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It would be easy to multiply proofs of a state of things which threatens the most fearful consequences, and which, unless averted by judicious measures, must reproduce, in some localities, the frightful scenes of misery and death from which the country has just emerged. A letter dated 7th Sept., from the inspecting-officer of a union in Connaught, says : “I would now desire to “ acquaint you with the painful prospect which “ appears to await this union, with which I have “ now been connected some months. On Sunday “ next, the 12th inst. is the termination of my “ duty, so far as concerns the relief under the tem“porary relief act; and I must confess that I “ shrink from the contemplation of the state of “ suffering, to which the very poor will be subject " after that period, unless some measures be under“ taken to alleviate it. The union will then be on “ its own resources, namely, a rate struck in May “ for £3,500, of which £1,700 is owed to per“ sons who supplied the house during the win“ ter, and who ought to be paid immediately. No “ rate or a very trifling one has been collected, and “ even were the whole amount got in, there would “ not be more than enough for a fortnight or three “ weeks. The number receiving relief in this “ union, the last fortnight or three weeks, is 13,000, “ which includes only those disabled by infirmity " or sickness, and helpless widows. I think at least “ 10,000 must be permanently relieved.” Another gentleman holding the same official station says : “It is almost impossible to discern in this union “ where distress does not exist: in some places it is “ beyond belief, and no one can be surprised to hear “ of plunder and robberies not only by night, but “ in the open day. What is to be expected in a “ country, where there is neither food of any de"scription available, nor employment ?”
It is impossible for those who have not visited the western coast of Ireland to form an adequate idea of that country, or of the condition of its inhabitants. The land is occupied for the greater part by vast and dreary bogs, and wet or rocky mountains. It is generally quite destitute of trees for many miles inland. There are probably thousands of women and children on the western coast who have never seen a shrub more than four feet high. The cultivated portions lie in small patches, generally on the borders of rivers. From the moisture of the climate and the depth of the bogs, many of which consist of the decayed remains of ancient forests, the task of draining and reclaiming them for purposes of tillage, must be one of great difficulty, involving an amount of outlay utterly beyond the reach of most of the present occupiers or proprietors. Except for the supply of
fuel, the only purpose these wastes have hitherto served has been the feeding of sheep and black cattle, the number of which has been greatly diminished by the recent calamitous visitation. The villages in which the greater portion of the people reside, are scattered at wide intervals on the sides of the hills or near the sea coast. They consist of collections of hovels of the most primitive construction, grouped without regularity, formed of clay, or loose stones with green sods stuffed into the interstices, a hole in the roof supplying the place of a chimney ; the thatch is often broken, admitting the light and air in many places. * The interior accommodations are not superior to those which are found in the hut of the Esquimaux. The space in front of the cabin is generally occupied by a heap of wet manure, which frequently covers the entrance of the hut itself, rendering cleanliness and decency impossible. The people are ignorant, dirty, and at present wretchedly clad. In districts of great extent, the traveller must traverse many weary miles before he comes to the residence of the Protestant clergyman, the parish priest, or the coast-guard officer. It is evident that the incentives to industry, cleanliness, improved habits and modes of agriculture, and the acquisition of knowledge, must be extremely few, from the deficiency of encouragement and good example.
* The villages of Keel, Keem, and Dugort, in the island of Achill, present an appearance not unlike the pictures of a group of Hottentot kraals. A majority of the huts of which they consist have rounded roofs, somewhat like a beehive. The thatch does not project beyond the massy walls of sods and loose stones, and the entrance is sometimes not more than four feet high. It is probable that these very curious structures differ but slightly from the huts of the aboriginal inhabitants of Ireland. • When it is said that “ the people have no food," the writer wishes it to be understood that they have none of the food ordinarily relied upon for human subsistence. In their present sore extremity, they con.
It would be unreasonable to expect much from a people thus circumstanced, were the potato ever so abundant. It is not surprising that under the present visitation, any energy they formerly evinced should be wholly prostrated. Their former mode of support has failed them. They have no food, and can get no employment.* Their spirit is therefore broken. All hope, and with it all energy, is gone. They beg for work or food, and if unsuccessful, they lie down and die. Even in some districts where they are not quite so apathetic, their hopes are fixed on the resumption of the public works ; and they look for assistance to the government, to their landlords, or to the distribution of gratuitous relief.
How can it be otherwise ? To labour in their little plots of ground appears useless, for they have nothing to sow ; and even if seed were given
other weeds, and sometimes to substances yet more revolting than these.
them, they have nothing to live on until the crop be ripe. It is probable that many of them have been served with“ notices to quit,” and are in daily expectation of being evicted. Under such circumstances, what is to be expected but the apathy of despair ? In some of the remoter districts, broken down by suffering, they submit with quiet resignation, saying, “It is the will of God.” In other places, where their spirit is less broken, they endeavour by clamour and threats of violence to compel relief. Wherever employment is offered, even with very insufficient wages, they accept it eagerly. *
Many successful attempts have recently been made by benevolent associations and individuals, to establish various branches of domestic manufacture among the poor. This has been done with a view
* Some of the practical instructors sent out under Lord Clarendon's letter, by the Royal Agricultural Improvement Society, have made very gratifying reports of the anxiety of the small farmers in some places to obtain information ; stating that they listened very attentively, and seemed very thankful for the advice given. They appear, by a report dated Westport, County of Mayo, Nov. 28, to be digging and manuring according to these instructions ; and the same report states that many of the poor people “are without shoes, digging a hard stony " soil by task work, at the rate of seven shillings per Irish acre; a price " so immeasurably under what it ought to be done for," that the writer would not have believed it, but that he “had it from the employer “ himself, not the employed. The price formerly was ten shillings “ the Irish acre ; but now, from the state and number of the destitute, “ it is reduced to seven shillings. These poor people, even by the “greatest exertion, will not be able to earn four-pence a day at this rate, " and that by task work.”