Diary of Rev Patrick Fahy P.P. Moycullen
Extracts from Moycullen Registry of Baptisms & Marriages 1837-1848
Rev Patrick Fahy’s Diaries took the form of random entries in the columns of the Moycullen Parish Register of Baptisms & Marriages 1837-1848. He recorded for posterity an accurate and precise account of events in Moycullen during his years in office.
Hereunder are some transcribed extracts from his “diaries”.
26th October 1845
This harvest is being abundant as far as grain is concerned – but great fears nay actual starvation on account of a rot dreaded in the potato crops (black spots appearing on the surface and the probability of its affecting the interior of the vegetable). The people are afraid as yet to pit them for fear of the contagion attacking the sound ones. Wheat has got up 5s. a cwt. more than it was last year. How the ensuing summer will be as far as the necessaries of life are concerned is in the hands of a Merciful Providence. The disease in the potatoes is called Cholera from black spots appearing on the surface.
1st June 1846
The government this year 46 is endeavouring to quieten the people by giving them employment and levelling the hills in the high places – the provisions are scarce, the potatoes in the parish now on 1st June, though the price of meal is only 16s. a cwt., are 6a. 6£. I fear very much for the month of July that the condition of the people will be very bad.
In the month of August, a blight has come on the potato crop. The Government is again determined to employ the people in order to meet the failure.
Lord John Russell’s Premier, the Tory Government being ousted on the Coercion Bill for Ireland. Robert Peel carried free trade in corn against a formidable opposition on the part of the agricultural interests. This summer passed over very well notwithstanding the great fears of famine and starvation that were entertained because of the failure in the potatoes. I commenced the south wing of the Chapel this August having collected the sum of £125 in England. The Sturton family was particularly kind to me. A fracas occurred in the Repeal Association because of physical force doctrines having been introduced by a party calling itself the “Young Ireland Party”. These doctrines were condemned by the almost unanimous voice of the country which united with Mr. O’Connell in the advocacy of moral means alone for the recovery of its lost “Parliament”. Smyth O’Brien with others separated from the Repeal Association.
It is now the 26th October and nothing as yet is being done for the people, though the Government is perfectly acquainted with their distressed condition, they being on the verge of starvation. The potatoes can only hold out for another month and this with only the fewer number. The sum of £40,000 was allocated for this Barony at the extraordinary meeting held in Oughterard for the employment of the people. I fear it will not meet the calls of the people. This sum is to be expended on reproductive works, no excesses committed by the people, notwithstanding their desperate and desolate condition. Their patience is singular and most remarkable, living on small wet potatoes almost unfit for the use of pigs. Indian Corn is 15s a cwt, labour per day on an average only 9d. I trust the Government Officers of the Board of Works will look to the dearness of the provisions and make the earnings of the poor come up to the price of provisions. It is supposed that there cannot be any potatoes sown next year. The Government recommend the sowing of Bere-Barley and Oats as a substitute. The landlords are not (much to their credit) calling for their rents; people are not thrashing their corn, such are all their fears for the ensuing spring and summer.
The people are beginning to blame the Government for its apathy but particularly because it made a regulation not to interfere with the disposing of wheat or indian corn, contrary to its mode of acting in the autumn of 1845 when indian corn was sold in different depots (as they were called) to the poor by the Commissariat. However, it is supposed that it will take this monopoly out of the merchants’ hands and begin to sell at reduced prices, the only means of pulling down the high prices of the necessaries of life. Several deaths by starvation have occurred by this time. God only knows how things will end, all is in the hands of the Government. A deputation from the Barony waited on the Lord Lieutenant this week and represented the condition of the district to the Board of Works in order to expedite the employment of the poor. Up to this period, the people have done nothing calculated to call for the interference of the police authorities. There were, however, two sheep killed whether maliciously or not is as yet to be determined.
20th December 1846
20th December – The whole of the parishioners with very few exceptions at the public works, receiving on an average one shilling a day. This is little for their own individual support; oatmeal £1.2s a cwt; whole meal at £1, not a cart to be seen going down to market with any kind of provisions from a district that might be considered the granary of the town of Galway. Nothing of any importance in the political world save a proposal by O’Connell to the “Young Ireland Party” to leave the quarrel between them to the arbitration of a few gentlemen. A refusal on the part of the latter to a reconciliation. A visit of the Queen to Arundel Castle, the seat of the Duke of Norfolk, nothing could surpass the magnificence of the reception – the service of the dinner given to her Majesty was of gold.
Today I took away the centre from the arch of the right wing of the Chapel. The “Young Ireland Party” was virtually condemned by the entire (body) of the Prelates and priests who support the doctrine of “moral force” as inculcated by O’Connell as the practical means only of acquiring from England any concession. Great confusion in the minds of the landlords owing to the alarming condition of the people on approach to Repeal which in general they are being opposed to. No appearance of spring business; a want of seed (the potatoes being nearly out) this owing to the rot – the cause unknown, and as in Cholera Morbus the disease was called the opprobrium medicorum, so the potato disease may be considered the opprobrium Philsophorum.
The parishioners are in an alarming state about the ensuing spring, not having any seed to put in the ground.
20th January 1847
Not a potato to be had in Galway for any money – 26s a cwt of meal – 20s for a cwt of indian meal. Little or no preparation for the spring; all the people on the roads, even some of the women in gangs conveying sand in baskets. Report says that there were a few sheep killed in Clydagh. There was a coroner’s inquest held in Clooniff on a poor woman found dead; verdict, died of starvation. There was an inquest the same day in Oughterard and in the parish of Ross and verdict same. These are awful times; the house is besieged by the poor looking for employment or relief. This is 20th January 1847, a long year for the poor, before any new provisions come in; what will become of them, God only knows.
5th February 1847
The Central Relief Committee sent £50 with which I purchased meal for giving it out cheaper than the Galway price. This raised the spirits of the people and gave considerable relief as far as it went; got £10 from the Bishop which was given out to the people, the opening of the school house as a store for provisions banished the heavy gloom that was coming over the parishioners. Walter Joyce Esq. of Merview gave the large sum of £1,000 to the Bishop to be distributed in his diocese; no potatoes, meal 28s a cwt, indian corn 2s-5d a stone. Employment rather general, average hire on these Public Works is 1s per day. Mr. O’Flaherty of Knockbane declares himself publicly at the Court House of Galway a Repealer and is waited upon to start for the town of Galway on the Repeal interest. Mr. Monaghan, a Whig Attorney General, is the other candidate supported by the Government. All the clergymen of Galway in favour of Mr. O’Flaherty with the exception of the West Friars, Revd Messrs. Folan and Rush. A great storm which injured the new wing of Chapel. The patience, order and deportment of the parishioners edifying under all the circumstances. Baptism for the first time administered in the Chapel. No objection on the part of the people. Mr. O’Flaherty is out by a majority of four only.
5th March 1847
There was this day the second extraordinary sessions in Oughterard. Mr. Martin of Ross, Chairman. The unfinished roads in the Barony presented for £37,000 to be expended in employing the people; no new roads allowed to be presented for. Tillage as yet quite unforwarded; all parties, landlords and tenants, anxious to employ the people on the lands and to pay them even for the improvements on the land; to this the Government is quite opposed and in this line of conduct they will persevere. These are truly awful times, on an average 8 deaths per week and had been so for the past 6 weeks.
1st May 1847
Another extraordinary session on 1st May – Mr. Blake of Furbo Chairman.
There was a disposition towards giving employment by the continuance of public works.
This was the third extraordinary session.
5th May 1847
Such is the state of the country that I have been obliged to bring three tons of meal (provision for the poor which I was selling at cost price in the school house) by Barna in order to escape the depredations of the people near Galway at Barnacrony who are rifling every species of property. No poor person can go up or down without being robbed of either meal or money. Neither religion nor the fear of the laws has any influence on them. 500 tons of provisions left Galway yesterday under a strong military escort for the eastern part of the country. I would almost say that the state of this parish would be frightful where it not for the timely relief given by the three tons above alluded to owing to the difficulty and the danger of the poor on the way from Galway. Yesterday the poor made a sort of procession through the town of Galway with a placard on a pole either “Employment of Bread” on it. No excitement or tumult, nor any sort of disturbance; it was an appeal to the rulers of this country. 4 deaths by starvation this week.
About 200 deaths this year, a frightful mortality in so healthy a parish.
Anthony O’Flaherty Esq, Knockbane, and Martin Joseph Blake returned members for the town of Galway. A public dinner given them of which Anthony O’Flaherty alone partook, an apology being sent by the latter; public illuminations on the occasion.
This promises to be a year equally as bad as the last; there has been very little potatoes set, yet the turnip crops will support the people until Christmas next. The potato blight is being as destructive as during the two preceding years. There will be a sufficiency of food up to Christmas, some will have to March and I think only about 80 families in the parish to harvest next.
We have got a fever hospital to be supported out of the Poor Rates; it takes in about 50 patients. There was a meeting of the Bishops this month to remonstrate with the Government on the immediate necessity of doing something for the people. The people are now within one step of destitution of an awful kind. About 300 died in this parish last year of famine and its consequences; the mortality in other districts far greater – in Oughterard – in Oranmore, I cannot suppose that the numbers of deaths could be fewer than a thousand in each. Galway was one, Lazarus house particularly the poor house, the number of deaths beyond counting. The people of this parish have almost given up the old custom of “Altars” a usage on which the support of the clergyman principally depended. This was owing principally to the want of means and in one or two cases to the wish of depriving the priest of this common sustenance and this undeservedly, for the priest had treble labour.
About 12 a week die. I don’t know the end of it. The mortality if frightful.