The Addergoole Fourteen emigrated from a part of Ireland that had experienced famine and deprivation through out the nineteenth century. Though popular history tends to concentrate on the monstrous effects of the Great Irish Famine it inadvertently diverts attention from the effects of the multitude of localized famines that affected communities similar to that found at Lahardane, The Titanic Village, and others throughout the island of Ireland.
Famines had occurred sporadically throughout the nineteenth century due to bad weather and social and economic pressures. Those that particularly affect the parish of Addergoole and the Titanic Village of Lahardane occurred during the years 1800-02, 17, 21-22, 1830-34, 36, 39, 1845-49, 1878-81 and on several occasions during the 1890s bringing hunger and deprivation.
The elder members of the Addergoole Fourteen would have had memories of such occurrences, memories of famine, hunger and impoverishment would accompany Catherine McGowan, John Bourke and Mary Bourke on their journey to the United States aboard the Titanic. All three would have been old enough to remember such occurrences as they all had lived through the politically turbulent period of the Land War 1879-82. The Great Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, and the sporadic out breaks of famine and hunger throughout the nineteenth century ensured the community in Addergoole and others like it lived under the perpetual fear of the next great hunger.
The Great Famine of 1845-49 decimated the population of the area and as a result those who could emigrate did. The population of the parish Addergoole under the poor law union in 1841 was 7,379 by 1851 it had declined to 5,085, a loss of 2294 people, 31.03%. This percentage is small bit greater than the provincial population loss in Connacht of 30%. Neighboring areas such as Kilmurry and Crossmolina lost a far greater percentage of their population, 47% and 40.79% respectively.
Rents were equally hard for landlords, land agents and rent collectors to come by. One unfortunate land collector was chased out of the village of Kilmullagh,near the Titanic Village of Lahardane in the Parish of Addergoole:
“Castlebar. Sunday 28 November. Rpeort of Capt. Farren. ‘Rates collected, £146 10s 2 3/4d.,uncollected, £9,430 15s 2d. … The collector, James Malley was struck with stones. And hunted out of the village of Kilmullagh in the electoral division of Addergoole”
The impact of the Great Famine left a deep scar on the mindset of those who lived in the Titanic Village of Lahardane and the Parish of Addergoole, their psyche was intrinsically linked with the desperate acts of those who needed sustenance and of relief. These scars are still evident from the hills and mountains in County Mayo where one can still see the lazybeds where people grew whatever root crops they could to survive. A community so fond of banter and song were found silent when recollecting that period of their history. The late local historian Tony Donohoe stated:
“No stories were passed down and I thought that the memories were so stark they would not talk about it. I also thought that those who survived had a feeling of guilt that they had survived, maybe, at the expense of those who died”
The Great Famine was followed by a period of relieving economic stability. It was a period of economic reorganization until late 1879. This year saw the worst conditions prevail throughout Ireland since the 1849 resulting from harvest failure in 1877, partial failure in 1878 and a disastrous failure in 1879 compounded by a shortage in fuel brought dire consequences for many including those living in the Titanic Village of Lahardane, family, friends, neighbours of the Addergoole Fourteen and other communities in Ireland.
Cheap American grain had entered the Irish market and American beef into the British market ensured other facets of the Irish economy could not alleviate the failure of three consecutive harvests. As Professor Roy F. Foster states:
“The Fall in income and cattle prices desperately affected the small farmers who supplied graziers with stock; credit, easily available from joint-stock banks and shops throughout the 1870s, began to be called in…”
The conditions so eloquently described and explained by Professor Foster continued throughout the 1880s. The level of impoverishment and utter poverty many of the population of the parish of Addergoole and the Titanic Village of Lahardane were experiencing is described in this exert from an article which appeared 3 April edition of the Western People entitled “Evictions on the Arran Estate, 1886”:
“At an early hour on the morning of the 27 March, 1886,
the accustomed repose of their country village of Lahardane was broken by the cavalcade of cars passing with forces of sixty or seventy police armed and officered a guerre! The minions of the law were abroad this early to help to wreck the dwellings of more than a score of peasants in the neighbourhood, whose only crime against the Constitution was their inability to manipulate the causes of the general depression, or avert its consequences”
It follows with this harrowing account of one such peasant who was to be evicted:
“The eviction proceeded to the house of Pat Monnelly. The rent £3:5:0., reduced from £4:0:0., and rose from to the amount from £1:10:0. There are nine inmates in this house, one over eighty years and another bordering on the patriarchal span – the parents of the tenant. His youngest child is two years. This man has no means under heaven but one barrel of potatoes to serve for sod and food. He could not make an offer of one penny”
Sources: Tony Donohoe, Addergoole Its Land and Its People (Crossmolina, 2000), Roy F. Foster, Modern Ireland 1600 – 1972 (London, 1989), Liam Swords, In their Own Words, The Famine in North Connaught, 1845-1849 (Dublin, 1999), The Western People.
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