Irish Famine Report from Ballyvourney, near Macroom, County Cork (1847)

From Transactions of the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends during the Famine in Ireland in 1846 and 1847

To the Auxiliary Relief Committee of Friends at Cork.

Agreeably to your desire, we proceeded to the parish of Ballyvourney, a rocky and wild district about thirty-five English miles west of Cork, and bordering on the county of Kerry, with a large population and very few resident gentry--none within a compass of some miles but Richard B. Kirchoffer, the rector of the parish, on whom we called, and whose company we had for several hours.

Few of the utterly destitute have remained in this locality to claim our commiseration, they having very generally betaken themselves to the union workhouse at Macroom, distant about ten English miles; but our feelings were affected on behalf of the labouring portion of the population, whose earnings of eight pence to ten pence per day is quite insufficient for the sustenance of a family amounting in many instances to six or seven individuals; and we particularly felt for some of those engaged on the public works, who had to travel three or four Irish miles from their homes to their work; to shorten which distance, some would wade through a river which, at that time, was swollen to an inconvenient degree. The article of food which comes nearest within their ability to purchase, is the whole-meal of the Relief Committee, and from this description of food they were beginning to suffer, as it was producing dysentery and diarrhaea amongst them.

Wishing to acquaint ourselves with the domestic condition of the people, we visited, in company with R. B.Kirchoffer, several of their cabins, some of which we found wretched and comfortless in the extreme. In one case, the thatch had so decayed away, and was so little protection from the weather, that (it having rained that morning) the earthen floor was as wet as parts of the road we travelled over. In another of like description, where was a large family, the poor woman of the house considered it so unfit for our reception, that on our entering she threw a little dry straw before our feet for us to tread on, while the approaches were so filthy as to require no small degree of caution in passing over them. We also visited, on our way home, some labourers' families in a very poor village, about a mile from R. B. Kirchoffer's residence, whose condition excited our pity. One was that of a man who had not had any work for more than two months, in which time most of what was convertible was disposed of to procure food, and the last grain of meal nearly consumed, when relief arrived in the shape of work: and at the same time came also an additional burden--a widowed daughter with her children had left her desolate home, and thrown herself upon her father for a shelter, and to share his miserable earnings of tenpence per day.

In the course of our visiting, we distributed a few small sums of money amongst the most needy; and before finally parting from R. B. Kirchoffer, we placed an additional sum in his hands for further use in this way; he, being the only resident of the class of gentry in that locality, is resorted to by the poor on many occasions. He was about erecting a soup boiler on his own premises, by which he hoped to afford much relief. We consider that he has a claim on the consideration of the Committee, placed as he is alone in the midst of much suffering, though not of much utter destitution.


Cork, 7th of First-month, 1847.