« НазадПродовжити »
branch of industry, and receive a daily breakfast, often the only meal they have to live on. They have especially attended to the wants of the sick, have given them medicine, and supplied them with food and with nourishing drinks, more conducive to their recovery than medicines, and in so doing have exposed themselves to the constant danger of contagion. The value of these exertions is incalculable.
Wherever there is a resident proprietor of benevolence and intelligence, the country all around feels the beneficial influence. If the number of resident gentry had been as large as in England, the calamity which has so afflicted us under our present circumstances, would have been felt in a very inferior degree. Many examples of energetic and praiseworthy conduct might be adduced ; a few are given in the notes, sufficient to illustrate the nature of these exertions, and of some of the difficulties under which very many of the Irish gentry have endeavoured to do their duty.* These in
• The number of persons who, previous to the temporary relief act coming into operation, received their daily food from some individual distributors, will appear incredible to many, and must have taxed the physical and mental energies of the distributors to the utmost. Much · information has been transmitted to the Relief Committee of the Society of Friends illustrating this. Many persons, both lay and clerical, must have devoted their whole time to the work, to enable them to do so much. In several instances, the number fed with cooked food has amounted to
stances of self-devotion should be considered as a set-off against the neglect and oppression, which have often been brought more prominently into view, and which have thrown so much obloquy on the character of Irish landlords.
from 500 to 1000 persons daily, and one clergyman resident in the County of Mayo writes, under date May 15th, when soliciting a further grant : “ Two thousand five hundred individuals are now daily supplied “ with food at my soup-kitchen. Should you think proper to give me “ further assistance, pray do so without delay."
In one very destitute district in the County of Mayo, the indefatigable exertions of a lady had organized a “Ladies' Association,” to which she acted as secretary. This association consisted of eight members residing several miles apart, yet thus encouraging each other in their charitable labours, by such communication and co-operation as they were enabled by this arrangement to keep up. All had large boilers except one; they distributed cooked food daily, and had a weekly gratuitous distribution of rice and meal, besides sales at a reduced rate; they employed 135 spinners and weavers. Their monthly expenditure exceeded £700, and supported upwards of 1500 families, and also several hundred occasional applicants; and all this labour was undertaken in addition to their household duties as mistresses of families.
Many persons occupying a lower station in life have also devoted themselves to the work of mercy. A letter from a friend of the author, written from the barony of Erris, County of Mayo, says: “ Yesterday “I visited the soup-kitchen kept up by — chief boatman of the “water-guard at — He attends to it without fee or reward. He “ told me yesterday that it had occupied him from four in the morning. “ He seems a remarkably amiable man; he has four motherless children “ very well brought up, and all on a very small salary. He lives in “ a small but very neat cabin."
Another letter from the same individual, alluding to the exertions of two possessors of land in moderate circumstances, in another part of Erris, says: “ This morning I spent two hours before breakfast in “ going round among - 's tenantry, and was in the wretched huts of “perhaps 25 or 30. Many of them before the famine were comfortable, " as they esteem comfort. They had cows and sheep, and plenty of
It was natural to expect, when subscriptions were raised on so large a scale, that the distress should quickly be relieved ; and the generous donors in England were surprised and pained to
“ potatoes. Now they are in extreme misery. I have seen his soup“ kitchen in operation, and the activity and zeal of his very large “ family in labouring for the relief of the poor in his vicinity; and I am “ confident he is an excellent and most useful person. He is exactly of “ the sort that is wanting ; and with the exception of —, and Lieu“ tenant — of the coast guard, (about two miles from this,) there are “ no persons whatever to look after the poor within a circuit of upwards “of 30 miles, in a district filled with a swarming and wretched popula“ tion. What I wonder at, since I have seen with my own eyes, is that “ he should have done so much, and that his family are so cheerfully “ devoted to the same work of mercy, without the slightest pecuniary “recompence.” Again he says: “From strict enquiry and close ob“servation, I am satisfied that the lives of hundreds have been saved “ by the efforts of these three men and their families. I would for the " sake of my personal ease greatly prefer being a donor to being a “ distributor of relief. It is a great deal easier to put one's hand into “ a long purse, than to labour from morn till dewy eve,' filling out “stirabout to crowds of half-clad hungry wretches, sinking with weak“ness and fever. I saw thousands to-day of the most miserable people “I have ever seen. I have witnessed more misery to-day than I ever “ did before."
Many of the more wealthy landlords have supported the destitute poor on their estates from their own unaided resources, and have therefore come less within the sphere of the author's observation. Of the family of a landed proprietor of this class, the government inspecting-officer of a union in the County of Galway thus writes :
“ This excellent young person has been most active in dispensing “ charity, and has established a most admirable soup-kitchen at “ where it has conferred great benefit on the destitute poor of that “ neighbourhood; it is maintained partly by her father, and partly by "subscriptions from her relations in England. Her mother, too, has “ established a soup-kitchen in her demesne, through the agency of “ which she daily spreads a vast amount of relief. There is no family “ in this county which has diffused more benefit to the very destitute
find, that on the contrary it continued unabated, or rather increased in intensity. Many thought that it only needed to convert the subscriptions into food, pour it into the distressed places, and all
“people in the vicinity of — than the one I now write of. Cap“ tain - has been, I believe, a sufferer, like many others of “ his class, by the non-payment of his rents; notwithstanding which “ he employs 80 labourers daily, and has done so since the commencement “ of the present calamity; and he has not suffered a single person on the “ — estate to be placed on lists of any kind for relief. I do think “ such laudable exertions should receive the favourable notice of all “ societies dispensing charities, to whom he or any of his family may “ appeal.”
Another proprietor of land in the county of Galway, to whom the Relief Committee of Friends have made several grants, and of the value of whose exertions they have had good reason to entertain the highest opinion, writes thus, under date of April 17th, 1847 :
“ In consequence of the dismissal of a large number of destitute “ persons from the public works this week, I have had a great additional " amount of trouble thrown upon me. Our soup-kitchen had to be “ reinforced as to the quality of the material served, inasmuch as the “majority of the recipients were thrown upon it for support almost “ entirely. Its expenses consequently increased, and I can hold out no “ hope of diminishing the cost, until the new relief plan is brought into " operation; which I fear may not be the case for some little time, owing “ to the immense labour thrown on the parish priest and myself, the “ only residents capable of working it out. Our consumption has been as “ follows: 784 pounds of rice; 250 pounds of beef; 490 pounds of “ Indian, meal ; 72 pounds of treacle; this, with servants' wages and “ fuel, &c. brings our expenditure up to £19 6s.
“ I have issued to sick persons 231 pounds of rice, 112 pounds of “ biscuit, and 42 pounds of meal, the whole of the above expenditure “ being given gratuitously. It has I trust done good, and saved many “ lives; though I regret to add the mortality is terrible, fever and “dysentery, especially the latter, carrying off vast numbers. I supplied “coffins for nine paupers in the week, and many more were interred. " I regret to say that I had to appoint a clerk to superintend the kitchen ; “ my health and property could no longer bear a confinement of six or
would be right again. But the real difficulty lay in the structure of society throughout a great part of Ireland. A large proportion of the proprietors were non-resident,* and therefore no per
“seven hours daily in it, but I still am always present at the distribution “morning and evening, and superintend it.
“I reserve the soup-kitchen fund for the sick, the widows, or“phans, and aged, and hope to aid them efficiently through its means. “ I think it only just to myself to say, that but one individual family “ on my own estate has received a single farthing of support from “it since it was opened. This is a family of eight persons, lying sick al“ together of fever, and now convalescent. I have received from your “agent your generous grant to us ; the biscuit are a timely and valuable “ aid in arresting the dysentery; they are the most valuable gift that “ can be bestowed in the present circumstances of the people.
“ Things look badly, but relying on that Supreme Power that has “ heretofore supported my wife and myself, in the midst of this unex. “ ampled calamity, we struggle to sustain the hope and spirit of our “people, and restore their almost overwhelmed mental and physical “ energies ; and in that hope I take leave of you, and am, &c.”
In another letter, dated 24th of April, the same gentleman says:
" I hope to have a decent breadth of tillage put in. I am quite aware “ that on my exertions depends the absolute existence of our people, “ and as long as I have health left, they shall not be spared."
One of the last letters from the same party, when giving a concluding account of his distribution, says: “ You will let me know what your “ views are as to the future; I will be frank with you. The heavy losses “ sustained by me leave me unable to go further in the relief measures. “A considerable portion of the rents payable at May, 1846, are due to “ me, and I protest to you, that since the 1st of January last I have only “ received a sum of £52. 12s. out of my whole income and heavy arrears; “ under these circumstances, I am reduced to poverty. I see no shame “ in confessing it. Only the estate owes no money, and that we have a “ valuable farm, we should be in distress ourselves. I mention this “merely as a reason why I cannot go any further in relieving those “ who surely will need it soon."
• The word “non-resident" is generally used in the course of this essay in preference to "absentee,” as designating those who do not reside