Enquiring into the condition of the poorer classes in Ireland 1835

Widows with young children

By The Culture and Heritage Group

Persons  Who  Attended  The  Examination.—Patrick Burke, esq., J. P.; Damesfield ; Owen Clarke, small landholder; Patrick Fox, formerly brazier, now a labourer ; Mr. John Gerraghty, shopkeeper; Peter Joyce, labourer; Redmond Kelly, mason; Rev. Dr. Kirwan, roman-catholic rector; Anthony Martin, esq., J. P., Currariva; John M’Donogh, housekeeper; M. M’Donogh, labourer; Richard M’Donogh, farmer; Denis M’Grath, formerly shopkeeper, now a butcher; Mr. John M’Kew, under agent to Mr. Martin; Captain O’Flaherty, J. P., Lemonfield; George O’Flaherty, esq., Lemonfield; John Sweeney, carpenter; Rev. John Wilson, protestant vicar.

All the widows living in a limited district

In order to form an accurate estimate of the proportion of those amongst this class of the community who are able to support themselves, or are either in part or altogether dependant on their relations or neighbours, the following examination has been made into the circumstances and situation of all the widows living in a limited district. The village of Outerard was chosen, without any reference to its comparative poverty or comfort, nor was it until the several instances narrated had been gone through that the witnesses expressed their opinion, that, if anything, this was not a fair specimen of the condition of the entire parish; the difference consisted in there being some trifling advantages belonging to the poor of Outerard above those of the average of villages in the neighbourhood.

By this enumeration it appears, that in a village containing 114 families there are 22 widows; of these six are entirely dependant on [their relations for support, and two partly so maintained ; eight live upon the bounty of their neighbours, and one is assisted by their charity to support herself, and four maintain themselves altogether by their own industry. There are seven who have families of young children ; of the whole number not more than half can be said to be removed above abject want, and but five enjoy any degree of comfort.

1. “Mary Kelly is 45 or 50 years of age; is 11 years a widow; has four children, two sons, the eldest of whom is only 13, and two daughters, the eldest of whom is 14. She lives in a small cabin built for her by an officer who was quartered here ; she has no plot nor potato ground, and pays no rent; she is quite unable to work in a field, and has no earnings. She had some good days in her father’s house, who was a comfortable farmer, and lived pretty well before her husband died ; she is now depending on her friends for her support. The land they held being too dear, all they had was canted, and they were obliged to fly, and though she does not carry a bag, she goes to the neighbours’ houses to ask for relief.”

” The family are very badly clothed, and are often stinted in their food, and I fear they will be worse off before a year goes round.”— (Clarke.)

2. ” Mary Commons is 70 years of age, is 10 years a widow, and has no children living with her. She has two daughters married, who are in a low state, and unable to do any thing for her. She cannot earn anything for herself, and still she does not beg publicly, though we do not see that she has any better means. She has no house, but a few sticks put up against the gable end of an old house that lately fell in, and many a better shed is made for pigs; a tall man could not stand up in it; there is neither hearth nor window, and a wattle thrown across serves for the door. She appears to get her health very well, and I do not know how she can, lying on a wisp of straw without any covering.”—(Clarke.)

” She is old and feeble, but healthy (J. M’Donagh ;) only she is of a hardy race of people she would not live at all in it.”— (R. M’Donagh.)—” She has two sons, who are no help to her. Her children’s houses are little better than her own, and unless she happens to come in at meal-time she gets nothing from them.”—(Fox.)

3. ” Mary Manly is 60 years of age, and never had any children. She is three or four years a widow. She held three acres ofland, for which she paid no rent, having a freehold lease. She now has neither house nor land, since she was turned out last May. While she had a house she kept lodgings, and lived very comfortable. She is now very low, and could not be much worse off. She sold the most of her furniture, and must sell the rest. She is depending upon charity now. She is now in Dublin, looking for law; she went there on foot, to show her lease to the chancellor.”

4. ” Mary Halloran is 45 years of age, and has five children, the eldest of whom is only 14 years old; they all live with her, and she tries to support them by washing, which is the only means she has of earning. Her brother, a man who gets only petty jobs, helps her; she is not as badly off as some others are, but she is worse off than those who beg; for they get in one place or another, but she would scorn to ask alms.”—(Fox.)

” I do not know how she rubs through at all.”—(E. O’Flagherty.)

5. ” Bridget Sullivan is 70 years of age, and has five or six children, all of whom-are married; as yet she is entirely supported by her children, and gets no assistance from any other person. She has no house, and goes, turn about, to each of them.

6. ” Catherine Walsh has two sons, one of whom is not able to earn a fraction, the other can earn 8d. a day whenever he gets employment; nothing would please him better than hard work if he could get it, but he cannot, and is oftener idle than employed; they count themselves very well off any day they get two meals. They have a right to be much better off now than they were some time ago, for he has constant employment for the last two months. She lives in a small cabin, and holds no land, and they have nothing to subsist upon but his 8d. a day as often as he can get it.”—(Kelly.)

7. ” Mary Lee is 70 years of age, and 12 years a widow. She has no children ; she has no house now; she once had, but it was taken from her two years after her husband’s death. She is now in a most miserable state of want; and is hardly able to cross the road she is so weak; she has too genteel a manner to be a common beggar. She intrudes upon the neighbours, with whom she was once acquainted; they know what she wants, and never wait for her to ask it. She generally stops three or four nights in each house.”—(Fox.)—” She has hardly so much clothes as would screen her.”—(Kelly.)—” She is not the least use in any house into which she goes; I know, for I had her nine years in my own house, being loath to turn her out, as I bought the house she lived in. I never made any difference between her and my own family, though she was unable to do any thing, except to make down a fire, and never brought any thing into my house unless a piece of tobacco, or a grain of tea; and if she came a night now she would be as welcome as ever.”—(Clarke.)

8. “Mary M’Donagh is 60 years of age, has a house of her own, and is comfortably supported by her son.”

9. ” Catherine Burk is between 70 and 60 years of age ; has neither son or daughter, brother or sister; she is supported by going from house to house among the neighbours.”

10. ” Sally Cane is as poor as she can be ; she is 60 years of age, and has no children; she sometimes stops with her brother, who is himself poor enough, but is chiefly supported by her neighbours, and goes about from house to house. She is as badly off as any widow in the parish. New South Wales would be a good birth for half of them.”—(Fox.)

11. “Bridget Keating has one son, who is 13 years of age ; she has a cabin, but has no ground, not even a garden; she is able to do a little work for Miss Geogehan, by whom she is chiefly supported; she never goes from house to house.”

12. ” Widow Cooney is 50 years of age; has three children, two boys and one girl. The elder son renders her some assistance, the others being young, are not able. She is supported chiefly by the visitors and strangers who go to see the spa.”—R. MDonagh.)

13. ” Widow Curly is very poor, and is unable to work; she keeps a lodging house, but it is not half support to her. A good house will get very few lodgers, and hers is only a poor one. Her daughter gives her some assistance.”—(J. M’Donagh.)

14. ” Sally Walsh is not in distress; she has two sons in constant work.”—(Denis Magrath.)

5. ” Widow M’Gauley is 50 years of age; is reduced low enough, but is tolerably comfortable when compared with others. She carries on little traffic.”—(Clarke.)

1(5. ” Widow Joyce is 70 years of age; she lives with her son, who is very well off. She looks bare enough, but I believe she has enough to eat.”—(J. M’Donagh.)

17. ” Mary Kelly is 45 years of age; is handy at the needle, and very industrious; she has one son, a little boy, whom she supports; she has no land, and will be thrown out of her little cabin immediately.”—(Denis M’Grath.)

18. “Bridget M’Donagh is 30 years of age, and is two years a widow; she has one child; her husband was servant to Mr. Martin. She sometimes stops in her father’s house, and, I believe, would always, but her step-mother would not allow her; she goes in and out to the neighbours, and lives mostly upon them.”—(Clarke.)

19. ” Mary Cooney has two children, one six and the other three years of age; her father supports her and them.”— (J. M’Donagh.)

20. ” Mary Carr is supported partly by carrying eggs to Galway and selling them, and partly by the assistance of the neighbours.”—(Denis Magrath.)

” The poor widows living in the country are positively worse off than those in the towns. In towns they have many chances, but the creatures in the country have none.”—(Clarke.)

” All these are of the town; it would take us a year and a day to count all the widows in the parish.”—(Fox.)

” No man, except one having an old lease, could lay up anything for his widow or for old age. In other cases there is no chance of it.”—(R. M’Donagh.)

” Mrs. Walsh is nine years a widow; has five children; hereldest son is 24, her second 18 years of age; her son is a labourer, and got only 6s. to earn this year, he got that from Dr.

Davis and Dr. Kiernan.”—(R. M’Doyiagh.) ” She is as

much distressed as any widow in the parish; her case is by no means singular; the only difference between her and others being that she has sons able to work if they got work to do, and others have not. She holds half an acre of land, on which her husband built a small mill, and though her rent is only 1/. a year, yet from the scarcity of work she was unable to pay it.”—(John M’Donagh.)

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