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Date Posted: 17:23:55 12/22/02 Sun
Author: John Hume, MP. MEP.
Subject: 'FAMINE' without criticism

What follows is taken from the forum An Ghorta Mór - http://voy.vcy.com/106646/


John Hume is usually more associated with political events as they affected the city of Derry and with political 'progress' in N. Ireland for which he was accorded the Nobel Peace Prizein1998. His first book, DERRY BEYOND THE WALLS, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC ASPECTS OF THE GROWTH OF DERRY 1815-1850, however is the outcome of his earlier research into the social and economic development of his native Derry at a critical phase in the middle of the 19th century.

What follows are brief extracts for those studying An Ghorta Mhor.

The Great 'Famine' and Derry

In the winter of 1846-47 potato famine began to threaten the poorer classes in Derry. The first signs of it came in December 1846 with an influx of starving beggars from different parts of the county.

The growing famine was reflected too in the rising price of corn at the Derry markets. The workhouse filled up for the first time in its existence and fever spread.

Derry's citizens acted quickly. At a public meeting in early December they formed a relief committee to ascertain the amount of distress in the town. More than 10 per cent of the total population of the city was affected by the famine.

To provide funds for relief, it was agreed that all householders with £10 or more Poor Law Valuation, should pay a voluntary assessment of six-pence in the pound, while the same rate was to be paid on rents received by landlords or owners of tenements in the city and suburbs.

Voluntary subscriptions were welcomed from anyone. By these means it was hoped to raise £1,000 quarterly. This was at the end of December 1846. By April 1847, £1,200 had already been raised.

Relief given was normally bread, oatmeal, Indian corn and fuel at reduced prices. In spite of the speed of action of the inhabitants, however, hunger spread fast.

Relief came in from America. 600 barrels of flour were shipped from New Orleans and 20 barrels of Indian corn from Philadelphia, sent by Derry emigrants for the relief of Derry's poor. Local merchants pulled their weight too.

Between January 1 and 6 1847, 25 ships docked at Derry quay, carrying thousands of barrels of flour, Indian corn, oatmeal, wheat - all immediately offered for sale to local merchants.

Thus the problems thrown up by the famine in Derry City were tackled energetically by all concerned - citizens, clergy, businessmen. Inside four months therefore the relief committee had managed to bring under control the shock of famine in the city.

Transcribed from the IRISH NEWS (double-page feature) Thursday, December 19, 2002.

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