Irish Famine Report from Sligo (1846)

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

Extracts from Joseph Crosfield's Report of his journey in company with William Forster, made to the London Relief Committee of the Society of Friends.

Sligo, 22nd of Twelfth-month, 1846.

We staid two or three days at Sligo. William Forster had interviews with the principal resident proprietors and magistrates of the county, who were attending a special meeting called with reference to the present circumstances. They gave very distressing accounts of the condition of the people throughout the county, and seemed very desirous to assist in the promotion of any plan for immediate relief.

On the 24th, William Forster proceeded to Ballina in Mayo, which county is described as being in a truly deplorable state. In one small district, during the past month, no less than fourteen sudden deaths have occurred, in which the verdict was, "death by starvation."

Throughout this journey, it was a primary object with William Forster to find suitable channels for the distribution of the relief which the subscriptions of Friends and other parties might supply. For this purpose he endeavoured to get such of the resident gentry, and the ministers of different religious denominations, as really took an interest in the welfare of their miserable neighbours, to form district associations or committees; to correspond from time to time with the Relief Committee in Dublin, and to superintend the distribution of such funds as should be remitted to them, making a particular report of the disposal of them to the Committee. It was truly gratifying to observe throughout this journey the degree of good feeling, which in this time of trial subsists between the various religious denominations, and to find them working hand in hand for the relief of the destitute.

The cordiality and kindness with which, in our somewhat unlooked for visits, William Forster was on all occasions welcomed, when his object was understood, could not but be cheering to him; and much as there is to deplore in the social condition of Ireland in general, and particularly in the relation of the rich to the poor, we were encouraged to hope that this distressing visitation, forcing as it were all classes together, would tend to increase the feeling of sympathy between them; and that the efforts making in England for their help, would stimulate and encourage the exertions of the holders of property in Ireland, without which all the aid of English charity will be most affectingly deficient to meet the present emergency.