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Re: Social history in Western Ireland..question...

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Posted by joxer on November 04, 2003 at 21:31:21:

In Reply to: Social history in Western Ireland..question... posted by Kelly Timlin on November 04, 2003 at 14:11:10:

In relation to your question as to how the poor dressed themselves in North Mayo circa 1800's?
Many had only rags to drape themselves with and the amount of cover they had depended on the amount of rags they could acquire.The Poor Law Inquiry in the 1830's gives an insight into the "conditions of the population". Extracts from this report in relation to North Mayo have been I think, published by the Ballina Historical Society and other historical bodies.
There had been three serious famine periods in the 1800's prior to the major famine 1845/49 which badly effected this area and in any year during the "Meal" months when the potato crop was still growing, survival for many often depended on the charity of their fellow poor.Beggars were numerous on the roads collecting food where they could;this food was then shared with some family who in turn gave them shelter during the night.There was in fact a whole complex system of sharing and shelter.The conditions that the poor lived in were appaling and many observers describe many of these hovels as little more than shelter from the elements with no beds ,chairs, tables and so on.Bedding often consisted of straw on the ground Some did not even have a chimney, the smoke exit being through the door.Women in rural areas did not as a rule wear shoes, men did if they could afford them.Some extracts from the report describe : A sick father whose tattered rags were divided up between his wife and children- when he recovered he had nothing to wear; A man who wore no shoes for a number of years; A man attending the "Stations" with the same tattered suit worn by his brother earlier.It is reported that women in North Mayo wandering the roads gathered wool from briars left by sheep, in order to be able to spin enough to provide some kind of cover.No workhouses existed in this period; so people in this area with it's poor marginal bog land north of Crossmolina survived often on the edge of starvation and there is plenty of evidence that many did not survive.These were in many instances those that had not the means to migrate elsewhear.The destitute did not have money for ship fare so their choice was limited.
George Nicholls, Esq who subbmited the report in 1836 to the British Government, added his own comments on beggars,in the section dealing with MENDICANCY.
"A mass of filth, nakedness, and misery, is constantly moving about, entering every house, addressing itself to every eye, and soliciting from every hand: and much of the dirty and indolent habits observable in the cabins, clothing, and general conduct of the peasantry, may probably be traced to this source; and I doubt even if those above the class of laboures altoghter escape the taint. Mendicancy and wretchedness have become too common to be disgraceful. It is not disreputable to beg, or to appear wretchedly clothed, or to be without any of the decencies of life:" His comments reflected a view held by many establishment figures at the time of the poor.
The amount of time the bould George spent in Ireland was limited but he was a great believer in the Workhouse and the Treadmill as a cure for begging.I dont think there were many treadmills in the Workhouses in Ireland compared to England but he did get Workhouses built which was not what the report said was required.
When the Gorta Mor arrived in 1845 Workhouses had little effect and the people of North Mayo were some of the most helpless with many gone by 1850.

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