1942 – Lord Erne, Eamon Anderson.

FERMANAGH FOLKLORE. By EAMON ANDERSON. THE TERRIBLE FAMINE DAYS. In the hurry of writing last week there were a couple of sentences towards the end in which I did not choose my words carefully and they might give readers the false impression that the British Government of that day, being pressed by Parnell and his party, actually voted money to relieve the terrible distress and famine in Ireland in 1879 and later. No such thing did they do during any of the terrible famines of the last century, not one penny at that time did they give gratis. The money that came in ’79 and ’80 to supply what was known as “Parnell’s meal’ and ‘Parnell’s bread’ to the starving multitudes in Ireland was raised by subscriptions, principally from the Irish race in America. There is no doubt of course that many charitable people in England, especially of the Quaker persuasion, did subscribe money during famine years, but their Government gave us nothing, only coercion and plenty of it The landlords ignored the distress, they wanted their rents whether the land earned them or not. The Government ignored the distress and sent out their police and military to enable the landlords to collect their pound of flesh off the walking skeletons in the bogs and mountains to protect, the process-servers and the “bone-grippers” and the crow-bar brigade, and the grabbers and emergency men and the agents and bailiffs and all others of that unholy alliance. In ‘Black ’47’, when the people of Ireland were dying in the ditches in tens of thousands, —when the coffin ships were crossing the Atlantic crammed with starving human beings, dying of famine and fever and being thrown overboard to feed the sharks, the London “Times,” chief organ of the Tory party in England, gloated over the extermination of the Irish race in these words; “The Celts are going— with avengeance. Soon a Catholic Celt will be as rare in Ireland as a Red Indian on the shores of Manhattan.” But strange to say, this stiff-necked Irish race (survived it all—and the Catholic Celt is very much alive to-day—in Ireland, and all over the world.

A DUCAL “JOKE.”  And here is what the Duke of Cambridge said during Black ’46 — ‘Ireland is not in so bad a state as has been represented. I understand that rotten potatoes, and even grass properly mixed, afford a very wholesome and nutritious food. We all know that Irishmen can live upon anything, and there is plenty of grass in the fields, even if the potato crop should fail.” This was in the early stage of the famine, before the real horrors began. O’Connell’s answer, to this outburst is well worth recording:— “There” said O’Connell, ,“is the son of a king—the brother, of a king—the uncle of a monarch—there is his description of Ireland for you. Perhaps he has been reading Spencer—who wrote at a time when Ireland was not put down by the strong arm of force or defeated, in battle; but when the plan was laid down to starve the Irish Nation (in 1602).; For three years every portion of the crop was trampled down by mounted soldiers; for 3 years the crops were destroyed and human creatures were found lying dead behind ditches with their mouths green, by eating sorrel and grass. The Duke, I suppose, wishes we should have such scenes again in Ireland. And is it possible that in presence of some of the most illustrious nobility, of England that a royal personage should be found to utter horrors of this description.”

AN OLD LORD ERNE,

Perhaps some people may say that this is not the time—in the midst of a great world, calamity—to go raking up the sins of the past – maybe so. As a Christian people we can forgive, subject of course, to repentance and full restitution of our National rights on the part of the aggressor. As Christians we are bound to forgive. But there is no reason why we should ever forget! Having said this much to clear the misunderstanding which might arise from the slight mistake in last week’s article, I will now continue our Fermanagh folklore. The Derrylin Shanachies tell many tales of the generosity of old Lord Erne—the Lord Erne who flourished during ’69 and ’79 and those times. Of course everyone will agree that a man  with a rent-roll of £80,0000 a year, drawn largely off lands which his ancestors got for nothing, the confiscated property of the Fermanagh chiefs and clansmen, everyone, I say, will agree that a man like that could well afford to be generous when the whim seized him. His estates stretched like a principality on both sides of the lough as far as the eye could see, and in addition he had vast estates in Mayo and elsewhere. His estate on the west side of Lough Erne included practically the whole parish of Knockninny. Most of the Irish landlords of that day—if a tenant showed any little sign of taste or prosperity, if he whitewashed his house, or had middling deceit clothes, would raise the lent on him at once. But Lord Erne, according to the Derrylin Shanachies, was of an entirely different opinion. He liked taste, he liked his tenants to have, at least, neatly patched clothes and a snug well-kept house and place. Once on a journey through his estates he came to a tenant’s place of which he did not at all approve. The man was ragged in his clothing; his house was badly in need of thatch and black for want of limewash. “What is your name,” asked his Lordship. “My name is Darling,” said the man. “On,” said Lord Erne, “you are the devil’s darling.” On another occasion, with his agent, he was .travelling part of his estate in the Slieve Rushen mountain area when he came to a house and farm tenanted by a widow with a family of small children. The house and place were kept neat and clean, and the children’s clothes were neatly patched. He said to his agent “I will venture to say that the rent of this place is paid up to date.” “No, unfortunately, there are five years arrears against it” said the agent. “Well, there must be something serious wrong, so,”-said Lord Erne. Yes, said the woman there is, ‘I have lost my husband and it takes all the money I can make to rear my family.” “Give this woman a. clear receipt up to date and do not ask her to pay any rent until she is able to do so,” said Lord Erne to his agent. “You are a great woman” he continued “and I am proud to have you for a tenant. – In spite of all your difficulties you are keeping your house and place in good styled and keeping your children, neat and clean.” Another tenant also owed several yearns rent as his cattle had died but as he was keeping his place and himself neat and decent, his Lordship commanded the agent to give him a clear receipt. At his castle of Crom, every year the used to give prizes for. home industries, for neatly patched clothes, for sewing, knitting and spinning, etc.          .

 

DERRYLIN MAN’S APPEAL. On the 1st November, 1869, an immense Tenant Right meeting was held in Cavan town, which was attended by great numbers of Fermanagh farmers and people generally. Even Enniskillen town though 32 miles away, sent a large contingent by jaunting cars and horse-drawn waggonettes. At that time bicycles and motor cans were not even dreamt of. A score of years had still to pass before such things were invented and another score of years passed before any of them were seen in Fermanagh. At any rate the Chairman at that meeting was Fr. Pat O’Reilly, the parish priest of Drumlane, in which parish is situated Belturbet town, near the Fermanagh border. In the course of his address the Reverend Chairman said that if all the landlords of Ireland were as good as Lord Erne there would have been no need to hold a meeting like that. Lord Erne, like all his class probably never read any papers, only such as came from the Tory Press. Certainly he would not read the speeches of those whom he would call “disloyal agitators,” so he was unaware of the- compliment paid him by the Rev. Chairman at the meeting. Some time later he found out that a number of his tenants in Derrylin district, had attended the meeting so he gave orders to have them evicted from their holdings without delay. There was a man named Doogan—a Derrylin man, and he was one of the best judges of a horse in Ireland and Lord Erne had always employed him to buy horses, and he had great influence with his Lordship. So the poor men who were  threatened with eviction—which was almost as bad as sentence of death in those days, asked Doogan to do his utmost with his Lordship to have their sentences revoked. Doogan went to Crom Castle and met his Lordship out on the lawn walking with the Countess. He absolutely refused to reconsider his decision and said that, the offending tenants must go out. Doogan then asked him if he had read the speeches at the meeting and he said “No, I would not read the speeches of agitators.” Doogan then handed .him a paper and asked him to read the Rev. Chairman’s speech. At first he refused to read it, but the Countess prevailed on him to do as the man asked him, so he sat down and read the speech. Then said Doogan, “Will you evict your tenants now for attending that meeting?” “No,’’ said. Lord Erne “I will not. That man speaks very fair.’’

ORANGE SHOOTING.

In some future article I will say a lot about that Tenant Right meeting of 73 years ago. Old Francis Cleary, of Kinawley, who died two years ago, aged 91, told me all about it. He with 100 other young men from this district walked to the meeting 22 miles and back that 1st November, 1869. He could repeat every speech almost word for word. Unfortunately, however, that day ended in tragedy. While the Fermanagh and West Cavan contingents were returning and passing through the village of Drumaloor, near Belturbet,, they were fired on by a party of misguided young Orangemen and a young man named. Morton shot dead. Morton was the servant of the Rev. Chairman, the P.P. of Belturbet, and was driving the priest’s car, and the bullets only missed Father O’Reilly by inches. A number of men were tried for the murder at Cavan Assizes the March following but were acquitted by an Orange jury. Apparently the accused exercised the right of challenging each jury man in turn, till they got twelve men of their own choosing to try them. A friend of mine possesses a newspaper of March, 1870 which gives an account of the trial covering two pages. The young men who fired the shots were sons of tenant farmers themselves, who were amongst the first to reap the benefits of the land agitation. And do we not in our own day in the North of Ireland see the same narrow-minded party bitterness, a party standing against the onward march of the nation although it would be to their own benefit, as well as ours, to have a free and united Ireland. Just one more story of Crom Castle and a former Earl of Erne. In the old days a parish priest of Newtownbutler, was transported for performing the ceremony of marriage between a Protestant and a Catholic. Some time later a great regatta was held at Crom Castle, the Prince of Wales—-who was on a visit there at the time being in attendance. The greatest event of the day was a boat race on Lough Erne between a chosen party of boatmen of Lord Erne’s tenants and a party of boatmen of a gentleman named Saunderson who lived between Crom and Belturbet. Saunderson’s boatmen were a family named Latimer, while Lord Erne’s boatmen were a couple of brothers named Goodwin who lived in Derryvore—that peninsula of Knockninny parish which stretches over the lough almost to Crom and a man called big Ned Martin of Killybrack, also in Derrylin district. In the presence of the Prince of Wales, Lord Erne promised the Goodwins and Martin any favour they would ask for if they would only win the boat race in his honour. That boat race became historic in the Knockninny and Newtown butler districts. After tremendous exertions, the Goodwins and Martin won the race against their wiry opponents. Lord Erne was overjoyed at the honour done to his house with the royal guest present, and he called his boatmen up to name their reward. “Now,” he said, “anything you ask, you shall have it even, to the best farms on my estate.” But the Goodwins and Martin answered as one man: ‘Our only request is that you will procure the release of Father Clarke of Newtownbutler.’’ “Oh ask me anything only that” said Lord Erne. But they still persisted till the Prince, who was listening asked what it was all about. The circumstances were explained to him how Fr. Clarke had been transported for marrying a Protestant and a Catholic. The Prince was shocked. “I did not know” he said that there was such, a law as that upon the Statute Book of England. I must get it removed at once.

So Father Clarke was released and sent home to his parishioners and the iniquitous law was removed from the English Statute Book. As far as I can find out this incident happened long after Catholic Emancipation as there are many people still alive who remember big Ned Martin of Kilnabrack.

A correspondent has written me recently requesting that I write the folklore of the great townland of Aughyoule on the slopes of Slieve Rushen, near Derrylin.. As soon as possible I am visiting that townland—which is the second largest in Ireland—to have a few chats with its Shanachies and I will record everything about it. I find that the folklore of Knockninny parish is almost inexhaustible. Up till lately I thought Kinawley could beat all Fermanagh for folklore, but now I find that Derrylin is

 

KILTYCLOCHER AND DISTRICT NEWS. Deep regret has been occasioned in, the district by the death of Mr. Patrick Burns, Straduffy, which occurred on Thursday last following a prolonged illness. The late Mr. Burns was a. well- known sportsman. The funeral, which took place to Kilmakerrill on Saturday, was large and representative. Rev. J. P. Brady, C.C., Kiltyclogher, officiated at the graveside. The chief mourners were— Mrs. M. E. Tyrkell, Dublin, and Miss Lizzie Burns (daughters), Messrs. John Burns, Garrison; Tom Burns, Cashel, and P. Burns (sons); Messrs. Thomas and Michael Burns (brothers).

Garrison Fair held on the 26th. ult., was large and prices for all classes of cattle (especially springers) showed an upward tendency.

A farm of 35 acres at Tullyderrin, Rossinver, was purchased for £195 by Mr. Thomas Sweeney, Garrison. Killasnett School, which was closed down some time ago owing to declining attendance has been sold for £80.

A little boy aged three years had a narrow escape from drowning in the Kiltyclogher River during the week. Deep pools in close proximity to the village are unprotected, and are a constant danger to small children playing along the riverside.

The death occurred recently at an advanced age of Mr. George Acheson, Whealt. Deceased, who was one of the most extensive farmers in the Garrison district, was brother in law of Mr. Mr. T. Allingham, Kilcoo.

An official of the Department of Supplies visited Kiltyclogher last week in connection with the flour shortage, but nothing has been done since to relieve the situation, which is worsening. On Friday and Saturday Kiltyclogher was without flour or loaves. Oatmeal is also extremely scarce, and several families have to depend entirely on potatoes

 

LISNASKEA FATAL ACCIDENT. An R.A.F. corporal was the victim of a fatal accident near Lisnaskea on Friday evening. Corporal Harold Leonard Nieman, a native of Peckham, England, fell from a lorry, sustaining a fracture of the skull from which he died on his way to hospital. The accident took place at Ballindarragh, and, the police being notified, Constable T. McKernan was immediately on the scene.

At the inquest in Fermanagh County Hospital on Saturday, conducted by Mr. G. Warren. Coroner, Head Constable Thornton, Enniskillen, represented the police authorities.

Sergeant H. A. Saberton said the previous night, at 7-30 he was travelling in the rere of a three-ton truck with deceased and two others. As the truck pulled up and crossed the crown, of the road, deceased, who was standing, fell backward to the roadway on his head, and the rere wheel passed over his shoulder. The truck, which had been pulled up gradually, was stopped within three or four yards.

Witness found deceased unconscious and bleeding from mouth, nose and ears. They removed him to the grass verge, and within ten minutes he was placed in a passing car and brought to hospital, but died just approaching Enniskillen.

Dr. T. J.’ O’Hagan, house surgeon, Co. Hospital, said deceased was dead on admission. There was an abrasion on the right cheek and one on the left side of the chin. There was considerable haemorrhage from the nose and right ear. Some brain tissue was mixed with the blood. Death was due to shock and haemorrhage following fracture of the base of the skull and laceration of the brain. Sister Monaghan saw deceased on admission and he was then dead.

Deceased’s squadron leader said deceased was aged 38 and married. A verdict was returned in accordance with the medical evidence, and Head Constable Thornton and the Coroner expressed sympathy with the relatives of the deceased and to the driver of the truck, whom, the Coroner said was not in any way to blame.

 

APRIL 11, 1942.

DE-CONTAMINATION OFFICER’S INSTRUCTION. MR. BEATTY REFUSES TO CO

When Enniskillen R.D.C., on Tuesday, was requested to send its Decontamination of Food Officer to a course of instruction in Belfast, Mr. J. Brown, Clerk, said Mr. John Beatty, ,J.P., a member of the Council, had been appointed to this post and he supposed it was Mr. Beatty’s duty to attend.

Mr. Beatty—I am not going. I am telling you straight. (Laughter).

Mr. E. Callaghan said no member of the Council had more time at his disposal for attending than Mr. Beatty.

Mr. Beatty said he refused to go.

The Clerk said that in that case he thought the best thing would be for Mr. Beatty to resign. (Laughter).

Mr. J. J. Coalter, J. P., said that supposing gas was used and food was contaminated, he felt the responsibility for any serious consequences arising out of Mr. Beatty’s inability to deal with the situation would rest upon Mr. Beatty. (Laughter)

Mr. Beatty—Don’t think you will frighten me—I am not that green. (Laughter). If there was any £ s d for it I wouldn’t be asked to go. (Laughter).

Chairman (Hon. C. L. Corry, J.P.)— Will you appoint anybody?

Earl of Belmore, D.L.:—No.

Mr, Burns asked if Enniskillen Urban Council had appointed a representative.

The Clerk said it had; so also had Irvinestown and Lisnaskea Rural Council. Mr. Callaghan—Where are the lectures? Clerk—In Belfast. /

Lord Belmore—Oh! hell. (Laughter).

The Council decided to get one of the Sanitary Sub-Officers to attend.

 

LORRY AND P.O. VAN COLLIDE. SEQUEL AT LISBELLAW COURT

Details of the collision between an army, vehicle driven by Private North and a G.P.O. van driven, by Wm. Norman Kerr, Lisnarick, Irvinestown, which occurred at Gola Cross on 11th February, were given at Lisbellaw Petty Sessions on Friday, when both drivers were before the. Court charged on the usual counts with careless driving. The evidence was that the military van was coming across the road at Gola, proceeding from Lisbellaw down the Belleisle road when it struck the G. P.O. van travelling from Lisnaskea to Enniskillen.

Evidence for the prosecution was given by Bernard McCaughey, a passenger in the G..P.O. van, and Const. Wilkinson. Kerr said he was practically stopped when the impact took place. He had slowed down approaching, the cross.

North admitted in evidence that he did not obey the “halt” sign on his road at the approach to the cross. The summons against Kerr was dismissed and North, who had a previous conviction, was fined 40/- and 2/- costs.

 

LABOURERS TO RECEIVE 1/- PER HOUR. URBAN COUNCIL DECISION

Enniskillen Urban. Council have decided to pay their labouring men at the rate of 1/- per hour, instead of on the present basis of £2 5s and £2 2s 6d weekly.

Senator Whaley presided at the Council meeting on Tuesday evening, when the Finance Committee reported that they had under consideration the following applications from employees of  the Council for increases in wages and make the following recommendations thereon:—

From 13 labourers— their applications being for an increase of the present rates of £ 2 5s per week for men on the permanent staff and £2 2s 6d for men casually employed. It was stated in their applications that the rate of wages payable to general labourers in the district is at present 1/0½ per hour. It was recommended that an increase of 2/6 per week be granted to both the permanent and casual labourers.

The Committee also recommended that an increase of 2/6 per week be granted to Andrew Bell, lorry driver, on his present rate of £2 12s 6d per week, and that the wages of William Hynes, mason, be increased from £3 15s to £4 per week.

Mr. P. Kelly said the wages of labourers employed by the E.B.N.I. and builders in the district was 1/1 per hour. Why should Urban Council labourers be paid only £2 5s or £2 2s 6d weekly when all other labourers in. the district were paid £2 12s. Could the Council do nothing better for its labourers than that?

Mr. Donnelly said he wrote to the Ministry of Labour on the matter, and read the reply to the Finance Committee. The reply stated that only builders’ labourers were paid 1/1 per hour.

Mr. T. Algeo said the Council were paying the best wages in the Six Counties with the exception of two or three others.

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The Famine 1846. Ballyshannon Herald.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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%.
  1. 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.

 

Ballyshannon Herald 1847.

1847.

 

January 1st, 1847, This issue contains a classic tale of drama in this famine stricken countryside. On Christmas Eve a schooner lay at anchor just inside the Bar of Ballyshannon Harbour. The Bar is a high sandy ridge about four miles downstream of the town which constantly tries to block the river’s exit to the Atlantic. The ship was waiting here for a favourable tide or wind and was bound for Liverpool with a cargo of bacon and lard. She had been chartered by Mr, Edward Chism of Ballyshannon. (Food was being constantly exported from the country during the famine). A boat of Mr.Wade’s, carrying men who said they were salt-makers from the Ballyshannon salt works, pulled alongside. (Salt-workers would have been making their way out to the sea to fill barrels of salt water for evaporating on their salt-pans).

 

Some asked to come on board to light their pipes and then, suddenly, produced pistols. These pirates then stole a large quantity of bacon and lard from the ship after overpowering the crew, The men made off with as much as possible and no doubt an unexpectedly happy Christmas was had by many. The police and soldiers were alerted and found some of the booty buried in the sand dunes on the following day. Later three people were arrested and the newspaper says that scarce a night passes without a robbery in the town or vicinity.

 

January 8th, 1847, There is great distress in the Ballyshannon area. One man died just after being admitted to the Ballyshannon Workhouse. People will not look for aid until the last moment. The dead from the famine are not being buried properly in the Abbey Graveyard Ballyshannon as there is too little depth of clay, A man on his way from Ballyshannon to Donegal heard the sound of lamentation from a house and found a girl of sixteen dying there and her parents trying to keep her warm. In the tradition of the good Samaritan he gave money for food but it was too late and the girl died soon after.

 

January 22nd, 1847, From Fermanagh is is reported that the Rev Grey Porter of Lisbellaw has imported 150 tons of Indian meal on the ship ” Peru”, The grain had cost him £10-10s-6p per ton and inclusive of carriage to his tenants he hoped to sell it at a cost price of less than £12 per ton. This compared with current prices of £24- 10s-0 for Indian meal and £30 for oaten meal.

 

In a continuation of the saga of the Christmas Eve piracy on the Erne, James Currie, was tried for receiving a ham knowing it to be stolen. The ship’s name is now given as the “Confidence” and it’s master as Joseph Davidson. Nine bales of bacon had been stolen and several hogsheads of ham. Sub-Constable Davis had arrested Currie on Christmas day in Ballyshannon carrying the ham. Currie said that he had found it in a hole in the sand dunes. He was found guilty with a recommendation for mercy and was sentenced to 9 months hard labour.

 

April 30th, 1847. There is a great fever sweeping Fermanagh. It is most common in the countryside and arises largely from the people who have left or been sent out of the Workhouse. These have gone home and infected their friends or relations who have generously but fatally taken them in.

 

May 14th, 1847, The deaths around Clones Co., Monaghan are said to be “inconceivably great” and in Enniskillen the poor and starving had rushed the meeting of the Board of Guardians meeting and had to be admitted. Col., Connolly has given his tenants 8 tons of rice free and also given free turnip seed. William and John Tredenick have reduced their rents by between 40% and 50%. These were local landlords in the Belleek-Ballyshannon area.

 

In the Lowtherstown or Irvinestown Poor Law Area there are 9 Electoral Areas and 5,008 people receiving free rations and 407 persons paying for them.

 

September 17th, 1847, No rot can be seen in the potatoes so far this year but a great famine rages around Enniskillen.

 

October 1st, 1847, The forcible dissolution of the Lowtherstown [Irvinestown] Poor Law Union is reported. The immediate cause was the raising of the Roman Catholic chaplain’s salary. In the row that followed the Protestant Chaplain’s salary was also raised. Further rows caused the dismissal of the Master of the Workhouse and then the Board of Guardians of the Workhouse were themselves dismissed.

[ This is the newspaper version of the dismissal of the Irvinestown P.L.U. but in fact there were much more serious reasons why the Union was dissolved by the Government and a Commissioner appointed in their place. The Guardians failed to levy anywhere near a sufficient rate to enable the starving population of the area to survive. The famine here was therefore far more severe than it might have been and the Irvinestown Workhouse possibly the worst run in the country.An Inspector who visited the Lowtherstown Workhouse reported that he had found people almost naked, lying dying on the floor, in their own vomit and excrement. He said that it was the worst Workhouse that he had ever visited.]

 

April 7th, 1847. John Smith was elected Dispensary doctor for Pettigo and hundreds crowded into the town to congratulate him. A celebratory meeting was later held in Hazlett Hamilton’s Hotel [later Egan’s Cosy Bar]

 

December 8th, 1847, This tragic story concerns the freezing to death of two lost children on a mountain near Lettercran,about five miles from Pettigo. “On Friday last, James Mc Grath of Scraghv Mountain had gone to Pettigo with his daughter of fifteen and boy of twelve. Their father had to stay in Pettigo for the night and the children went home on their own across the mountain. A storm came and the children died of exposure. The boy had his shoes and socks off, possibly to walk more quickly. The children were found the next day with the girl’s heavy flannel petticoat wrapped around the boy’s feet and the girl lying with her arm around the boy’s head. It seems that the boy was overpowered first and the girl was trying to preserve him at the risk of her own life.”

 

This tragic story is preserved in the folklore of the Pettigo area, but not quite in the form, as the newspaper reports it. The local story is that the girl, Peggy Mc Grath, was seventeen years old and had a boyfriend. Her father strongly disapproved of him and had absolutely forbidden her to have anything to do with him or even pass his house. An old woman, Mrs Rose Haughey of Meenclogher, who lived near where the children perished and who died at the age of 106 on April 12th 1936 gave her account of the events in a newspaper article, later reprinted in the Irish Independent, May 22nd 1968. She would have been 18 years old when the tragedy occurred. She said that Peggy and her boyfriend had run away but had been brought back and that the two children and their father had been in “Gearg Fair” i.e.Castlederg fair and not in Pettigo.

 

The children coming home would have had to pass the boyfriend’s house or cross the mountain and unfortunately they chose this as a blizzard sprang up. They died quite close to the house of an old woman who heard their diminishing cries for help through the night but was too infirm to be able to assist them. The children were buried in Lettercran graveyard with a headstone with an incomplete inscription. It began,”In loving memory….” and their father who had tried to carve the stone was unable to complete it.

Sadly the stone was destroyed in recent renovations to the graveyard. A little green hollow on a heather covered hillside in Carrigaholten Townland is still pointed out as the deathbed of the children. It is a remarkable story and so widely known at one time that it was carried in a school textbook under the title of “The Tragedy of Termon Mount.” The Termon River flows nearby. From this a generation of schoolchildren all over Ireland were familiar with the story.

 

Ballyshannon Herald 1846.

1846

January 9th – 1846, Two Fitzpatrick brothers have been lodged in Enniskillen Jail on suspicion of the shooting of Mr, Barton J,P, One of them, James Fitzpatrick is now dead of fever in jail and the other protesting their innocence. The newspaper believes that they had always been thought to be loyal Protestants and according to them they just happened to be on the road when the shooting happened, [Whether guilty or not-being jailed in those times could be the equivalent of a death sentence].

 

January 23, 1846. In reference to the Barton shooting, two men named Burnside and a husband and wife named Irvine, were now in jail in connection with the crime.

 

March 6th, 1846. The famine gets a brief mention but only to say that people are flocking to a certain priest in County Cavan to fill bottles at a holy well. It is believed, by these people, that sprinkling their potatoes with this water will stop them rotting. [Despite the dearth of information in the paper about the famine it is obvious that it is raging locally and confirmation appears in the shape of recipes for cooking Indian Meal in the next issue. [Maize meal or Indian meal was detested by the Irish even though they were starving. Constitutions used to dealing with vast quantities of potatoes could not easily absorb this alien type of food. Potatoes for breakfast, dinner and supper was the usual diet of the poor and a labourer might eat up to nine pounds of potatoes per day.]

 

May 28th, 1846. A major disturbance is reported in Enniskillen because of a forestaller “was buying up potatoes to take them into Cavan, The people objected to the potatoes being sold out of the area and the potato sacks were slashed,[a forestaller was a type of profiteer who bought up local food for sale elsewhere].

 

July 24th, 1846, The trial is reported of those accused of the attempted murder of Folliott W. Barton, the Pettigo J,P. Robert Burnside was accused of the shooting and James and Margaret Irvine of harbouring the accused. Barton had been coming on horseback towards his house at Clonelly and had been shot at Crummer’s gate near Pettigo, He was wounded in the right breast but rode on to the house of John Chute where he obtained assistance. A witness, James Armstrong, gave evidence of seeing Burnside with a gun and following him to Irvine’s house where he overheard him tell about the shooting. Despite the apparent strength of this evidence the jury retired for an hour and a half and returned a verdict of not guilty.

 

August 21st, 1846, Despite the famine the social chit chat continues with the news that Coburn’s Hotel Ballyshannon is doing very well this season and that Bundoran and Donegal are packed with visitors. The only indication that all is not well appears in a statement that there were many outrages reported and that many people were being beaten up and robbed especially on the road between Ballyshannon and Donegal.

 

August 28th, 1846, There are complaints of a very scarce season and many disturbances in the locality, Employees of Messers Bradshaw of Donegal were beaten up near Pettigo after leaving coal to the Waterfoot Barton’s estate, Their assailants rushed out of the bog with blackened faces.

 

September 4th, 1846, There are more and more outrages being reported and men have been beaten up on the Pettigo-Laghey road.A man named Jenkins only saved his life by leaving his horse and cart and running away.

 

September 11th, 1846. Finally the gross tragedy of the famine forces it’s way into the the Ballyshannon Herald and there is a two and a half column report of a meeting in Donegal courthouse concerning the plight of the poor, The meeting craves loans and grants from the government to employ the poor of the badly affected baronies of Tyrhugh, Bannagh and Boylagh. There is also an advertisement on behalf of the Ballyshannon Destitute Sick Society which seeks help in alleviating the situation locally.

 

September 25th, 1846, This paper which has taken little or no interest in the appaling situation suddendly discovers the famine, “The poor of this town and vicinity are in a wretched state of destitution . . . . . potatoes are too dear at 6 pence to 8 pence per stone and not a plateful sound ……     Indian meal is now 1 shilling and 5 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 suffering from the famine] bought a ton of Indian meal in Sligo last week for £12 and could now make £15 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. [It is hard to imagine the mentality of the newspaper which, without comment, suddenly finds a crisis of this dimension all round it.] A procession of the starving poor is held through Ballyshannon—they follow a man carrying a loaf speared on top of a pole.

 

 

Ballyshannon Herald 1845.

1845

March 21st,- 1845 Margaret Eves is sentenced to six months hard labour at Enniskillen Assizes for stealing oats. This is one of many huge sentences to be seen in the newspapers at this time for trivial offences. (And an ancestor of mine.)

A major drowning has occurred on Lough Erne and six people have perished. The men were from Boa Island. They were on their way-in a sailing cot with a load of turf,- to another island to engage in illegal distilling when their boat overturned after striking a rock . They were named as,-William Beaty; John Burnside,- Thomas Horan,- Christopher Foster,- John Foster and William Farrell. All of the islands of Lough Erne were famous for illicit distilling but every secluded glen and hill had it’s stillhouse in which poteen was made.

 September 26th,- 1845.This issue gives the first mention of potato blight . It reports widespread potato crop failure in England, Locally it comments on the abundance of herring this year and. reports that the prospects for the harvest appear good although some complain of a partial disease. This is the first minor notice the great Irish Famine of 1845-1850.

November 7th – 1845. A great rot has set in among the potatoes, – even those that have been carefully stored. Unrest was still prevalent in the area an £100 was be inn offered as a reward for the apprehension of the assassin who had made an attempt on the life of Mr, W. F. Barton J.P. who had been shot and wounded near Pettigo.