The Famine at Ross Castle

By Paul Gibbons

Ross Castle and Grounds

Excerpt from ‘Irish Memories: The Martins of Ross’ by Violet Florence Martin, 1917:

“A month or two later the cold fear for the safety of the potatoes fell again upon the people; the paralysing certainty followed. The green stalks blackened, the potatoes turned to black slime, and the avalanche of starvation, fever and death fell upon the country. It was in the winter of 1847, ‘the black 47’, as they called it, when Robert [her brother] was in his second year, that the horror was at its worst, and before hope had kindled again his ears must have known with their first understanding the weak voice of hunger and the moan of illness among the despairing creatures who flocked for aid into the yard and the long downstairs passages of Ross. Many stories of that time remain among the old tenants; of the corpses buried where they fell by the roadside, near Ross Gate; of the coffins made of loose boards tied around with a hay rope. None, perhaps, is more pitiful than that of a woman who walked fifteen miles across a desolate moor, with a child in her arms and a child by her side, to get the relief that she heard was to be had at Ross. Before she reached the house the child in her arms was dead; she carried it into the kitchen and sank on the flags. When my aunt spoke to her she found that she had gone mad; reason had stopped in that whelming hour, like the watch of a drowned man.”

This page was added on 22/01/2013.

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