Irish Famine Report from Dungloe, County Donegal (1847)

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

Extracts from William Bennett's Account of his Journey in Ireland.

Dungloe, County of Donegal, 23rd of Third-month, 1847.

We set off, though it still rained, for Maghery, the residence of Valentine P. Griffith, the officiating minister of the parish, four miles along the southern shore of the bay. I mention this gentleman's name, because it is appended to two public documents, making known the state and condition of this large and destitute parish. You distinguish a long way off,--by the number of poor people surrounding them,--the residences of those who are devoting themselves to endeavours to mitigate the severity of this awful crisis. This is the large and neglected parish of Templecrone, or the Rosses. It is hemmed in by the sea on the one side, and bleak mountains on the other, over which the roads are often impassable, and no market-town within the distance of thirty miles. It has not the natural advantages of sea-board, the whole line of coast being foul, rugged, and inaccessible, except in the calmest weather. The rude and backward state of agriculture in this isolated district, cannot be more strongly shown than in one of the documents above alluded to, wherein it is stated, "that in a parish, the area of which is 52,921 acres, with a population of 10,000 souls, dispersed through wild mountains, and thickly inhabited islands, there is neither the recollection nor the tradition of a plough ever having been used throughout it." Of course there can be no resident gentry here. The mass of ignorance, poverty, and destitution, remains therefore unalleviated, beyond the personal exertions of the few who signed the above document. I have rarely received the impression of more heartfelt zeal and devotedness in the cause of the poor, than was manifested by this gentleman and his family; but they seemed indeed almost cast down and overborne by the rising tide of famine and desolation at their very doors, and by the hopelessness of the future. Everything, they said, was getting worse and worse; and where it would end, except under the over-ruling hand of Divine Providence, save in famine and pestilence consummating the work of depopulation, they were unable to conceive. The stubbornest heart would break beneath the sight of the harmless multitude--men, women, and little children--pining away in want and misery,--our own fellow-creatures and countrymen,--in this boasted land of wealth, civilization, and humanity.