Poverty Before the Famine, County Clare 1835
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Clare County Library

Parish Kilmanaheen. Barony Corcomroe.


THERE is no fund whatever in this parish for the support of the sick poor. They are in consequence frequently obliged to send their children to beg about from their friends, to pawn the last farthing’s worth of their bedding and wearing apparel, and to get into debt unwillingly for their small portion of muck ground or con-acre. There is no loan fund of any kind ; but here, as well as elsewhere, the Assistant Commissioners found a great anxiety on the part of the people to see some such fund or plan established throughout the country. It was generally admitted that the poor were unwilling to attend the sick in contagious diseases ; and, on inquiry if the temporary seeking for alms during sickness did not initiate the family into mendicant habits, it was stated that it had not been observed to produce that effect.

The wages of a labouring man would never admit his laying by enough to provide for himself and his family during sickness ; and as there were no benefit societies of any kind in the neighbourhood, the poor had no means of ensuring a maintenance for themselves or their families during that period. With regard to the effect that destitution after sickness has upon the labourer, Archdeacon Whitty observed, “It cannot be said that any instances are on record of his becoming reckless, in consequence of a short illness having destroyed his few comforts; but at the same time the misery which the poor labourer has to contend with, on recovering from severe illness, his clothes pawned, even his very implements of husbandry sometimes sold, is truly surprising, and the patience and resignation of these poor creatures under such melancholy circumstances makes me often think that there is something superhuman in the Irish character.”

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