Sable Wings Over
Ciarán Ó Murchadha
Ennis, County Clare, and its wider community
during the Great Famine
With a foreword by James S. Donnelly, Jr., Professor
of History, University of Wisconsin.
CLASP Press, 1998, Hardback, ISBN:
1 900545 05 5, €20.00
This publication focuses on a single
community allowing the author to highlight the cumulative and shattering
impact of disastrous government relief policies on a population rendered
prostrate by repeated failures of the potato harvest. He outlines in turn
the shambles of the public works, the loathed soup kitchens, and most
horifically the appalling disease and mortality that occurred both inside
and outside the Ennis Union workhouse and its auxiliaries after 1847.
Among the topics which this book illuminates are a huge upsurge in violent
and non-violent crime, desperate individual attempts to survive by stealing,
and collective attempts to prevent the outward movement of food supplies.
The brutal outrages of secret societies, and harsh judicial reaction also
feature, in addition to the unsympathetic and often indifferent attitude
displayed by officials at all levels towards those whose misery they were
appointed to relieve. Important new insights are offered on a wide variety
of other topics such as corruption on the boards of guardians, the bizarre
election campaigns of 1847, the Special Commission of 1848 and the hangings
which followed it, and a merciless campaign of evictions carried out by
landlords in the district. Exhaustively researched, and compellingly written,
this book is sure to set the standard for future work of a similiar kind.
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