Position of the writer, &c.

My position in regard to the condition and feeling of Ireland during the famine, was different from all others; I must necessarily look at things with different eyes, and different sensations from what others could do; I was a foreigner, could not expect, and did not ask, any reward either in praise or money for the interest I might take in that country; I was attached to England, as the race from which I descended, and pitied Ireland for her sufferings, rather than I admired her for any virtues which she might possess; consequently, my mind was so balanced between the two, that on which side the scale might have preponderated, the danger of blind partiality would not have been so great.

Besides, the country had previously been traversed, the habits and propensities of the cabiners been studied, they had been taken by surprise when no opportunity was given for escape or deception. I was always an unexpected guest, and gave them no time to brush up their cabins, or put on their shoes, if happily they might have any. When the famine came over them, they were placed in a different position to draw out their feelings toward others, and the pangs of hunger induced them necessarily to act unreservedly; all party feeling was lost, and whoever gave them bread was the object to which they most closely hung, and to those who rudely sent them empty away, the answer was often made, "May the blessed God never give ye to feel the hunger."

And here it must be written that, though some might be ungrateful, yet such were the exceptions; as a people they are grateful, and patient to a proverb. Not a murmuring word against God or man did I once hear among all the dying, in those dreadful days, and the children were taught by parents and teachers to fall on their knees morning and evening, to pray Almighty God to "bless their kind benefactors and keep them from the hunger," and many have died with these prayers on their lips. I must not enlarge; these things are not mentioned to probe afresh the painful sensations which philanthropists have felt for Ireland, but to bear a testimony to facts, which deserve to be recorded; and should any of these facts appear exaggerated, let it be said that no language is adequate to give the true, the real picture; one look of the eye into the daily scenes there witnessed, would overpower what any pen, however graphic, or tongue, however eloquent, could portray.

As my eye was single to one object, as I have ever peculiarly felt that I was acting for eternity, in acting for Ireland, the candor I use must be forgiven, and the pronoun I can make no other apology but sheer necessity, as no we had a part in anything essential which will be recorded in these pages.

When the hand that pens these pages, and the heart that has been lacerated at these sufferings, shall have ceased together, may Ireland and her benefactors "live before God."

Read "Annals of the Famine in Ireland" at your leisure

Annals of the Famine in Ireland

Read Annals of the Famine in Ireland at your leisure and help support this free Irish library.

This book still has the power to shock and sadden even though the events described are ever-receding further into the past. When you read, for example, of the poor widowed mother who was caught trying to salvage a few potatoes from her landlord's field, and what the magistrate discovered in the pot in her cabin, you cannot help but be apalled and distressed.

The text of this new edition has professionally been reset and an index added to the paperback.


Library Ireland Facebook