Poverty Before the Famine, County Clare 1835
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Clare County Library


Parish Abbey and Oughtmanagh. Barony Burren.

DESERTED AND ORPHAN CHILDREN

At the time of visiting the parish there was not a child in it supported as a deserted child, nor had a case of desertion occurred during the eight years previous. If a case were to occur it would be met by the parish priest, who would collect penny or twopenny subscriptions from his congregation, for the purpose of paying for a nurse. Mr. Hynes observed, that it was only necessary that the father of a family among the labouring classes should die, in order that his children should be reduced to a state of destitution fully equal to that of an infant deserted by its parents ; so much so, that children whose mothers alone survive, are always considered and styled orphans. The claims of relationship are not very generally allowed in the case of orphans; “and it happens,” said M’Dermott, “that such children are taken in nearly as often by strangers as by their own blood.” Sometimes a child is taken under the roof of a peasant who is too poor to give him any food, and in such circumstances he is compelled to beg. A little boy of eight years old, whom the Assistant Commissioners met on the road carrying a bag containing a few small potatoes, said that his father and mother were dead, and that he and his two sisters, younger than himself, were living with a poor man in the next parish, and that he was obliged each day to go about collecting potatoes for himself and his sisters. The law specifies that a cess shall be levied only for deserted children ; “but,” observed one of the witnesses, “it is all the same, as neither the one nor the other are provided for here.” The Protestant Orphan Society does not support any children belonging to these parishes.


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