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The Main Report
Appendix 1 (page images)- Statistical returns
Appendix 2 (page images)- Abstract of inventories
Appendix 3 (page images) - Abstract of accounts of the union
Appendix 4 (Excel document)- Abstract of evictions, by townland between 1847 and 1850.
Since the Autumn of 1845, West Clare, in common with most of Ireland was racked by famine, with many brought to the point of total destitution by the destruction of the potato crops during 1847 and 1848.
Public infrastructural works and soup kitchens came to an end around the end of 1847 and the people had nowhere else to turn except the Workhouse. Out-door relief ( food to non-inmates of the workhouse) for the destitute, was enabled by the Poor Law Extension Act, 1847.
The cost of the workhouse and the out-door relief was borne by the poor law rates levied on local landowners, although there were some grants-in-aid for districts like Kilrush, financed from the less badly affected parts of the country.
Landlords were liable for rates on holdings valued at £4 and under, whether or not the rent had been paid on these holdings. They were often very reluctant to pay the rates, in these circumstances. To alleviate their liabilities the landlords commenced the mass evictions which left some 12,000 people homeless.
The 'Gregory Clause' provided that no relief could be granted to the family of a man who held more than a quarter of an acre, thus forcing many of the impoverished to surrender their holdings, in order to get food. The clause was relaxed, somewhat in May 1848.
The Guardians of the Kilrush workhouse came to increasing prominence during 1847 and 1848. Capt. A. E Kennedy was appointed as Inspector of the Kilrush Union in November 1847. During 1848 and 1849 he kept the Poor Law Commissioners, who appointed him, informed in detail about the management of the union, by the Board of Guardians and the continuing evictions by the landlords.
These reports were published in a 'Parliamentary Blue Book' and this brought the horror of the situation to the attention of the British public. In the Autumn of 1849 the British M.P , Poulett Scrope, who had previously shown concern at the situation, made a personal visit to West Clare to see the situation and reported widely in London of the misery he had encountered.
Not only were the landlords, whose rent receipts had greatly diminished, very reluctant to pay the Poor Law rates upon which the relief efforts depended, they also constituted the majority of the Board of Guardians and so were responsible for setting the level of the rates. Amongst the rates defaulters were magistrates who ' have signed distress warrants for rates on poor wretches who have bu a house or cow to support them'.
In the circumstances, The Poor Law Commissioners made an order dissolving the Board of Guardians in March 1848 and replaced them with two Vice Guardians.
An epidemic of Cholera broke out about this time which compounded the difficulties.
The financial situation of the union did not improve under the management of the vice guardians and the condition of the union when it was handed back to the Board of Guardians, in October 1849 was dire. No reasonable level of rates could have paid the huge costs arising from the general situation, compounded as it was, by the massive programme of evictions.
In early December the outdoor relief was withdrawn entirely for six weeks, due to lack of funds.
The outcome of the foregoing events is detailed in the following report.
OaC would like to thank Jimmy McMahon for digitising this entire report.
The formatting for the internet is by this author.
Donal De Barra,