The Avondhu - By The Fireside



Criticism was being voiced by officialdo­m in Dublin and London and it is likely that this contribute­d to a show of support for Mount Cashell at an approval of the public works list in Fermoy courthouse on the afternoon of October 2nd (1846). Here local men of substance, both Protestant (mostly) and Catholic - the likes of Captain Collis of Macroney, Laurence Corban of Maryville, John Pierce of Kilworth House, Douglas and Rice of Ballinacar­riga all hastened to declare that the Chair, Mount Cashell, ‘was always a straightfo­rward and upright nobleman who always assisted the people of Fermoy’.

Eventually, Fr Daly, was given his say. Speaking with great earnestnes­s and no little emotion, he asked when the works of road constructi­on in the area would finally commence. The Examiner quotes him saying ‘he need not inform them that there was the greatest distress, destitutio­n, and misery prevailing through every portion of the barony. He knew numbers of persons in his parish who were actually living at that moment on cabbage leaves; their countenanc­es so altered, their appearance­s so changed from starvation and wretchedne­ss that he could hardly recognise them. He wished to impress upon them the direful necessity for commencing those works immediatel­y for there were in his parish alone, upwards of one thousand labourers in want of employment.’

Matters were to get worse, but soon came the promise of help from abroad.



Many historians view ‘Black 47’ as the worst year of the Famine, and the plight of the starving and homeless of Ireland was beginning to attract an unpreceden­ted measure of attention from abroad. Most notably, America with its growing Irish immigrant population was showing grave concern. Relief committees were being establishe­d across the States and dollars were donated by Irish immigrants, and others too - and in fact many of these could ill afford the level of generosity shown.

An event that has attracted the attention of historians from both sides of the Atlantic in recent times is the voyage to Ireland of the ex-naval sloop, the USS Jamestown, under the command of a prominent Boston sailor, Captain Robert Bennet Forbes of the New England Relief Committee. Carrying some 800 tons of provisions, worth an enormous $35,858, they were procured for the specific relief of suffering in County Cork. Making a record breaking fifteen-day and three hours crossing, she arrived at White Bay, Cobh Harbour, on 12th April, 1847.

On board was a cargo of barrelled grain, 400 barrels of pork, hams, mutton and dried apples. In addition there were 28 barrels of clothing and 800 sacks into which the barrelled grain would be deposited for ease of distributi­on. In Kilworth, hopes were high that some of this bounty would come their way.

Why was the precious cargo destined specifical­ly for Cork? The county of Cork in 1847 comprised some onetenth of the Irish population, some 850,000 people, and nearly half of these lived in abject poverty - and, further, the census of 1841 shows that 61% could neither read nor write. (In contrast, Lord

Mount Cashell had been educated privately and on the continent, and then went on to graduate MA from Cambridge).

But how would this precious cargo be allocated? Clearly, there would not be enough for all and it was apparent that some system of allocation would have to be adopted. Letters of appeal came from gentry and clergy from all over the county pressing their own case for aid. One came from Mount Cashell who submitted 118 names of Kilworth people who had died since the beginning of the year. It is thought that the list was compiled by Fr Daly, at Mount Cashell’s request. Its importance for us today is considerab­le, for it underlines the horrific conditions throughout the parish and names real people who once lived, laughed and died in the parish.

But who eventually would receive the Jamestown bounty? Together with the renowned temperance apostle Fr Matthew, Forbes and a number of other persons of substance convened at the Cork Institute and devised a plan. Essentiall­y, they decided to leave the details of allocation across the county to the knowledgea­ble Poor Law Commission inspector, Captain Broughton. This, however, proved to be a fatal decision for Kilworth as Broughton had developed great dislike for Mount Cashell. He considered him to be arrogant, bombastic and mean, and he had become aware the Wandering Spirit disaster and the plan for a replacemen­t vessel. Clearly, Mount Cashell’s protestati­ons that he was doing all he could for his impoverish­ed tenants did not appear credible and Forbes recorded that ‘as he was building a yacht, I thought I might find a better object with whom to lodge part of my cargo’. And he with Broughton did, and the Boston largesse went to other centres in the county. Mount Cashell was personally enraged that what he and Fr Daly claimed in their appeal to the allocation committee was clearly not heeded. And particular­ly so in the light too of their deposition that 7,000 of the district’s 9,800 residents were suffering dire misery and distress from the pangs of hunger and the ravages of typhus and dysentery. But poor Kilworth had to suffer on.

Interestin­g to note, Mount Cashell was soon to suffer too. In common with many landlords the failure to obtain rents, combined with bad investment­s, a crooked agent and bad management, all led within ten years to him losing his great estates. He died virtually penniless in 1883 in London but perhaps with some satisfacti­on for he had lived to see his son William succeed in holding on to the Moore Park demesne. For this, William, 5th and last

Earl Mount Cashell to live in Moore Park (RIP 1898), could thank his heiress wife, Charlotte Moore-Smyth of Ballinatra­y near Youghal.


The Famine experience hastened the process of an Irish emigration experience that was in fact well establishe­d in Ireland by 1840. Most emigrants financed their passages by selling what little they had, and some landlords provided assisted passages. They headed for Liverpool, for America and for Canada, and at the height of the Famine one-fifth of Irish emigrants to Canada died on their way or soon on arrival. Many of these are buried at Grosse Ille quarantine station.

The census of 1851 shows a population of 6.5 million (1.6 million less than in 1841), and by 1901 it had declined to nearly 4.5 million. Ireland had been dealt a mortal blow, emigration had become a common feature and only in the last decade or so, have we significan­tly reversed the trend. Life is different for Kilworth today. Thank God.

 ?? ?? A tenant’s cabin from a Famine era drawing. Diseased dead were often buried simply by knocking down the cabin over the bodies and
setting it afire.
A tenant’s cabin from a Famine era drawing. Diseased dead were often buried simply by knocking down the cabin over the bodies and setting it afire.
 ?? ?? Lord Mount Cashell’s mansion (destroyed by fire in 1908).
Lord Mount Cashell’s mansion (destroyed by fire in 1908).

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