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Social Conditions

In the late 1870s conditions reminiscent of the Famine returned to Ireland, particularly to Connaught and Donegal. Agricultural prices plummeted and crops failed in bad weather. Writing in 1880, James H. Tuke graphically described the absolute misery of the conditions that prevailed in many parts of the west of Ireland.

"A widow and family of five children; a stone-built dwelling, but without any article of furniture except the bedstead and little cradle. There was more light in this house than in the other, and this perhaps made the bareness and wretchedness even more evident. There were even no fowls left to provide the few pence for the salt or other trifling article to eat with the weekly allowance of meal."

Tuke, James H. Irish distress and its remedies: the Land Question – a visit to Donegal & Connaught in the spring of 1880, Dublin, Hodges Figgis, 1880.

In the 1880s the "Distress in the West" was documented by "The Illustrated London News" and "The Graphic", whose illustrations depicted the desperate plight of those living on small holdings in the West of Ireland and their dependency on whatever relief measures were available. Tuke again wrote in 1880:

"The population of the Island of Achill is estimated at 6,500, of whom 4,500 are on the relief lists, receiving fortnightly a very small allowance of meal (two stones) for each family."


Images of social conditions in 19th century Mayo

Some images illustrating the dire social conditions in 19th century Mayo.

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