First Hand Accounts by Asenath Nicholson and Wicklow Landlady Elizabeth Smith

Excerpt From American philanthropists writings, Asenath Nicholson who had been working with the Irish poor in the Five Points Ghetto in New York, she came to Ireland in May 1844 to investigate the condition of the poor in their homeland and returned in 1845 as the famine started to take effect.

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In the same vicinity was the bed of a little orphan girl, who had crept into a hole in the bank and died one night, with no one to spread her heath-bed, or to close her eyes, or wash and fit her for the grave. Asenath explains here awful circumstances surrounding the abandoned corpse… When I stood in the burying ground in that parish, I saw the brown silken hair of a young girl waving faintly through a little cleft of stones that lay loosely upon her young breast. They had not room to put her beneath the surface but slightly, and a little green grass was pulled and spread over, and then covered with stones. I never shall forget it. (Asenath Nicholson, Co. Mayo, December 1847)

Asenath Exporting Grain

I saw on my right hand sitting in a dark corner on a little damp straw, which poorly defended her from the wet and muddy ground-floor she was occupying. The two ragged, hungry children were at her feet; on the other side of the empty grate (for there was not a spark of fire) sat the kind woman who had taken her in, on the same foundation of straw and mud, with her back against the wall. “We have been talking, Mary and I, this morning, and counting off our days; we could not expect any relief, for I could not go out again, and she could not, and the farthest that the good God will give us on earth cannot be more than fourteen days. This had been a cool calculation made from the appearance of the present condition, and without the least murmuring they were bringing their minds to their circumstances. “

 

Asenath soldiers guarding grain

Quotations from the Diary of Elizabeth Smith, her husband Captain Smith’s Estate was in Baltiboys, near Blessington in County Wicklow.

Alas the famine progresses, here it is in frightful reality to be seen on every face. Idle, improvident, reckless, meanly dependent on the upper classes whomthey so abuse, call the bulk of the Irish what we will, and no  name istoo hardalmost for them, here they are starving around us, cold, naked hungry,well nigh houseless. To rouse them from their natural apathy may be the work of future years. To feed them must be our business this.

Its nonsense to talk of good landlords as the rule, they are no such thing,they are only the exception. In my walks about this little locality have,I notfound evidence against them that would fit me for a witness before a Committee on the House on the causes of Irish Misery.

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