* Home * Loney home * Life & career * Documents * Album * Ships * Portrait * Uniform * Background * * Search this site * 
William Loney RN - Background

Home-Loney-Documents-Letter book  

The British Association for the relief of the extreme Distress in Ireland & Scotland, for which William Loney had acted as an agent in 1847, wound up its affairs at the end of 1848, and produced a final report for its subscribers. The following is the main texual part of this report, which also contained detailed tables concerning the use of the monies received and of the help rendered.


Front page

At the expiration of two years from the commencement of their labours, the Committee of the British Relief Association find the funds entrusted to them expended, and their operations consequently brought to a close. It remains for them to present a statement which will show the application of the money subscribed, and the results which that application has secured.

It is entirely unnecessary in this place to enter into details respecting the distress of which it was the object of the Association to alleviate the rigours. The statements which went forth upon the subject before the Committee commenced their operations, excited throughout the country sympathy of the liveliest character. Charity the most unbounded was ready to open the hand of succour to the sufferers, and nothing appeared wanting but a competent machinery for administering the public munificence. The Committee which was formed in London to supply this deficiency, was composed of men of every variety of opinion, religious and political. It commenced its operations by the publication of an address, setting forth the objects for which the Association had been formed, and the principles which would guide the Committee in the distribution of the monies raised.

The response which this appeal received was as prompt as the emergency required. Her Majesty the Queen immediately directed that her name should be placed at the head of a list of donors for a contribution of 2,000l., with a most gracious promise of such further amount as the exigency might demand: and the example was liberally followed by every member of the Royal Family, including His Majesty the King of Hanover.

A circular, issued by the Right Hon. the Lord Mayor of London to the chief magistrates of the provincial cities and boroughs of England and Wales, met with an equally ready response. Public meetings were called in several important towns; subscription lists were opened at nearly all the Banks and principal mercantile establishments of the country; and these lists afford conclusive evidence of the anxiety of Englishmen, whatever their sphere or station, to contribute, to the utmost extent of their means, towards the relief of their suffering fellow-subjects.

At a subsequent period, the subjects of the Crown of Great Britain, scattered not only in the colonies, but in foreign states, entered into public subscriptions for the same purpose. Nor were the contributions limited to British subjects. In the list of donors will be found the name of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, a subscriber of 1,000l., whose munificent example was followed in his own and other states by many, whose sole ties with the people of Great Britain were those of sympathy, humanity, and the brotherhood of mankind.

In arranging for the distribution of the funds thus liberally placed at their disposal, the Committee were relieved of a great share of the responsibility which would have immediately devolved upon them, by the prompt and systematic exertions which were made by the resident landowners and others in Scotland. The failure of the staple crop of food in the western Highlands and Islands of that country was as great as that which occurred in the sister kingdom. Mr. Macleod, of Macleod, wrote, on the 2d January, 1847, "Not a potato remains: our sole reliance is on imported meal." Mr. Fox Maule and Sir Edward Coffin, the latter of whom had been appointed by the Government to investigate and report as to the state of these districts, fully confirmed all the local accounts which were received. The Board, in consequence of its communications with these gentlemen, and with Her Majesty’s Government, agreed that one-sixth of the entire amount subscribed should be appropriated to the relief of distress in Scotland. Two Committees had already been formed in that country for relief purposes, — one at Edinburgh, and the other at Glasgow; and as these Associations were in co-operation, it was thought that the funds applicable to Scotland could not be more satisfactorily applied than by placing them at the disposal of these Committees. In order, however, that the interests of Scotland might receive due attention at the Board in London, the names of the Earl of Dalhousie and Mr. Arthur Kinnaird were added to the Committee of the British Association; and the latter gentleman undertook, at the request of the Committee generally, the transaction of the ordinary business connected with that country.

The first act of the Committee, with respect to Ireland, was, to put itself into communication with Her Majesty’s principal Secretary of State, with a view of obtaining that assistance from the Irish Government, and that co-operation on the part of the Crown Officers employed throughout the country in the service of the Commissariat, which was conceived to be most desirable for the successful conduct of measures of relief. At this period there were upwards of 1,000 Local Relief Committees established in different parts of Ireland, under the superintendence of the Commissariat, whose functions were, to purchase supplies of food for sale at the current market price, and also to give gratuitous aid in cases of extreme destitution. The Committee believed that, whilst they preserved their own freedom of action, they might yet avail themselves of this machinery so as to afford relief more promptly, widely, and safely, than could be effected in any other way.

Application Papers were drawn up for the use of these Local Committees, and transmitted to the Irish Government, in order that they might be put in the hands of the Commissariat Officers acting in the various districts in Ireland, to be distributed among those Committees which might require to make application to the Board. In reply to the numerous appeals which now began to pour in upon the Committee by each post from all parts of Ireland, one of these papers was immediately forwarded to the applicant, with a request that it might be filled up by the Relief Committee of the district, and transmitted through the Inspecting Commissariat Officer, or the chief department of that service in Dublin, for report upon the merits of the case; and this regulation was invariably enforced.

The Committee laid down the following general rules for their guidance in making grants from the fund.
1. That all grants should be in food, and not in money.
2. That no grant should be placed at the disposal of an individual for private distribution.
3. That the grants from the fund should be exclusively for gratuitous distribution.

It was in some cases found difficult to adhere strictly to the first rule; for, although the Committee were at this time sending large supplies of food to Ireland, and establishing depôts round the coast, and also had permission to draw, to a certain extent, from the Government stores, still there were many applications from districts so situated in the interior as to render it impossible for the applicants to obtain provisions from any of those stations. These applications it was found impossible to refuse, and in such instances, small amounts of money were voted. It will be seen, however, on reference to the Balance Sheet, that they were made to a very small extent; indeed, as the season advanced, and as additional depôts of the Association were arranged, it was found practicable altogether to discontinue them.

Such being the system on which it was determined to grant assistance, and the conditions on which it was to be afforded, the Committee proceed to detail the steps which were taken to relieve, as far as possible, the horrible misery prevailing in the sister kingdom: —The article of subsistence almost exclusively relied on by the great bulk of the people of that country was gone. Nor was this deficiency supplied by any other article of human sustenance. Grain had reached a famine price, and a very limited quantity only was to be found in the markets. The Committee felt that their first great object must be to assist in supplying the country with the provisions which it would be their duty to dispense.

At the period referred to there was no absolute want of money in Ireland; the Local Relief Committees had raised during the season from subscriptions 199,470l., to which Government had added 189,000l. in donations from the public purse. The amount of money which was flowing into the country from other channels cannot accurately be estimated, but it is well known to have been very considerable. Various charitable associations were distributing with a liberal hand. The Clergy were making great exertions among their wealthier English friends. A case is recorded of a Clergyman labouring in a parish of 10,000 souls, in the south-west of Ireland, who received privately 1,000l. supplied by benevolent Englishmen. In more than one instance wealthy families in this country had taken an entire parish under their especial care; and many Clergymen were known to be remitting sums of 20l. or 30l. weekly, from collections amongst their congregations, to districts and to brother Clergy in the sister island. In addition to this, the poor, who were employed oh the public works in great numbers, were receiving wages from the public purse. At this time 570,000 persons were in receipt of such wages, a number which gradually increased in the month of March to no less than 734,000. The wages received by these labourers were higher than the average rate of wages in the country. What was wanted was food, and more especially cheap food. To this subject the Committee directed their earliest attention. A Sub-Committee, consisting of the Baron Lionel de Rothschild, Mr. Thomas Baring, Mr. Thomson Hankey, jun., Mr. Henry Barnewall, Mr. Cummins, and Mr. Carleton, was appointed, to regulate the purchase and shipment of provisions, and the formation of depôts round the coast and in the interior of the country. The SubCommittee arranged with the Government to place at their disposal a war steamer for the speedy shipment of provisions to Ireland, and by dint of great exertions on the part of all concerned, H.M.S. Dragon, the vessel appointed for the service, was enabled to leave the Thames for the south-west coast of Ireland with a full cargo of flour and peas so early as the 16th of January. The provisions shipped by this vessel were purchased by Messrs. Erichsen, who generously refused to make any charge for commission; and the assistance and advice of that firm were afforded to the Provision Committee gratuitously during the whole period of their long-continued labours. This shipment was immediately followed by others. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company placed the Royal Tar at the disposal of the Committee, free of all charge. The Messrs. Rothschild devoted to this service two of their vessels. The Dublin Steam Packet Company afforded the Committee the use of their steamer the Pearl, upon payment of her ordinary expenses. To such acts of liberality as these it is necessary only for the Committee to draw attention; they cannot fail to secure the well-deserved thanks and commendation of the nation. Freight was secured weekly by the SubCommittee in the Cork steamers, and other vessels were hired and despatched with grain; H. M.’s steamer Urgent was laden at Liverpool, for the supply of the north-west coast of Ireland ; and H. M.’s steamer Scourge was sent round to Bristol, where a local Committee, acting in concert with the British Association, undertook to load her for the south coast from funds entirely raised by subscription in that city and its neighbourhood.

In connexion with these shipments, the Committee must not omit to mention the great assistance afforded them by the North-Western, Great Western, and South-Western Railway Companies, who, with much liberality, undertook to convey along their lines, free of cost, the provisions purchased by the Association in the London markets. In forwarding large quantities of provisions for shipment at Liverpool, the Committee availed itself very largely of this act of liberality on the part of the North-Western Company. It should also be mentioned that Her Majesty’s Government undertook to defray all expenses entered into by the Committee on account of freight, insurance, and shipping charges, in order that the charity of the British public might reach the famine-stricken peasantry free from every deduction.

It has already been stated that the first shipment of provisions by H. M. S. Dragon was made to the south-west coast of Ireland. The frightful accounts of destitution and pestilence existing in the Skibbereen and Skull districts, must still be fresh in the public memory. Capt. Harston, R.N., was, on the 11th January, despatched by the Committee to superintend the distribution of the supplies forwarded to these districts. Orders were at the same time issued by the Admiralty to Admiral Sir Hugh Pigot, commanding on the Irish station, to consider the operations of the Committee as closely connected with those of Her Majesty’s Government, and that officer was requested to furnish the Committee and their agents with every assistance they might require in store-room, ships, &c. With such valuable co-operation, Capt. Harston was enabled quickly to form depôts of food round this barren and at that time almost inaccessible shore, and, ultimately, to organize no less than fourteen such stations, extending, at nearly equal distances, from Cork to Kenmare. Before the establishment of these stations, Relief Committees and others had, in many cases, to send even as far as Cork for a single sack of meal, land carriage was difficult and uncertain, and freight could scarcely be procured at any price; the great utility of these small depôts is therefore obvious. A large depôt was, at the same time, formed at Haulbowline, under the charge of Lieutenant Wentworth, R.N., in order that provisions might be always in readiness for the supply of these small stations; and a store was opened at Cork for the benefit of the districts in the immediate vicinity of that city. For this purpose, the Messrs. Cummins, with much liberality, afforded the use of a warehouse, and the assistance of their clerks for keeping the necessary accounts, free of all charge.

Capt. Harston’s district comprised the western part of the county of Cork and the southern division of the county of Kerry. The measures adopted by him for the relief of the poor people are narrated in the extracts from his correspondence. Those measures fully answered the object in view; the sufferings of the peasantry were alleviated, and by his judicious and careful management supplies of food were placed within the reach of the Relief Committees in the more distressed districts, so as to hinder the terrible misery which existed from extending itself still more widely on these shores.

The appointment of Captain Harston was followed by that of other agents. On the 20th of January, the Count de Strzelecki, a Polish gentleman, placed his services at the disposal of the Board. Count de Strzelecki was requested to proceed to Dublin, and after communicating with the Irish Government, and collecting such information as might be useful to him in the prosecution of his labours, to direct his course to the counties Donegal, Mayo, and Sligo, and, finally, to meet H.M.S. Urgent at Westport, and make arrangements for the distribution of the cargoes of provisions which the Committee might be enabled to despatch to that coast.

The condition of the district to which Count Strzelecki was appointed, will be found, though very painfully, but too truly detailed in the extracts which are given from his Reports. A few weeks after his appointment, in writing from Westport, he says: —
"No pen can describe the distress by which I am surrounded. It has actually reached such a degree of lamentable extremes, that it becomes above the power of exaggeration and misrepresentation. You may now believe anything which you hear and read, because what I actually see surpasses what I ever read of past and present calamities."

In the same documents will be found an account of the arrangements that were made for the relief of this extreme destitution. Cargoes of provisions were despatched by the Committee to the various ports on the coast; and the Government depôts were strengthened as far as possible, in order to meet the calls of the Association.

The representations made to the Committee of the peculiarly distressed condition of Belmullet, and the barony of Erris, at a subsequent period, determined them to appoint a special Agent to that part of this district. Count Strzelecki, on his arrival at Westport, had his attention directed to this locality; and, in his Report of the 10th of February, he affords information of the arrangements made by him for the relief of the poor peasantry of the barony, and at the same time, of the great difficulties which, from local circumstances, attended any systematic plan of relief.

"Here, I have found generally the most melancholy and deplorable destitution. The nature of that destitution is greatly increased by local circumstances * * * by a population of 25,000 souls, spread over an area of 400 square miles, without a town, commerce, or industry, without one private granary, without one single mill, and without one private wholesale or retail shop of provisions. Again, the only existing market, Belmullet, at which the Commissariat located and opened its depôt of meal for sale, being situated at the western extremity of the barony, renders it incumbent upon those of the poor who are employed, on public works to the north, east, and south, and who receive wages, to walk twenty or thirty miles for the purchase of food; which circumstance, considering the distance and the severity of the weather, is contributing its share towards the exhausting of men’s strength as well as their time."

Mr. M.J. Higgins, having offered his services to the Committee to visit this district, left London early in the month of March, in one of Her Majesty’s steamers, appointed to convey the seed purchased by the Association to Ireland. Mr. Higgins worked with untiring energy for nearly two months. Soup kitchens were established by him in convenient situations, and the wants of the poor were attended to as far as possible. Two hundred and fifty families in the town of Belmullet were supplied with their daily food from the two boilers erected there; and four other boilers were erected in various parts of the barony. The Reports furnished to the Committee by Mr. Higgins, will show I the results of his mission, and the benefits which that mission conferred upon the poor of the district.

Other offers of gratuitous service quickly succeeded that of Count Strzelecki. Early in the month of February, Lord Robert Clinton placed his services at the disposal of the Association, for the purpose of visiting any part of Ireland. This offer was followed by a similar one from Lord James Butler. These gentlemen had, during the winter, visited the Skibbereen district together, and were, therefore, not unacquainted with the character of the distress which was afflicting the country. The counties of Galway, Clare, Limerick, and North Kerry, were placed under their joint care. Lord James Butler undertook the charge of that portion north of the Shannon, and Lord Robert Clinton the southern district; and cargoes of provisions were immediately forwarded by the Committee to Tarbert, Tralee, Limerick, Kilrush, and Galway, for distribution, and sale to Relief Committees,

By these appointments it may be said that the whole western coast of Ireland was placed under the care of zealous and able Agents. To the names of these gentlemen, however, should be added that of Captain Whitmore, who, about the same period, made the Committee a similar offer of service. An extensive district, comprising the eastern division of the County of Cork, the County of Waterford, and the south of Tipperary, was placed under this gentleman’s supervision. In consequence of a strong recommendation proceeding from Her Majesty’s Government early in the month of January, and of the representations made to the Committee of the increase of destitution, even in the better cared for districts of Waterford, Wexford, and Wicklow, depôts had already been formed round this coast. Mr. Foster, R.N., had also been appointed by the Committee to take charge of such cargoes as could conveniently be sent to this district. The Reports of both these officers bear evidence of the good effected by the establishment of the depots, and of the eagerness with which the Relief Committees welcomed the supplies.

It had long been felt by the Committee that the large and important district under the charge of Count Strzelecki, was of too extended a range. The great increase in the subscriptions, and the notification of Her Majesty’s Government that the Collection made under the Queen’s Letter would be entrusted to the Association, enabled the Committee to make arrangements for its subdivision, and, accordingly, early in April, the County of Donegal was placed under the charge of Captain Lewis Jones, R.N. Captain Parker, R.N., was at the same time appointed Agent for the Counties of Roscommon and Longford; and Dr. Loney, R.N., to the Counties of Sligo and Leitrim, and the Barony of Boyle.

Mention has been made of the large number of labourers employed on the public works. In the month of March this number had increased to no less than 734,000, representing, on a moderate average, upwards of 3,000,000 of persons. The reports of the Agents of the Association show, that even shopkeepers and others were, in some districts, so employed, and that proprietors were obliged to engage female labour on their land, so universally did the male population flock to the Government road-making. In consequence of this state of affairs, and the approach of the season of tillage, the Government gave directions that, on the 20th of March, twenty per cent, of the number then on the lists should be struck off, and that successive reductions should take place, proportioned to the progress made in bringing into operation in each district the new system of relief by rations, in lieu of money wages heretofore almost unknown.

To obviate, in some degree, the difficulties with which so great a reduction of the number of persons receiving the public wages could not but be attended, the Committee issued an order to their Agents to direct their special attention to the effects of this measure, with the view, if necessary, to extend the relief of the Association still more widely in any district which, from local circumstances and the little private demand for labour, might be found under severe pressure; and the Agents were also authorized, if they found it practicable, to establish subordinate Agencies in such districts, in order that the supplies of the Association might be placed more readily within reach of the people. At the same time, credits were placed at the disposal of each Agent, amounting collectively to 30,000l., and applicable to one month’s relief. These credits were frequently renewed, and the Committee has reason to believe that this measure tended to mitigate the pressure.

The advisability of sending a supply of seed to Ireland was at the same period brought under the consideration of the Committee, and they were strongly urged to send cargoes for sale at prime cost to the western districts. Her Majesty’s Government placed four powerful war-steamers at the disposal of the Association for this mission, and offered to take the entire charge of any cargoes the Committee might think proper to send, rendering a strict account of the sales, &c. The sum of 18,000l. was accordingly invested in seed. The hired steamer Doris left the river at the end of the month of March, with a full cargo of seed oats, and this shipment was followed immediately by Her Majesty’s steamers Terrible, Dragon, Odin, and Avenger, which were all despatched with full cargoes. The South-Western Railway Company conveyed the seed destined for shipment at Portsmouth by these vessels along their line free of all charge. It is satisfactory to be enabled to report that the cargoes sold well. The seed was of a superior quality, and the crops raised from it were reported to the Committee to be very luxuriant and flourishing.

The new Government measure of relief was gradually superseding the old system. By it relief was afforded to the distressed in food. A Relief Committee was appointed in every electoral division to superintend its action, and a Finance Committee was required to control the expenditure of each Union. Lists were made out by the Electoral Division Committees, of the persons requiring relief, and those lists were transmitted for revision by Inspecting Officers appointed by the Relief Commissioners to watch over the affairs of the Union. The tests applied were, the personal attendance at the place of distribution by all parties requiring relief, and the issue to them of cooked food.

On the 5th May, Count de Strzelecki reported that the Act was in full operation in every Electoral Division of the Westport Union, and that he considered it advisable the relief of the Association to the Union should be discontinued. By the Government measure of relief every really destitute person was entitled to daily rations; and, therefore, as the Act gradually came into operation in the distressed Unions of the west of Ireland, the necessity for the intervention of the Association ceased to exist.

In the month of July, upwards of 3,000,000 persons were daily supplied with food from this source, and the Act was in full operation in 1,800 Electoral Divisions. The Committee had previously, in the month of May, issued a circular to their Agents, making inquiries as to the operation of the Act; and finding that there were no special reasons for continuing the relief of the Association in any of the districts in which those Agents were stationed, determined on their recall, and the suspension of operations.

By the end of June the Agents had all been withdrawn. Orders were at the same time issued for the gradual closing the depôts. The Committee, however, in issuing these orders, and bringing the relief from the fund to an end, at the same time made provision for the due discharge of their trust in any district in which peculiar distress might exist. Count de Strzelecki had very generously offered to continue his services to the Association, and in the month of June he was deputed by the Committee to act for them as Central Agent for Ireland, making Dublin his head quarters, in order that the Association might more immediately be in communication with the Irish Government and the Relief Commissioners, and that the fund, might be made available for the relief of any very peculiarly distressed districts.

The success of the Government measure in relieving the distress of the people was, however, such as to prevent any calls being made upon the Association; and during the months of July, August, and September the grants were of a very limited amount. The sum of 1,000l. was placed at the disposal of the Central Board of Health, to be expended in medical relief to the sick poor, and 500l. was expended in turnip seed, an article in great demand amongst the cottier farmers, for gratuitous distribution in the distressed parts of the County of Mayo.

It will be observed, on reference to the grant tables, that the operations of the Association have divided into two periods. During the first period, from the 1st of January to the 1st of October, 1847, the direct grants to Relief Committees, &c. in Ireland amounted in round numbers to 100,000l.; provisions to the amount of 176,000l. were imported by the Association into the country; these were sold to Relief Committees, or granted free; and, in addition to this, the sum of 56,000l. was paid in money to Her Majesty’s Government for food taken from Government depôts, and applied by the Association to the relief of the people. The sum of 18,000l. was also invested in seed sent to Ireland, and the direct money grants to various charitable Associations amounted altogether to rather more than 14,000l.

The numerous resolutions of thanks from the Finance Committees of various Unions, and the letters of acknowledgment and gratitude from Chairmen of Relief Committees, from Clergymen of all denominations, and from the gentry of the country, which were addressed to the Committee, afford the most satisfactory evidence that this large expenditure was not unproductive of the desired result.

At the commencement of the month of August, 1847, the Committee found itself with a clear cash balance of 160,000l. It now became necessary that they should consider deliberately upon the manner in which this money could be most beneficially applied during the ensuing winter.

The Government had determined to abandon the system of relief through the public works, and to try the efficacy of a more extended and vigorous administration of the Poor Law. The transition from the one system to the other, it was obvious, would be attended with considerable difficulty, out of which much additional pressure of a temporary character might probably arise. The attention of the Committee was now directed to this new cause of distress, and it was strongly urged upon them that their remaining funds could in no other way be so beneficially employed as in the effort to alleviate the difficulties and sufferings which might be connected with the change in the system of Government relief.

Mr. (now Sir Charles) Trevelyan wrote to the Chairman of the Association, on the 20th of August, "I recommend that you should not form any new independent machinery, which you might find difficult to manage, and which would produce the impression that the lavish charitable system of last season was intended to be renewed; but that you should select, through the Poor Law Commissioners, a certain number of Unions in which there is reason to believe that the ratepayers will not be able to meet their liabilities, and that you should appropriate from time to time such sums as the Poor Law Commissioners may recommend for the purpose of assisting in giving out-door relief in certain districts of these Unions, the expenditure for this object being under the special superintendence of the Assistant Poor Law Commissioners, who would take care that no misappropriation took place. This plan is substantially the same as that which was last recommended by Count de Strzelecki, and it would be attended with the double advantage of limiting the relief afforded by the Association to those parts of the country which are undoubtedly the most distressed, and of supporting and strengthening the administration of the Poor Law, which is the great point of all. The further condition should be annexed, that the Poor Law Commissioners should be able to certify that the ratepayers were making such exertions as could reasonably be expected from them; and then I think every practicable security will have been taken that the bounty of which the Association is the organ will have been bestowed aright."

After much deliberation, the Committee, on the 26th August, passed the following resolutions.
1.That the Committee is prepared to act upon recommendation contained in Mr. Trevelyan’s letter read at the last meeting of the Board, in giving temporary out-door relief in those Unions or districts of Unions, in which there is good reason to apprehend that the rate-payers may not be able immediately to meet their liabilities, and in which, therefore, extreme distress may arise.
2.That Mr. Trevelyan be requested to obtain from the proper authorities in Ireland a list of those unions in which it is expected that distress of the character described is most likely to exist; and also to instruct Sir Randolph Routh to prepare depôts of rye meal in whatever he may deem to be the proper localities in Ireland, from which relief in food may be afforded by the Association to the districts in question.
3.That as it is the object of the Committee to extend relief to those parts of Ireland which may be unquestionably the most distressed, and especially to mitigate the evils which may temporarily arise during the period in which the new Poor Law may be only partially or incompletely established, it is desirable that the Committee, in selecting the proper cases for its interference, should as far as possible be aided by the recommendation of the Poor Law Commissioners, and that the application of the relief afforded by the Association should be superintended by the Assistant Poor Law Commissioners, calling to their aid, and associating with themselves wherever practicable, a limited number of the most respectable inhabitants of each district to which assistance from the Association may he afforded.

In accordance with the request made in the 2d resolution of the Board, at the end of the month of September, a list of the following twenty-two Unions were transmitted to the Committee:—
Kenmare, Skibbereen, Bantry, Cahercireen, Tralee, Kilrush, Scariff, Galway, Clifden, Westport, Ballina, Castlebar, Ballinrobe. Swineford, Sligo, Glenties, Milford, Ballyshannon, Donegal, Carrick-on-Shannon, Mohill, Castlerea.

These Unions represented the most distressed portions of the country (a few other Unions, as will be seen on reference to the grant tables, were subsequently added to the list), and the following arrangements were made for securing the faithful administration of the funds of the Association.
1.That to each of these Unions a separate Inspector should be appointed under the Poor Law, whose duties should be to assist the Board of Guardians in providing for the exigencies of the Union, the requirements of the poor, and the collection of rates.
2.That should all such efforts fail, and it be clearly proved that the distress of the Union really exceeded the power of relief, the officer might appeal to the Association for assistance.
3.That all the grants of the Association should be under the supervision of the Inspecting Officer, and be administered in the Electoral Divisions to which such grants may be appropriated by a Relief Committee proposed by that officer, and approved by the Lord Lieutenant.
4.That the grants made by the Association should be issued in food.

The Treasury undertook to defray the expense of providing and erecting the necessary number of ovens, in order that such food might be given to the poor in bread, instead of in stirabout or porridge, which had been chiefly issued during the former season, and depôts with supplies of rye meal were formed by Her Majesty’s Government at convenient stations throughout the western districts. (Names of stations at which depôts were formed: Achil, Athlone, Ballina, Belmullet, Carrick-on-Shannon, Castlerea, Cong, Galway, Haulbowline, Kenmare, Longford, Killibegs, Sligo)

In the month of October, 1847, the first calls were made upon the Association for assistance under this new system, and small grants were made during that month to two or three of the more distressed Unions. Applications from this time began to be received in great numbers from all parts of the west of Ireland, and the expenditure of the Association gradually increased during each month, as will be seen by reference to Grant Table No. 4, until the final suspension of relief in the month of July, 1847. During the month of June the large sum of 45,499l. was granted to various Unions for the relief of the poor, and the expenditure during this month, for all relief purposes, may be calculated at no less than 70,000l. The advances made by the Association on the recommendation of the Poor Law Commissioners, in aid of the rates, from October to July, amounted altogether to 150,000l. The distribution of the food, and the application of the advances, were carefully and rigidly watched by the Government Inspecting Officers, and a strict account rendered to the Poor Law Commissioners of the expenditure. The testimony to the advantages derived from such grants, afforded in a letter addressed by the Poor Law Commissioners to Sir Charles Trevelyan, on the 8th July, 1848, will be the best evidence to the subscribers that this appropriation of the fund was very beneficial:—
"The Commissioners cannot but be sensible that they are under the greatest obligations, as a public body, to the British Relief Association, without whose munificent assistance the new Irish Poor Law would in some Unions of Ireland have been practically a dead letter, and thousands might have died of starvation."

Having rendered an account of one of the measures of relief adopted by the Association, it becomes necessary to report upon another system, which was originated by Count de Strzelecki, and carried into effect in twenty-seven of the poorest Unions, viz. that of daily rationing the destitute children attending schools. During the period the Count de Strzelecki was acting for the Association, in County Mayo, he had tried this system of relief at Westport with the greatest possible success. 1,300 children — 700 boys and 600 girls — attending schools in that town, were fed daily under his superintendence; and the Count there witnessed the great good which both physically and morally resulted from this relief. In one of his letters he reports that "the crowds of prowling young beggars had left the streets," and that the parents, having their children in a measure provided for, were the more encouraged themselves to seek for work.

On the 24th of October, 1847, Count de Strzelecki addressed the following letter to the Committee, bringing the subject under their consideration, and strongly urging the extension of this relief system:—

"The melancholy accounts which I receive from the provinces compel me to bring again the subject of the destitute children under your consideration.

"In my late communications I have directed your attention to the painful forms under which the life of the unhappy children presented itself to me last winter, and to the actual and future effects which the physical and moral degradation to which they are exposed through hunger and nakedness, has and will have upon the fate of the country.

"I have told you also that the Temporary Relief Act, and private and charitable donations, while meeting fully the destitution of the full-grown people, had seldom been instrumental in alleviating that of the helpless children, who, in the general run and scramble for food, have been left behind hungry by the way; and I have added that, seeing a separate distribution of food to them as necessary as that of securing them (the girls particularly) during the day from the afflicting scenes in which they have been partly spectators, partly actors, I had, with your permission and sanction, tried this separate system of relief in Westport; and, conscious that schools in general would be the most systematic and beneficial machinery for the issue of such relief, I had placed in the first instance 600 girls of the Roman Catholic persuasion under the charge of the Sisters of Charity, 700 boys of the same persuasion under the superintendence of the Catholic Dean of Westport; and then to the children thus placed, and to those I found already in two Protestant schools of Westport and Louisbourg, amounting to 160, I distributed clothing, and secured one meal daily, of which the cost averaged one-third of a penny per head.

"That this assistance afforded to children through the medium of schools, whether Protestant or Catholic, secured to the community of Westport advantages beyond those at first contemplated, is borne ont by the fact, that the Finance Committee of that Union, composed of Protestants, Presbyterians, and Catholics, with Lord Sligo as their Chairman, passed on the 16th of September a vote of thanks to the Association, in which, after acknowledging the general benefit of the assistance afforded to the Union, they conclude by stating, 'And while the wants of the destitute were thus provided for, an additional obligation was conferred upon us by the maintenance of our juvenile population in the several schools we were enabled to keep open, and thereby not alone relieve their physical wants, but extend the blessings of education so necessary to the well-being of society.'

"Now, impressed with the pending evils of destitution in the approaching winter, and with the utter inability of the Poor Law provision to afford in its outset, and in these exceptional times, all that due protection and relief which the destitute children demand; further, conscious of the injustice and mischief of applying to their case either the Workhouse test or the Vagrant Act, I have begged of you that I may be allowed to extend to other equally distressed districts in Ireland that system of separate relief which so well answered in Westport.

"The various arrangements contingent upon the above, which I transmitted to you in my late communication, and which I now will resume, consist in affording food and clothing to children through the medium of schools, and in confining the system to those of the twenty-two Unions (specified in my letter of the 11th inst.) in which such assistance will be found practicable and acceptable; and as, according to the last Resolution of the Committee, and the concurrence of Her Majesty’s Government, the above Unions will be entitled to efficient relief when such shall be claimed by the authorities, the proposed plan, therefore, as far as food goes, will consist merely in determining that one-fifth, one-sixth, or one-seventh of the food granted to each of the Unions should go for the benefit of children.

"As regards clothing, which is of paramount necessity, a few thousand pounds set apart for this object will be of the greatest charity, and, invested through the agency of the 'Dublin Ladies' Reproductive and Industrial Society,' would prove of a double benefit; for those Societies, of which the Hon. Mrs. Newcombe and Mrs. Humphrey Lloyd are the active members, have succeeded most wonderfully in fostering native industry amongst the females of Ireland, as their stores of frieze, flannels, drugget, and such like, attest, and are fully competent and capable to undertake the making and the furnishing of any articles of clothing required. And as to each of the twenty-two Unions there is being appointed a separate Inspector under the Poor Law, it will be optional with the Committee either to confine to his instrumentality alone the allocation of both food and clothing, or to associate with him one Protestant and one Catholic gentleman, and vest with them the administration of the bounty which may be granted to children.

"Finally, to ensure the Committee against the accusation or reproach that they adopted this plan of relief at my suggestion only, I may be permitted to add that I took the opinion of both Catholic and Protestant gentlemen upon the subject, and every one confessed that in these extraordinary and exceptional times, when nakedness and hunger amongst children threaten them with most severe suffering and demoralization, the assistance in food and clothing given to them through the medium of schools, of whatsoever denomination they may be, cannot be construed either into favouritism or indifference to the principle on which a school is to be conducted.

"For the better satisfaction of the Committee, I have also begged of Sir Randolph Routh, and received his permission to say, that he will most willingly co-operate with me in carrying out any plan which the Committee may devise for affording assistance to the unhappy children."

Impressed with the efficacy of the system, and believing that if the relief was afforded at schools of all denominations there could be no reasonable or well-founded objection to the measure, the Committee, on the 28th October, passed a Resolution, authorizing Count Strzelecki to extend the system, and at the same time a vote of 12,000l. was passed for the purpose of clothing. The regulations adopted in the Unions in which this relief was brought into operation were such as were believed to be best calculated to prevent abuse. As has already been said, the relief was afforded at schools of all religious persuasions. The Inspecting Officers were earnestly requested to prevent the overcrowding of the school-rooms at which the food was distributed; and other regulations were enforced which the peculiarities and situation of the Union or district rendered necessary. On the 9th November Count Strzelecki reported:—
"The arrangement for rationing the children is already in progress. This kind of relief is a charity more striking amongst the people here than that of a general issue of provisions amongst them, and I do hope that the Committee will derive satisfaction from the mode in which it was introduced and accepted by the public."

And on the 22d the following report was received respecting the bread made for the use of the children:—

"This is a sample of the first rye bread which was made last Friday in Westport for the use of the children in schools; it was baked by contract. The ton of rye meal costs 8l., the baking 2l. It gives 3,000 lbs. of bread, and will feed, at twelve ounces a ration, the 4,000 children which are on our rolls of relief in the Union.

"I am sure that the introduction of bread amongst the lower and working classes will be productive of much good; to the fishermen particularly, who through want of biscuit or bread could not venture beyond the sight of their own homes, this article will be of great assistance. Mr. Lynch, the Inspector, writes to me that the children like and delight in eating it."

By the 1st of January, 1848, the system was in full operation in thirteen of the more distressed Unions. 58,000 children were on the relief roll of the Association; and this number gradually increased, until, in the month of March, upwards of 200,000 children, attending schools of all denominations in twenty-seven western Unions, were participating in this relief.

The following extracts from the reports of some of the Inspecting Officers, bear testimony to the beneficial effects of this charity:—

From Mr. Marshall, Skilbereen Union, 22d December, 1847.

"I am glad to inform you that the people generally are in much better spirits; as when a man, though able to work, saw his family of helpless children crying for something to eat, and had not the means of relieving them, he was cast down, and rendered unable to earn his own bread; but now the case is different, and in place of gratuitous relief being a check to industry, it will stimulate the parents to exertion.
"A Roman Catholic clergyman who had been most violent in complaining of the state of the people lately, came to me a few days ago and said, 'Since the children are fed, matters are now becoming quite cheering.' "

From Mr. Marshall, Skibbereen Union, 16th February, 1848.

"The Schools are going on well, and by the enclosed form you will see the arrangement I have made, by having persons to inspect the Schools in each Electoral Division, by which I have more regularity, and the schools better attended to; it is a saving, having these persons, as none but deserving objects get the bread, and it prevents abuse. You can have no idea of the benefit this system is affording to the poor in this Union — you don't see Skibbereen mentioned in the papers — we have no deaths from starvation, although there is less employment here than in any other Union."

From Captain Hotham, R.N., Tralee Union, January 16, 1848.

"Being up here on other business, and yesterday proving a superb day, I determined to ride round the western part of the Union, and see all Schools which lay in my way, taking them quite by surprise, having given them no previous notice. I think I saw about fifteen Schools, and the result was highly satisfactory. You are acquainted with the difficulty in general experienced in Ireland, in granting any money without entailing a train of abuses in its distribution, but I think the system of our Schools here is as free from abuses as any system of the kind possibly can be.
"I assure you that it was a great comfort to me, after seeing the terrible destitution of the country, to witness so many little children happy and healthy amidst the dreadful desolation which surrounded them, and I sincerely wished in my heart that the subscribers to the Association Fund could witness the real good, almost unmixed with evil, it has caused.
"Some of the children of the Schools had been dismissed prior to my arrival, but in those Schools where I found the children at study, I found them comparatively clean, which is a great improvement in the habits of a population, and almost an education of itself — their hair was combed, and, though in rags, there was an appearance of tidiness upon them which I was surprised at."

From Mr. Gilbert, Sligo Union, January 20, 1848.

"I need not remark on the material benefits this system of relief is to this Union; they are most manifest in decreasing the clamour and demand for relief amongst the adult and able-bodied of the destitute, who would, were not this aid afforded them, become a burden on the poor-house, and an additional taxation to the already impoverished rate-payers. Many of the paupers have left the workhouse on finding their children would be supported at the Schools, and with this responsibility taken away, have endeavoured to shift for themselves."

From Mr. Lynch, Westport Union, January 21, 1848.

"I cannot well point out the great advantages conferred on the poorer classes of the people by the assistance thus given to their children: it will, I have no doubt, keep many poor landholders off the rates, and enable them to cultivate their land, and thus once more regain that position which they hitherto held."

From Capt. R. Mann, Kilrush Union, February 14, 1848.

"I cannot tell you how much benefit is derived from feeding the destitute children at the Schools: it prevents the little creatures from starving, and improves their habits, and leaves the parents free to seek for their own subsistence; and about here it is fully appreciated by every one, as a well-timed, judicious charity."

From Mr. D’Arcy, Ballyshannon Union, February 20,1848.

"I have much pleasure in forwarding you the copy of a Resolution passed by the Board of Guardians, in which they express their thanks to the Association for the benefit the Union has received from the food distributed to the children in Schools.
"Many cases have come under my own observation, where whole families have thus been prevented coming to the workhouse for relief: a fortnight since, it was very remarkably demonstrated by several persons, waiting for admission in the hall of the workhouse, saying to me that if their children got admission to the "School Relief," as they called it, they would struggle to support themselves without application to the Guardians.
" 'Proposed by Mr. John R. Dickson, seconded by Mr. J. C. Bloomfield:—
" 'That we offer our sincere thanks to the British Association, and to their able and courteous agent, Count Strzelecki, for the great and judicious assistance given to their Union, through the medium of food distributed to the destitute children in Schools, as, independent of the charity to them, it has been of signal service in reducing the pressure for relief both in and out-door, as many persons who are almost on the verge of destitution become so relieved by the bread given to the children, that the heads of the families have endeavoured to support themselves, when otherwise the whole would have been thrown upon the Union for support. The result is just now doubly valuable, as the pressure for relief had become excessive, and indeed still is far greater than the rate-payers can sustain, without reducing themselves almost to the level of those they are relieving; and particularly just now, when the prices of agricultural produce are so greatly deteriorated.
" '(Signed) Matthew Davis,
" 'Chairman.' "

From Capt. Ommany, Kenmare Union, February 16,1848.

"I am happy to report that the benefits derived by this system are now manifested, and every day shows the great advantage it has conferred on the district; the relief afforded is very extensive; but for this bounty there would be now many hundreds without the means of subsistence.
"I am constantly about the country, and inspect the Schools, to see that a regular system is pursued, and that the bounty is properly appropriated; and when I contrast the aspect of the children when I first came to the Union, with the present time, the result of my trouble is most satisfactory. Instead of numbers of emaciated children, straggling all over the country, there are but very few to be seen now, in the middle of the day; and every one bears testimony to the relief conferred in removing these daily applicants for alms from idleness and begging. I also perceive a very great improvement in the appearance and condition of the children."

In addition to these communications from Inspecting Officers, the Committee received very gratifying reports of the great good effected by this measure, from Boards of Guardians, and from the Clergy of all denominations in the various Unions in which the relief system was in operation. Most satisfactory accounts of the great benefits conferred by it on the poor generally, and on the poor children particularly, were constantly received by the Board. In those Unions in which the relief to the children was more generally extended, there was less call made upon the Union funds for the relief of the able-bodied poor. This fact is strongly adverted to in nearly all the extracts from the Inspecting Officers’ reports, and a return, No. 5, of the Table relating to School Relief, will, it is believed, afford still more complete evidence of this satisfactory circumstance. It cannot but be a subject of congratulation, that, at a period when apathy and hopeless resignation to their fate seemed to be much prevailing amongst the Irish peasantry, charitable relief, which too frequently tends to foster such evils, was, under this system of administration, the means of infusing a better spirit into the character of the labourer.

At the commencement of the month of July, 1848, it was found necessary, in consequence of the exhaustion of the fund, to bring this charity, in common with the other relief measures of the Association, to a termination. The Committee issued this order, however, with the less regret, as Her Majesty’s Government had previously determined upon continuing the relief from public funds until harvest. Assured, therefore, that the children hitherto recipients of the bounty of the Association were seemed their daily food until that period, the Committee, on the 8th of July, brought to a close a measure of relief which, it is believed, was one of the most satisfactory in its working, of any kind of charity introduced during the period of distress.

For full information as to the expenditure under this head, the allocation of the clothing provided for the children, and an account of the numbers and various denominations of the schools at which the relief was afforded, the Committee refer to Returns in Appendix B. The total expenditure for feeding the children amounted to 80,854l., in addition to which the sum of 12,000l. was spent in clothing. The total amount of grants for the relief of general distress in the Western Unions amounted to 143,518l., making a total expenditure during the second period of the relief operations of the Association of about 236,000l.

By a resolution adopted on the 1st of November, 1848, it was agreed that the remaining balance at their disposal, which, after liquidating all the liabilities, may be estimated at about 12,000l., should be entrusted to the Poor Law Commissioners for Ireland, to be by them employed in the same manner as the funds of the Association had been employed during the preceding winter and spring months.

The Committee cannot close this Report without referring to the valuable assistance in the details of their proceedings which they have received from the assiduous and zealous exertions of their Secretary, Mr. Standish Haly.


The Committee have had to regret the loss of one of their Honorary Secretaries, Mr. Carleton; Throughout the time of extreme pressure, they had, however, the benefit of his assistance; and they gladly avail themselves of this opportunity for recording the high estimation in which they held his intelligence, his industry, and his indefatigable benevolence.


Having thus traced the various measures of relief adopted, the Committee have only to place this statement of their labours before their Subscribers. It has been their object to render a clear and faithful account of the manner in which they have endeavoured to satisfy the benevolent intentions of the Subscribers to the Fund.

Assuredly, evils of greater or less degree must attend every system of gratuitous relief; but the Committee feel confident that, in the application of this fund, any evils which may have accompanied its distribution have been far more than counterbalanced by the great benefits which have been conferred upon their starving fellow-countrymen. If ill-desert has sometimes participated in this bounty, a vast amount of human misery and suffering has been relieved; if an isolated instance can be shown of idleness engendered, there can be also no doubt, real and permanent good has been effected amongst the poor, and amongst the rising generation more especially. If, indeed, the single good result has been that which the Poor Law Commissioners have deliberately put on record, "that thousands have by this means been saved from starvation," the Committee will have reason to rejoice in the belief that their labour has been far from vain; and the Subscribers to the Association will be assured that the great trust which they reposed in the Committee has been faithfully administered.

By Order of the Committee,
S. JONES LOYD,
Chairman.
London,
January 1, 1849.


Top  

 * Home * Loney home * Life & career * Documents * Album * Ships * Portrait * Uniform * Background *
Valid HTML 5.0