensive public inquiries (akin to court sittings) in parishes throughout the country, supplemented by extensive correspondence with persons of significance across the island, as to the social condition of the poor in their locality. The printed output of the commission – totalling more than 5,000 pages of detailed information, witness testimonies and statistics – constitutes an unparalleled source for the study of poverty in the pre-Famine period. The Poor Inquiry reports tell us much about County Offaly (King’s County) a decade before the Great Famine. Continue reading
Dan Lawlor was born in 1907 and in this interview (extract – for the full interview follow the SoundCloud link) he talks about his early memories of growing up in the early 1900s, attending national school in Mount Bolus. Starting to work at the age of 14, where the wage was 3 shillings for a boy and 5 shillings for men and the working day was 8 or 9 hours at least. He also recalls growing up during very disturbed times, the 1916 rising, the Black and Tans and the First World War. Going around the rambling houses and the stories he heard about the Famine 1846 – 49, the big wind in 1903 knocking down all 13 acres of Colonel Biddulph trees, the big storm around 1803 (or was it 1839). The telling of ghost stories, attending wakes, clay pipes and match making where the father gave £100 and those who couldn’t afford it and gave nothing would say “she’s a good girl and will earn her keep”. His love of hurling in Killoughy, making their own hurleys and using a tin can if they couldn’t afford a leather ball. He also speaks about the 1920s not being great times, but the crops were good for anyone who minded them, farming all his life also all his family, the farm evictions and the Economic War. He also mentions about 80 years ago there was a brewery in Monasterevin called Cassidy’s and a monk in Clara who worked miracles with the mortar, they called him Cassidy’s Monk. Continue reading
Thomas Prittie’s recollections of Tullamore from the Famine to the Easter Rising serve to confirm how much the town had improved both physically and in civility in that narrator’s own time. Thomas Prittie died on 29 April 1916 just at the close of Easter Week and was described by the Tullamore and King’s County Independent as ‘one of the oldest inhabitants of the town’ who helped in ‘our historical sketch of Tullamore published some months ago’. He was aged 83 according to his death certificate, but the reporter put him at ninety. He lived, unmarried, in Henry/O’Carroll Street, Tullamore and, said the local press, left considerable house property. Continue reading
Kilcruttin cemetery is located off Cormac Street and close to the boundaries of what is now Scoil Mhuire. Indeed, the original access lane and entrance to this cemetery is still to be seen. It’s the oldest cemetery in Tullamore town and dates back to the 1700s. At one time it was on the outskirts of the town and in soft poor ground close to the Tullamore river. It was not the cemetery of choice for the upper ten in Tullamore, but nonetheless has some very good monuments including that to the Methodist merchant Burgess and the German baron Oldershausen of the King’s German Legion, the heroes of Waterloo.