1846 January 2nd 1846:— Mr. W.H. Brown was in Ballyshannon on Wednesday last, having made all arrangements for a bill in Parliament to improve Ballyshannon Harbour and provide a rail link to Belleek. This was announced at a big dinner given in Mr. Brown’s honour by the local merchants and traders. In an affray with Molly Maguires at Ballinacarrig, Co. Leitrim, two are reported dead.
January 9th:— Two brothers, Fitzpatrick, in Enniskillen Jail on suspicion of shooting Mr. Barton J.P. One of them, James Fitzpatrick, was now dead of fever in jail and the other still protesting their innocence. They had always been thought to be loyal Protestants, according to the paper, and they were claiming that they just happened to be on the road at the time of the shooting.
January 16th:— The rival railway companies were in contention and Mr. Brown, the promoter of the Ballyshannon and Lough Erne Railway and Steamboat Company, was being disowned by the Marquis of Ely and Dr. John Shiel of Ballyshannon, who declared that they only supported the Dublin and Enniskillen Railway Co. From Belleek came the melancholy story of a man called McLaughlin, a long time servant of Mr. Christy Johnston of Belleek. (This paper has a fine disregard for Christian names and invariably they miss those of the “lower orders”.) McLaughlin had been discharged by Johnston for dishonesty, said the paper, and been re-employed and sent to the local mill in Belleek with oats to be ground. He was ordered to stay overnight for the security of the oats. During the night Johnston caught McLaughlin carrying away a sack of grain and arrested him and the police conveyed him to Enniskillen. When the prisoner arrived in Enniskillen he excused himself (presumably to go to the toilet) and his handcuffs were removed and the poor man promptly jumped into the lake and was drowned. This item was followed up the next week with a letter signed by Porteus Johnston and his brothers, Christopher and James. (I believe these to be the Johnstons who owned the Hotel Carlton in Belleek — which was already in existence.) They wrote of the suicide of Terence McLaughlin, their servant, and objected to the previous newspaper report (raising interesting speculations as well). Their letter says that Terence McLaughlin had been their servant for eight years and was always honest and they don’t believe that he could have been stealing a 28 stone bag of oats when he was only eight stone in weight himself. They say that they had taken him back after he had been accused of stealing oats and he was working as usual when he was arrested on a warrant issued against him without summons or hearing. McLaughlin had resided less than two miles from Belleek and Christy Johnston had warned the Keenans not to proceed against McLaughlin in law. Thus the letter enigmatically ended. In relation to the Barton shooting two men called Burnside and a man, Irvine, and his wife were in jail in connection with the crime.
The January 30th issue refers to the expected arrival soon of the first ever steamship in Ballyshannon and that there will be public demonstrations to mark this event and the issue of 27th February 1846 commemorates this. The steamer Unity recently visited Ballyshannon, it said, with a cargo of barley for the local distillery and on its second visit brought pigs to Messrs O’Brien of the town, saving an entire week driving the pigs and the consequent injury to the animals. It is hoped to have steamers from Liverpool shortly.
- It is March 6th before the famine is mentioned and only to say that people were flocking to a certain priest in Co. Cavan to fill bottles of water at a holy well in order to sprinkle their potatoes to stop rot.
On April 3rd recipes appear in the paper for using with Indian corn (maize imported as a substitute for the potato and detested by the Irish). April 17th announces the first emigrant ship of the season leaving Sligo. It is the ship Drumahair, owned by Mr. Kernaghan (Enniskillen) and from its name obviously a local vessel.
Horse racing was recently held at Magheramena, the home of the Johnston family near Belleek. (Magheramena Castle was not yet built). A large crowd attended and “spolleen, poiteen, jug of the joke and lemonade were much in demand.” There was a dinner afterwards for invited guests. A horserace was also reported on Tullan (or Finner) Strand near Bundoran.
It is now getting round the summer bathing scene at Bundoran and the latest arrivals at Gallagher’s Hotel, Bundoran, on last Saturday (before 22nd May) were the Dowager Marchioness of Ely, Lord Henry Loftus, Lady Anne and Lady Catherine Loftus and the Rev. Loftus Reed and Miss Reed.
On May 28th a big disturbance is reported in Enniskillen because of a “forestaller” who was buying loads of potatoes to take them to Co. Monaghan. (A forestaller was a type of profiteer who bought up potatoes). The people objected to the potatoes being sold out of the area and potato sacks were slashed. This account was being carried from an article in the Erne Packet (Enniskillen paper), and that newspaper was in sympathy with the “anti-forestallers.”
19th of June reports the death of Charles French, second mate of the American Brig Camilla which was anchored in Ballyshannon Harbour at “the Pool”. He jumped out of the ship for a swim and was drowned and later interred in Ballyshannon. July 3rd saw a report of a near drowning when one Henry Connolly drove his horse and cart into the sea at Bundoran to refresh the horse and quench his thirst. A wave swept all away, except that with a struggle Connolly saved himself. His horse and cart are described as his only possessions.
July 24th reports the trial of those accused of the attempted murder of Folliott W. Barton, the Pettigo J.P. Accused of the shooting was Robert Burnside and accused of harbouring him were James and Margaret Irvine. Barton had been coming on horseback from his relations’ house, Barton’s of the Waterfront, also near Pettigo, through the village to his own home at Clonelly on the Kesh side of Pettigo. After coming through Pettigo Barton had been shot at Crummer’s Gate at Aghalaan. He was wounded in the right breast but rode on to the house of John Chute, a mile and a half from his residence. A James Armstrong gave evidence of seeing Burnside with a gun and following him to Irvine’s house and listening at a window while Burnside told of the shooting. Despite this impressive-sounding evidence the jury retired and brought in a not guilty verdict after one and a half hours.
As we shall see later there is obviously much misery and hunger abroad in the land but escaping the notice of the class for which the Ballyshannon Herald is produced. August 14th chronicles the arrival of Colonel Conolly, M.P. and his suite at Cliff House near Belleek and that Lord and Lady Longford are soon due to arrive. (Conolly was the principal landowner in the Belleek/Ballyshannon/Bundoran area). This social chit-chat continues with the readers of August 21st being told that Coburn’s Hotel, Ballyshannon, was doing very well this season and that Bundoran and Donegal Town were packed with visitors. But there were many outrages reported and many people were being beaten up and robbed especially on the road between Ballyshannon and Donegal.
The 92nd Highlanders were moving out from Ballyshannon and Belleek and causing much regret since the area would be deprived of the amateur theater which they had set up. They were replaced by detachments of the 26th Cameronians. An incident in Ballymagroarty near Ballyshannon is reported, in which a man, Johnston Corduct, had vitriol thrown in his face by a woman called Gallagher who had since fled the country. He had seduced her, but would not marry her, even though she had given him thirty shillings. He had spent this on other girls.
August 28th hears the first complaints of “a very scarce season” and many disturbances in the locality. Employees of Messrs Bradshaw and Co. of Donegal were beaten up near Pettigo after delivering coal to Barton’s of the Waterfoot Estate. Their assailants rushed out of the bog with blackened faces.
James Credan, a local merchant, advertises the landing of timber, etc. at Ballyshannon from the Charlotte of Warmouth, Nova Scotia, and from the Margaret. A few passengers can be accommodated on the Charlotte to St. John’s, when it sails on September 10th. September 4th catalogues more outrages and men beaten up on the Pettigo-Laghey road. One man, Jenkins, only saved his life by leaving his horse and cart and running away.
It has taken a long, long time for the reality of the poor and starving to force its way into the columns of this local paper, but by late 1846, even a paper with as much sensory handicap as this one has to acknowledge the existence of the famine. September 11th reports for two and a half columns on a meeting in Donegal courthouse on the subject of the relief of the poor. Loans and grants are craved from the Government to employ the poor of the Baronies of Tyrhugh and Bannagh and Boylagh. All these baronies report great distress of the poor. The paper carries an advertisement for the Ballyshannon Destitute Sick Society which is going to make its own local contribution to help alleviate the situation. By September 25th the paper, which has carried little or no reports of a situation which has obviously been building up for a long time, suddenly discovers “the poor in this town and vicinity are in a wretched state of destitution.” “Potatoes are too dear at 6d or 3d per stone and not a plateful sound”. Indian meal is now one shilling five pence a peck. “How are they to live?” “People are not able to raise enough money from working as the price of food is so high.” A family (obviously not an ordinary family) bought a ton of Indian meal in Sligo last week for £12 and could now make £5 profit on it if they wished. A poor, honest tradesman with 12 children is applying for aid. No one in his house has eaten for forty eight hours. “Something must be done.”
Sir Thomas Hort is reducing his rents in Magheraboy (West Fermanagh) after a personal visit to the area. This issue ends with a report of a pathetic procession of the poor through the streets of Ballyshannon — following a man carrying a loaf speared on a pole.
October 2nd carries the news of a presentment of £20,000 for the Barony of Tyrhugh to be spent on roads to give work for the poor. On the road from Ballyshannon to Bundoran £1,000 is to be spent, £800 on the road from Belleek to Ballyshannon, £500 to be spent on the streets of Ballyshannon and on leveling the Fair Green, £100 to be spent on the new road from Pettigo to Ballintra and £100 on the old road between the same places and there is an extensive list of further schemes in the paper.
- October 30th carries the story of the breaking into the Abbey Mill and two tons of meal being stolen from the owners, Donaldson and Connolly, two hard working, struggling men. The stolen meal was conveyed by boats across the Erne estuary and no one has been caught. Ballyshannon Committee for the relief of the poor of the town and vicinity have raised a large sum to purchase wheaten meal and will soon be able to sell it at a reduced price. Sir James Stewart, Bart., is now visiting with the Col. Connolly at Cliff and the Colonel is to reduce his rents on his Donegal Estate by 25%.
- November 13th publishes a further list of subscribers to the Ballyshannon Poor Relief Committee and the list is headed by Colonel Connolly with £600 (a very substantial sum in 1846). The Committee’s meal store in College Lane is now open from November 13th and each subscriber of money to the fund will be able to give tickets to the needy for reduced price meal in proportion to the sum they subscribed. Every subscriber of £1 will be able to give three tickets for a half stone of whole meal each twice a week. Each lender of £18 to the fund will be able to give three tickets as above and so on in proportion for each £6 lent.
November 27th gives news of the arrival of the ship Colonist at Richebucto, New Brunswick, on November 17th. Under its Captain Charles Dorning the Colonist had sailed from Ballyshannon and endured terrible storms, but all the ship’s passengers from Ballyshannon and Killybegs were landed in good health. An attack was reported on a local man called Stephenson, a farmer who had formerly belonged to the Donegal Regiment. His gun and his money were demanded, but with his servant, McCann, (all these unchristened people) they drove off their attackers and one man was stabbed by McCann with a pitchfork. This man has since died and been privately buried. Colonel Conolly’s rents are now reduced by 50% for those paying less than £5 p.a., reduced by 40% for those paying under £10 p.a., 25% for those whose rent is less than £15 and reduced by 20% for those paying over £15.
December 18th reports that Edward Allingham has had five bullocks killed and carried away during the night. (This seems a common crime to surround, kill and dismember an animal and carry it away). A pig had been stolen from a poor man in Belleek (a more serious crime, since the pig usually paid the rent for the Irish poor). Some meal had been stolen from the store of the local Poor Relief Committee and the town was full of “strange mendicants” (Beggars). It is impossible to feed them all”. A bleak outlook as we leave 1846 but as the next delightful tale has it for some people, the year had a brighter ending.