Poverty Before the Famine, County Clare 1835
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Clare County Library

Parish Killaloe. Barony Tulla.


THERE is no fund for the sick, but frequently a collection is made by some of the inhabitants of the parish, and the sum realized has rarely exceeded from 2s. 6d. to 5s. We consider, says Mr. Ryan, 5s. an uncommon good day’s work ; and I always find that the poorest person will give his little mite on such an occasion ; and I often hear them say, “I may be in the same way to-morrow, and I ought to give, whatever it may cost me ;” he adds, “I always find them anxious to come to the house of sickness, though I tell them to keep away. Yet they are sure to go. There is no loan fund.” “I am, however, sure,” says the Rev. Mr. Vaughan, “it would succeed admirably under good regulations. In another parish where I lived, I tried the plan most successfully; many tradesmen were greatly assisted, and on the whole I found it to succeed to an extent which could not be expected. The young were much more punctual in paying the sums which I lent than the old, to whom I would not lend 6d.” “The poor,” says Mr. Ryan, “are most willing to attend each other in sickness ; the fright which attended cholera has worn away, and now they think no more of it than of fever. The other night I could not get into the house of a man who was dying of cholera, there was such a crowd.” Dr. Purdon says, “The families of the sick wish to stay together, but when the children are removed, they are treated with the greatest care, until the sick person shall have recovered.”

Jane Malony says, “her husband has now been lying sick for the last three weeks ; he holds two acres, and her father and another live on him. When he took to his bed he had only 5s. which were due to him for his week’s wages. She gave him coffee and bread this morning for his breakfast because he was sick, but she cannot do that any more, and all they will have to live on will be the potatoes in the ground.” Mary Doyle, a woman labouring under a dropsical disease, says, “that she has had five children in fever this year, and that what kilt her was sitting up at night ; in the meantime her husband was allowed to sleep in the Bishop’s cow-house while working for them.”

Mr. Ryan says, “If such a fund were established, which would be most desirable, I would be willing to entrust it to the dispensary surgeon ; but when I was engaged in the management of a fund for the distribution of food, I found the greatest precautions were necessary, as those who did not want wished to get what was meant for the destitute.” Mr. Martin observes, “That a medical man, superintending a dispensary, would not give a certificate, except in a proper case.” Dr. Purdon says, “I think it would be perfectly incompatible with the duties of a medical attendent to point out who were in need of nourishment ; at the same time the delay which would arise from an application to a committee would frequently render the relief useless.”

Dr. Purdon says, “I have seen them bowed to the last degree, and they will not allow themselves to be reckless ; it really surprises me how the poor creatures bear up against the greatest distress caused by illness ; there is a pride among them which makes them scorn the reproach of being a beggar.”

The people express much confidence in Dr. Purdon. The doctor says, “I am sure if any lady set up a dispensary, I should have little to do here. They have a reluctance to take medicines from a medical man ; but when they see me take great care, and spend much time in making up a prescription, they are ready enough to take it ; if I would give castor oil I would become a universal favourite.” Mr. Vaughan says, “At one time the people were unwilling to go to the dispensary, and in order to induce them to go there, I used to go myself every public day to have a sore leg dressed before them all by the doctor. This had a good effect, and they all soon followed my example.”

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