Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

2018 Irish Famine Summer School Call for Papers: “Irish Journeys: Famine Legacies and Reconnecting Communities”

 

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Irish Journeys: Famine Legacies and Reconnecting Communities.

The 2018 Irish Famine Summer School will take place at Strokestown Park House from 20th-24th June 2018. The theme is Irish Journeys: Famine Legacies and Reconnecting Communities.

Strokestown Park House and the Irish National Famine Museum provide a hub for visitors and scholars to experience a uniquely preserved historic house and explore the lives of rich and poor in their original setting.

The 2018 Irish Famine Summer School will consider the Great Irish Famine and its legacies of dispersing communities between Ireland, Great Britain, North America, and Australia. Particular emphasis will be placed on the theme of Irish journeys at home and abroad, including the experiences of Irish emigrants and their descendants in building communities and becoming integrated into their host societies. The themes of homecoming, revisiting Ireland, and reconnecting communities between Irish and diasporic locations will also be central themes.

The annual Famine conference is an international, interdisciplinary event that brings together local, national and international Famine experts. We ask for papers that approach the subject ‘Irish Journeys’ from the broadest possible artistic, cultural, historical, and socio-economic perspectives.  We welcome proposals for 20 minute papers and envisage dedicated panels on (but not limited to) the following themes:

  • Irish Journeys at home and abroad
  • The Irish Famine Migration to North America, Great Britain, and Australia
  • Migration, Integration, and community building in Ireland and the diaspora
  • Artistic, cultural, historic, and socioeconomic legacies of eviction and migration
  • Reconnecting Irish communities between Ireland and diasporic locations
  • Homecoming: revisiting Ireland

Enquiries and proposals of no more than 250 words, accompanied by a brief biographical note on the author, should be sent to Dr Jason King: faminestudies@Irishheritagetrust.ie by 1 February 2018. Decisions on proposals as decided by the organising committee will be communicated by the end of February.

Strokestown Famine Archive 3

Strokestown Park House Famine Archive

Christine Kinealy: The Famine Queen at Carton House

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visit Carton House 1849 watch tenants dancing

Tenants in Costume Perform for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Carton House

On the fifth day of the walk, the walkers toured the Carton House estate of Lord Leinster near Maynooth, where the “Famine Queen” Victoria and Prince Albert visited in 1849.

Christine Kinealy portrait

Professor Christine Kinealy, founding Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, writes about Queen Victoria’s visit to Carton House.

Queen Victoria remains a controversial figure for her role during the Great Famine. The widespread belief that she made no financial contribution to assist her starving subjects in Ireland meant that she is widely remembered as ‘the Famine Queen’.   The reality is more complex as Victoria did intervene in a number of ways to assist Ireland between 1846 and 1852, mostly though, at the prompting of the Prime Minister, Lord John Russell.

In 1845, when the potato blight first appeared in Ireland, Queen Victoria was aged only 26, married with four young children. She had never visited Ireland and showed little interest in doing so, which was in strong contrast with her love for Scotland. The second failure of the potato crop in 1846 meant that Ireland became a major concern of the British government and its nominal head, the monarch. This was evident in the Queen’s Speech marking the opening of parliament in January 1847, when she stated that ‘the loss of the usual food of the people has been the cause of severe sufferings, of disease, and of greatly increased mortality among the poorer classes’. In the same month, she issued a ‘Queen’s Letter’ calling on Anglican churches throughout the United Kingdom to donate to Ireland, and to observe a day of special religious services to pray for forgiveness.  The latter action reinforced the idea that the potato blight was a punishment from God.  This providentialist interpretation of the potato failure was prevalent amongst a number of politicians and relief officials, notably Charles Trevelyan of the Treasury. Privately, however, the Queen believed such actions to be irrational and had only called for a day of fast at the request of her Prime Minister.

On a more practical level, at the beginning of 1847 Victoria donated £2,000 to the newly formed British Relief Association, with a promise of more if necessary. Other members of the Royal family also donated to the Association.  Additionally, the appeal by the Queen to the Anglican churches had been successful, raising almost £172,000.  A small portion of this money was used to help the poor in Scotland who had also lost their potato crop.  In October 1847, when it was evident that a third year of famine was inevitable, a second Queen’s Letter was issued, but it raised only £30,000, indicative of the onset of compassion fatigue in regard to helping Ireland.

In 1848, the potato crop was again struck by blight, although it was most severe in the west. At the beginning of the following year, the British government made a small grant to Ireland on the understanding that it would be the final one, regardless of the suffering still evident in the country. In June, as disease and death were showing no signs of abating, the Queen and a number of her ministers made small donations, but the amount raised was pathetically inadequate given the extent of the distress. Around the same time, it was announced that Victoria was going to undertake her first visit to Ireland.

The Queen’s visit in early August 1849, was carefully choreographed. She, accompanied by her husband, Prince Albert, and their children, only visited the east of the country, and they travelled from Cork to Dublin, and Dublin to Belfast, by yacht. For the most part, her public reception was warm, but it also proved divisive, with the Archbishop of Tuam, John MacHale refusing to put his name to a welcome address from the Catholic Church hierarchy.  The Queen, however, seemed genuinely pleased with how she was welcomed, writing to the uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, ‘Everything here has gone beautifully since we arrived in Ireland, and our entrance to Dublin was really a magnificent thing … Our visit to Cork was very successful … the enthusiasm is immense.’

Victoria’s only inland visit came when she was in Dublin, staying in the Vice-Regal Lodge in Phoenix Park, the home of the Lord Lieutenant. On Saturday 11 August, she visited Carton House and Estate, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Leinster.  Wearing a dress trimmed with Limerick Lace, she travelled there in an open barouche, along the banks of the Liffey.  People, included large numbers of the ‘Irish peasantry’ lined the route.  When she reached Maynooth, the students of the seminary lined the streets, dressed in their college regalia and cheered as she passed.  Thousands of other people had come to the town by train, carriage or on foot.

The Queen entered the estate through Kellystown Gate. Shortly afterwards the royal party and about 40 guests, including the President of Maynooth College, the Rev. Renehan, sat down to ‘partake of a magnificent dejeuner’. While they ate about 160 people were given refreshments ‘of the most varied and costly kind’ in tents erected in the grounds of the estate. At the Queen’s request, a large number of locals including ‘numbers of peasantry’ had been invited to observe her walking about estate. Following the walk, the guests were shown ‘a real Irish jig, which was danced to the music of an Irish piper by a number of the Duke’s tenants and their wives and daughters’.  The bagpiper was Sheridan from Kilcock. The press reported that the Queen ‘laughed most heartily at the performers and the royal party seemed to be highly pleased with them’. After visiting a thatched cottage on the estate, the Royal party left for Dublin. Contrary to popular lore, she did not spend the night in Carton House.

Victoria arrived back in the Phoenix Park shortly after 5.00pm, only staying for about thirty minutes. When she left, she travelled to the railway station in Westland Row, taking the train to Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) where the royal yacht was docked.  Again, the route was packed with people, and the bay was filled with vessels, with everybody appearing delighted to catch a glimpse of the Queen. Any disgruntlement that existed was eclipsed by the cordiality of the majority of the people.  John Mitchel, who at that stage was thousands of miles away, on a prison ship and therefore unable to witness the occasion in person, nonetheless wrote about the royal visit and attributed the warmth of the welcome to the natural kind-heartedness of the Irish people, together with the Lord Lieutenant’s careful precautions to render any dissent invisible.

The Queen’s visit to Carton House in 1849, and the feasting and festivity that accompanied it, gave no indication that, simultaneously, a famine was still raging in parts of the country. Regardless of her interactions with Ireland during these years, Queen Victoria reigned over  a government that increasingly turned its back on Ireland, which resulted in the most lethal and devastating event in Irish history that continues to have repercussions today. In that sense, she truly was the Famine Queen.

Christine Kinealy

 

Queen Victoria.pngQueen Victoria, pilloried in folk memory as the ‘Famine Queen’ who only donated £5 in famine relief, in fact donated £2,000 to the British Relief Association in January 1847, making her the largest single donor (multitext project).

Like Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the famine walkers visited the Carton House estate’s Tyrconnell Tower, which was refurbished in the nineteenth century, in folk memory as a famine relief project.

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Deplorable Accident on the Royal Canal

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On the final day of the walk, the walkers passed the spot at Clonsilla bridge where sixteen people lost their lives at the onset of the Famine when the Dublin to Longford passenger boat capsized on 25 November, 1845. This deplorable accident and inquest are described in the Cork Examiner and Pilot below.

Cork Examiner Headline

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The Pilot headline

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The Strokestown Park Famine Archive and New Research

Ciaran Reilly 5

On day five of the walk, the walkers met with Dr Ciarán Reilly who gave them a tour of the Carton House estate near Maynooth. Dr Reilly is the leading expert on the Strokestown Park Archive and one of the most distinguished scholars in the field.  His book Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine (Four Courts, 2014) combines incisive analysis of the records in the archive with high quality reproductions of some of its most important documents.

Ciaran Reilly 4Ciaran Reilly 1

Ciaran Reilly’s book Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine is:

‘The most in-depth study of the effects of the Famine on a landed estate and its community … With the help of this book, we are brought deep inside the actuality of life during the Famine era. Some of our preconceived ideas of what actually transpired during that appalling era are challenged. Highlighted too is the important role played by the Irish National Famine Museum at Strokestown’, from the foreword by Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland.

Strokestown Famine Archive 3

The Strokestown Park House archive is one of the largest Irish estate collections in existence, with more than 50,000 documents comprising rentals, leases, accounts, correspondence, maps, drawings, architectural plans and photographs. Of particular importance are the papers that relate to the Great Irish Famine. This book aims to introduce the reader to the archive and to provide a fascinating and detailed insight into the many and varied experiences of the Famine for those who inhabited the estate in the 1840s.

http://www.fourcourtspress.ie/books/2014/strokestown-and-the-great-irish-famine/

In Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine, Reilly traces many of the 1490.  In his own words:

While the Strokestown Park archive provides a fascinating insight into people who emigrated during and immediately after the Famine, their fate afterwards is more difficult to track. For the vast majority we are offered only fleeting glimpses of their lives after leaving Ireland. An example is John Coleman, one of ninety-nine emigrants who left the townland of Curhouna during the assisted emigration programme of 1847. Having survived the crossing, Coleman made his way to New Orleans where by 1851 he was listed as being a patient in the city hospital. One of 1,100 men and women, including over 20 Roscommon natives, who sought medical treatment in the hospital in 1851 alone, the ultimate fate of Coleman is unknown. Likewise, Margaret Flynn, aged 24, and her son John, aged one, who were described as “destitute”; having survived the voyage on board the Virginius in July 1847, they made their way inland to St John, New Brunswick, where they found shelter in the city’s almshouses in 1851 (139-142).

More information about Margaret Flynn and her son John can be found here:

http://archives.gnb.ca/Irish/Databases/Almshouse/ImageViewer.aspx?culture=en-CA&mode=s&record=23605&fond=MC2700&series=MS2A3

http://archives.gnb.ca/Irish/Databases/Almshouse/ImageViewer.aspx?culture=en-CA&mode=s&record=23604&fond=MC2700&series=MS2A3

Ciarán Reilly has also co-authored Women and the Great Hunger  with the Famine walkers Christine Kinealy and Jason King (Cork and Quinnipiac University Press).

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http://www.corkuniversitypress.com/Women-and-the-Great-Hunger-p/9780990945420.htm

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/women-and-the-great-hunger-review-new-takes-on-an-irish-tragedy-1.2982060

Ciarán Reilly has also published The Famine Irish: Emigration and the Great Hunger (History Press, 2016), which includes Jason King’s chapter about the 1490 entitled “Une Voix d’Irlande: Integration, Migration, and Travelling Nationalism Between Famine Ireland and Quebec in the Long Nineteenth Century”, 193-208.

Famine Irish Emigration and the Great Hunger.png

 

The Strokestown Park Famine Archive and the 1490

Strokestown Emigrant list graphic

The story of the 1490 is one that has been reconstructed from the treasure trove of documents found in the Strokestown Park Archive.

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An extract from the Cloonahee Petition, 1846, Strokestown Park Archive.

The leading scholars in the field attest to its significance:

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The archive is one of the largest collections of famine documents in the world ……….most of these documents have not seen the light of day since they were generated almost 170 years ago’

Dr Ciaran Reilly, Maynooth University, Ireland

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‘The Strokestown Park Archive represents a jewel in famine studies, and one that has great significance beyond Roscommon and the island of Ireland’.

Professor Christine Kinealy,

Director, Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT

Mark-McGowan

“The archive at Strokestown Park House is a treasure trove for social historians intent upon reconstructing life on an Irish estate in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Equally important is the rich deposit of records from the Irish Famine period, which when viewed in the context of other collections available to the public in Ireland, ranks as one of vital importance to historians of the Great Hunger. Moreover, manuscripts generated by the Pakenham-Mahon family provide valuable links to other landed families in Ireland and to larger Imperial and diasporic networks. Thus the archive is not just of local or Irish interest, but provides potential research projects for scholars across the globe.”

Dr Mark G. McGowan

Strokestown Famine Archive 3

The collection containing over 55,000 documents is of international significance in relation to the Famine period and also a complete record of economic, social, and estate history over a 300 year period.

A dedicated environmentally controlled archive room has been created above the stables and a study centre within the stable wing is being created.

Documents from the Strokestown Park House Archive are also being digitized and made publicly available on the Great Famine Voices website:

 http://www.greatfaminevoices.ie/

 

 

 

Mullingar Famine Graveyard

Mullingar Robinstown Famine Graveyard entrance

The Famine walkers began the fourth day of their journey at the Robinstown famine graveyard in Mullingar.

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http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=WM&regno=15309019

Description:

Former union workhouse graveyard on irregular plan, used between c.1840 and c.1860. Now out of use. Cut stone gateway to the southwest side having a pair of wrought-iron gates. Located to the north of the former Mullingar Union Workhouse complex and to the north of Mullingar.

This graveyard largely contains the marked and unmarked graves of victims of the Great Famine (1845-9) and acts as a poignant reminder of this traumatic event in Irish history. The good quality cut stone gateway to the southwest adds a touch of dignity to this otherwise largely neglected site.

 

 

 

Mullingar Workhouse

Mullingar workhouseAt the end of the third day of the Famine walk the walkers reached Mullingar and visited the Mullingar workhouse. According to Seamus O’Brien, the “Mullingar poor law union was one of the largest in the country. The union workhouse, which was situated on the northern outskirts of Mullingar, admitted its first paupers in December 1842. Designed to accommodate 800 inmates, it struggled to cope with double this number at the height of the Famine” (Carn, Killare: A Forgotten Westmeath Famine Village (Rathlainne Publications, 2000, 9).

The Mullingar workhouse is described in detail by Peter Higginbotham at:

http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Mullingar/

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Mullingar workhouse site, 1914.© Peter Higginbotham.

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Mullingar workhouse site general view, 2000. © Peter Higginbotham.

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Mullingar entrance block, 2000. © Peter Higginbotham.

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Mullingar workhouse entrance and date-stone, 2000. © Peter Higginbotham.

Famine Village Ruins at Carn hill, County Westmeath

Carn hill site of famine village

Carn hill Famine village ruins.

On the third day of the walk the walkers past through the more remote parts of Westmeath along the Royal Canal. In Famine & Community in Mullingar Poor Law Union, 1845-1849. Mud Huts and Fat Bullocks (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1999), Seamus O’Brien notes that the villages in the Killare area along this stretch of canal were particularly devastated by the Famine, and that “throughout the union generally the appearance of the population was wretched. Their clothing was in rags” (24). “The biggest losses here occurred,” he adds, “in the southwestern districts of Castletown and Killare where 53 and 40 percent of their respective populations either died or emigrated between 1841 and 1851” (48). Near the Royal Canal are “the ruins of the Famine village on Carn hill and the now fossilized lazy beds which supported it” (56).

Carn famine village fozzilized potato ridges

Carn Famine village fossililzed potato ridges.jpg

In his book Carn, Killare: A Forgotten Westmeath Famine Village (Rathlainne Publications, 2000), Seamus O’Brien this authentic famine ruin. In his own words:

This area of Westmeath belies the usual depiction of the county as a typical part of the central plain of Ireland with its limestone solution lakes, rolling pastureland and extensive raised boglands. The area west of Mullingar is quite hilly. Historic Usnagh hill with the famous “Catstone” erratic on its southern flank, is justifiable the most famous of these limestone hills. Directly opposite Usnagh is Carn hill, a structural limestone fold which has an average elevation of 600 feet above sea level.

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Famine village cabins, artist rendering.

The Famine village was in a sheltered central location near the summit of the hill… The skeletal remains of the many stone houses still visible on Carn hill today, as well as being evidence of the last and seemingly final human settlement in this area of Westmeath, are a poignant reminder of the economic pressures experienced in this region during the Great Famine” (9-10).

Map of Carn Famine Village near Mullingar

Map of Carn Hill Famine village.

 

Michael Collins and the Irish Famine Novel

From Irish Times (March 31, 2017)
http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/below-the-rust-belt-trilogy-a-famine-undercurrent-1.3032081

Below the Rust Belt trilogy, a Famine undercurrent

Historian Jason King finds Michael Collins has spawned new forms of creative energy in finding his own way back to the story of the Famine

Irish Author and Ultra Runner Michael Collins on National Famine Walk

From Irish Times (March 31, 2017)

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/i-feel-an-obligation-to-re-engage-and-better-understand-what-it-is-to-be-irish-1.3032147

‘I feel an obligation to re-engage and better understand what it is to be Irish’

Author Michael Collins explains why as an emigrant, a father and a writer he feels drawn to explore his own sense of Irishness