Reports and Returns Relating to Evictions
in the Kilrush Union (1847-1849)

Extract from Report of Captain Kennedy - April 6, 1848

"A TIMELY well organized and well superintended labour test, in and out of doors, is the only hope of stemming the torrent. The destitution in degree and character are, I trust, unknown elsewhere; improvident, ignorant, thriftless parents, scarcely human in habits and intelligence, only present themselves with 9 or 10 skeleton children, when they themselves can no longer support the pangs of hunger, and their wretched offspring are beyond recovery; the state of this Union must be seen to be believed or comprehended. I sometimes feel despair when I see the trifling impression my unceasing efforts can effect in its amelioration, aided as I am by the Commissioners’ support and a liberal administration of the law; the fact is everything is left to the law alone.
"There are none to assist, however many there may’be to pervert or obstruct it when possible.
"Hundreds of instances occur where an acre of land worth 15s. is let for 3l., and the occupiers, in default of full payment, bound to give 140 days’ labour to his lessor during spring and harvest, when the occupier himself requires them most; this would (valuing his labour at 8d. per day) amount to 4l. 13s.
"The same system obtains as to the letting of cabins; 100 or 120 days’ labour, during the only period the wretched labourer would earn, is exacted for a cabin, worth perhaps 7s. 6d. a-year. 
"The occupiers, having thus pauperized the labouring class, get their work done for nothing, and complain of rates. I think I could show that the sum required to keep the paupers in this Union would, if expended in labour, keep the people and pay 20 per cent. Employment or wages there is none.
"While hundreds are being turned out houseless and helpless daily on one small property in Killard division, no less than 23 houses, containing probably 100 souls, were tumbled in one day, 27th March. I believe the extent of land, occupied with these 23 houses did not exceed 50 acres. The suffering and misery attendant upon these wholesale evictions is indescribable. The farmers and occupiers in the neighbourhood take advantage of these occurrences, get their labour done in exchange for food alone, to the member of the family he employs, till absolute starvation brings the mother and helpless children to the workhouse. This is the history of hundreds.
"The number of houseless paupers in this Union is beyond my calculation; those evicted crowd neighbouring cabins’ villages, and disease is necessarily generated. On its first appearance the wretched sufferer, and probably the whole family to which he or she belongs, is ruthlessly turned out by the roadside. The popular dread of fever or dysentery seems to excuse any degree of inhumanity. The workhouse and temporary hospital are crowded to the utmost extent they can possibly contain; the crowding of the fever hospital causes me serious anxiety. The relieving officer has directions to send no more in, yet, notwithstanding this caution, panic-stricken and unnatural parents frequently send in a donkey load of children in fever a distance of 14 or 15 miles for admission. How to dispose of them I know not. I have requested the medical officer to furnish me with a weekly report, which I enclose; it will in some degree account for the mortality. I saw several admitted yesterday, who, I am sure, cannot survive many hours."

Back to Extracts from Reports and Returns Relating to Evictions in the Kilrush Union (1847-1849)