I've found another interesting book on Google describing conditions in pre-famine Ireland, Reports From The Commissioners published in 1836. The reports consist of 15 volumes on various topics, volume 11 dealt with Poor Laws in Ireland. It consists of, “Baronial Examinations Relative to Food, Cottages and Cabins, Clothing and Furniture, Pawnbrokers and Savings Banks and Drinking.”
A wide range of persons, covering
many different classes were interviewed for the report; land agents, laborers,
farmers and shopkeepers along with ministers and priests. The first part of the report is a basically a
synopsis of the testimony given, arranged by area. The overriding theme is one of poverty. In all locations the less fortunate, even
small farmers, subsisted largely on potatoes and lived in ramshackle cabins.
The second part details the
answers each person gave to specific questions.
This section is really fascinating because part two focuses on individual
parishes. In part two you also get to
see exactly who was answering the questions and his station in life. I was happy to see Baltinglass Parish
included in this report since that is the parish of Daniel McGarr, my 3rd
great grandfather who lived in Ballyraggan, Kildare. The questions concerning Baltinglass were answered
by Daniel’s parish Priest (PP) Rev. Daniel Lalor, who didn't hold back on what
he thinks of, “the ruinous system under which we live”. The nearby parish of Rathvilly, home of my O’Hora family, is included also.
The questions the commissioners asked can be found at the
beginning of the report, a few of which were: Of
what class are landlords? What is the usual rent? Of what description are the
cabins and their furnishings? What are conditions since the peace in 1815?
(After the Napoleonic Wars) Has the parish been peaceable? What is the number of public houses?
It’s wonderful to have a
firsthand description of the people and their homes; I was especially
interested in the cabins and their interiors and Rev. Lalor’s views on whether
the parish was, “peaceable”. Rev. Lalor
was an activist priest deeply concerned about the welfare of his flock from
what I can gather. Seven years after
telling the commissioners what he thought of their “system”, he would be
involved when Daniel O’Connell came to Baltinglass to stage one of his monster
As always with e-books, this
one is searchable and well worth taking a look at as it covers a good part of
the country and provides a contemporary look at what was going on in pre-famine
Ireland as seen through the eyes of those who were present.