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But large as are these sums, their amount would be greatly increased, if we could enumerate the many thousand small contributions sent from all parts, which private charity has been, and is yet, constantly bestowing; nor is it possible to estimate
the value of the exertions used by many Irish
families of all classes, who have cramped their means, and denied themselves their usual comforts, in order that they might be able to relieve some of their destitute neighbours. It cannot be denied that some landed proprietors, both resident and non-resident, have not only been wanting in efforts to mitigate the prevalent distress, but have even aggravated it, by a selfish and unfeeling line of conduct towards their miserable tenantry; but there are very many also, who have done their duty nobly in the difficult position in which they have been placed. They saw and felt for the misery around them, and gave their time, and largely of their substance for its relief. No one who has not witnessed it, can conceive the difficulties of their situation. Few, and widely separated amidst such a mass of suffering; cramped by the non-payment of rents; without any personal assistance, and in great part without pecuniary contributions from the numerous non-resident proprietors, many of whose estates furnished much beyond an average proportion of pauperism ; weighed down by the constant sight of misery which they could not relieve ; oppressed by an anxious sense of the responsibility of their position, and by the weight of public business; alarmed for the future, and frequently reminded of the dangerous nature of their duties, by seeing their neighbours one after another struck down by the fever every where prevalent, and which has proved peculiarly fatal to the higher classes—it is indeed wonderful how so many of the resident gentry have been supported through difficulties so unparalleled, which might well have appalled the stoutest heart. The exertions of many of the clergy of the Established Church are well known, and appreciated as they deserve to be ; the efficiency of their labours was, in many cases, owing to the cordial, and skilful co-operation of their wives and daughters. The peculiar position of the Roman Catholic clergy in this respect, rendered them less able to take an effective part in administering relief; but many of these also, as well as of the ministers of other religious bodies, have not been wanting in the discharge of the great and perilous duties which devolved on them. Very many ladies have been devoted and unremitting in their endeavours to assist the distressed poor around them. They have established schools, at which poor children are taught some useful 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 instances 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.
* 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
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