Ireland Visit 2015
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Tuesday brought yet another fine day of weather. I walked into Letterfrack to get a few things at the grocery store then returned to Fushia to work on my watercolors. When I was in the grocery store I picked up a book by an Irish historian, Kathleen Villiers-Tuthill –”Patient Endurance: The Great Famine in Connemara“. It is a scholarly work with factual records and statistics of the suffering and starvation of the tenant families of Connemara. Between intervals of working on painting and reading sections of the book I was able to finish the book by 10 p.m. I was surprised to learn that in Connemara that the landlords were very instrumental in pleading with the government to supply their tenants with aid either through government work programs or food. It seems that after the famine the majority of the Connemara landlords had to sell off there land because there was not enough tenants left to farm it. This article appeared in the book, entitled “Must the People Starve” published in the Galway newspaper the Galway Vindicator on December 30, 1846:
“Never was the condition of the people so awful as at present –not merely the utterly destitute but every class of limited means. The prices of food have arrived at such a famine pitch that if not immediately lowered by the prompt interference of the Government, will most certainly either force the people to an outbreak for the preservation of their lives or doom them in hundreds upon hundreds to premature death. We see no other alternative. There is no use in thinking that the peace of the country can be maintained while the farmers, merchants, miller, meal monger, baker, and provision huxter, seem remorselessly determined with a cupidity, an avariciousness that puts to the blush every feeling of humanity and libels the very name of Christian, to wring fortunes, if they can, out of the vitals of the poor and reap a golden harvest in the plunder, shameful open plunder of the public.
“Fair profits no one should or indeed would attempt to inveigh against; but surely the extortion of 50 or 70 per cent in the ordinary course of trade is not a profit but a plunder. To talk if inhuman, murderous extortion like this as legitimate profit is to compound every notion of right and wrong and sap the very principle of morality and religion. The people must get food or perish. They cannot exist without the necessaries of life. In this respect they labor under the inevitable necessity. It is not in their power to forego the purchase of food while they have a farthing to give for it. Whatever else they may endeavor to dispense without they cannot dispense with this, but at the sacrifice of their lives.
” Who will dare pretend that under such circumstances the trade of food is morally authorized to exact any amount of profit he can extort? If such a principle as this could be established society would become a chaos where every one might be at liberty to regard the interest of self, as the only interest to be looked to. Yet, it is upon this principle that the existing trade in food is at present carried on . . . . It is, we repeat it, nothing else than murder of the people so to extort upon the cost price of food in order to realize profits to the enormous amount exacted at present, they are rendered unable even by the expenditure of every penny in their possession, and the sale of every article of clothing bedding and furniture to procure a sufficiency of provisions for themselves and their starving families.”
I thought I try to render the bogland and found that my unpracticed hand at watercolor painting is getting the better of me. I keep thinking how must faster I could do this with graphite. But I remind myself that faster isn’t always better . . .