Poverty Before the Famine, County Clare 1835
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Clare County Library

Parish Kilferagh. Village Kilkee. Barony Moyarta.


“IT is quite impossible for me,” says the Rev. Mr. Comyn, “to ascertain the number of distressed widows ; there are a great many certainly, not less than 30, who have nothing but their own resources to depend on, and they are in a wretched state ; though not worse off than a labourer with a very large family, or one afflicted with illness ; and though in summer they may occasionally be in a state of great want, and be obliged to live on scanty meals, the kindness of their friends, and the general feeling of pity among their neighbours, lead me to think they are not in that forlorn state which strangers might seem at first to imagine.” And Curtil remarks, “I could name you many of these widows in the parish who are as comfortable as I am ; God knows that is not great, but though we are wretchedly poor, I cannot say I have more reason than others to grumble. As for the number of meals that the widows eat, they are the same as the most of us, and that is two scanty ones, during most of the year.”

Widows huckster a little in the village. They pick potatoes for a short time in the year, at 4d. a day, if they are equal to it, and always spin and knit ; but more for their own consumption than for sale. If a widow has a large family, four or five children, she will find it quite impossible to live by her industry ; she must get relief from her friends.

Shillough says, “If a widow has a small holding and pays her rent regularly, she will be allowed to remain ; but if she fails to do that, she will be treated like every one else, turned adrift.”

The widows in this district generally rear a pig, and get half an acre of mode ground, (con-acre,) which the neighbours frequently till for them, and this will be done on Sundays and holidays, before mass ; and though the labourers have no regular subscription for them, yet there is no little kindness which will not readily be exercised towards them.

Widows get a portion of the church collections, in common with other objects, without any religious distinction ; occasionally, when a case of extraordinary distress is made known to the priest, a collection is made at the chapel. From what has been stated, it is evident that widows are better off than the mothers of illegitimate children.

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