Correspondence with Famine Relief Commission (Archive Month #5)

The Famine Relief Commission papers are held in the National Archives of Ireland. The Relief Commission was set up in November 1845, and local committees were set up from the following February. The Relief papers are arranged according to certain categories – for example the code “RLFC3/2/” refers to “Incoming letters: baronial sub-series” – these act essentially as finding aids. There is now an online search facility on the National Archives website to an index of files. Wicklow correspondence all have “/32” in their code, as we were the 32nd county.    

Searches for files relating to our area resulted in archives in the RLFC3/2, RLFC4: “Parochial constabulary returns” (May ’46) and RLFC5: “Replies to Inspector General of Constabulary’s Circular, 19 August 1846.” categories.

Incoming letters: baronial sub-series

RLFC3/2/32/26

Notification of the appointment of two additional relief committees in the county of Wicklow – Bray and Powerscourt.

Powerscourt:

Chairman – George Cranfield Esq J.P.

Mr Benjamin Buckley

RLFC3/2/32/28

Dated 13 Feb 1847: Letter from Benjamin Buckley adding Henry Darley Esq of Ballyornan to the list of the Powerscourt Committee.

RLFC3/2/32/29

Dated 26 March 1847: Powerscrout, Enniskerry. Listing the subscriptions received in aid of the poor in Powerscourt Relief Disctrict, and asking for an equal amount, totalling £120 10s 3d. Letter states that “we have an extensive mountain tract included within our district where much poverty and destitution prevails. The number of labourers who have been fed by the Inspectors office is 280 – and we supply upwards of two hundred rations, each consisting of a pint?? of soup and a pound of cooked rice and Indian meal, per … to persons completely destitute. Under the circumstances I …. that we can be met with some favourable consideration.

List of subscribers attached for year 1847

  • Guardians of Viscount Powerscourt        50
  • Viscountess Castlereagh                               20
  • Col Knox                                                              2
  • Sir Ralph Howard Bach                                   10
  • Judge Cramptew?                                           5
  • Sir Philip Cramptew                                         2
  • Robert Sandys Esq                                           5
  • WH Macreedy Esq                                           5
  • Ms? Reeves?                                                     1
  • Rev Joshua Barnard                                        2
  • Rev Thos O’Dwyer                                           2
  • Henry Monck Mason Esq                              2
  • Doctor Gray                                                        10s 3d
  • Doctor Rapole                                                   2
  • Patrick Flood Esq                                              2
  • Captain Cranfield                                             10

26/3/1847

Another letter (same reference), Powerscourt April 1847

Requesting an answer to the previous letter as their own funds are now nearly exhausted

Parochial constabulary returns

RLFC4/32/41-69

Parish of Powerscourt, 23 May 1846. Local constabulary nationwide were asked to reply to the following questions in an attempt to get an idea of the extent of the crop failure in 1846.

1. What extent of land was planted with potatoes in above parish in each of the years 1844 and 1845?

2. What proportion of land is planted with potatoes was let in con-acre?

3. What extent of land was planted with potatoes this year 1846?

4. What proportion has been in 1846 let in con-acre?

5. What crops have been sown in the land which would under ordinary circumstances been planted with potatoes?

The answers from local officers are given in the table below. These are discussed in the context of the time in the book.

Parish of Powerscourt Powerscourt – Enniskerry Kilmacanogue
Q1 1844: ~140 acres 

1845: ~140 acres

1844: ~149 acres 

1845: ~159 acres

1844: ~130 acres 

1845: ~137 acres

Q2 None None None
Q3 1846: ~132 acres 1846: ~124 acres 1846: ~101 acres
Q4 None None None
Q5 Turnip and rapeseed Turnip and oats Turnip and oats
Signed Const. Whittaker, Barnamire, 30/5/46 Const. John WinterEnniskerry, 31/5/46 Const. John Winter Enniskerry, 31/5/46

Replies to Inspector General of Constabulary’s Circular, 19 August 1846

RLFC5/32/1

Circular from Constabulary Office, Dublin Castle

County inspectors and officers in charge of districts are requested to make inquiries with as much discretion and secrecy as possible, for the purpose of procuring, so far as relates to their respective districts, information on the following points….

D  McGregor, 19th August 1846

  1. Has the extent of potatoes planted this year equalled that of ordinary years?
  2. Has the crop been affected by the blight, and in what proportion?
  3. Has the early or late crop been chiefly injured, and to what extent in each of those crops?
  4. Has the crop, or any portion of it, as yet, become available for food?

Replies from

Baltinglass Blessington Bray
Q1 Yes Yes Not quite but nearly
Q2 At least half Totally blighted Upwards of ¾, no field safe
Q3 Late crop very much injured more so than the early crop Early crop has been chiefly injured, they are quite gone. The late crop has been totally checked in vegetation, but what the people are digging out are quite small, and not half the crop expected Early chiefly rather than more than half
Q4 Some has but of very bad description About ¼ available for food Yes, small proportion remaining uninjured
Date Aug 29th 1846 Aug 27th 1846 Aug 22 1846