Sunday, January 13, 2013

Snippets of Athenry and the Great Famine 1845-1850 by Ronan Killeen

As I am involved with the Irish Famine Commemoration via Athenry Tourism Group. I will be posting the bits and pieces that I find in books, newspapers, documents etc as a build up to the Great Famine commemoration in Athenry - no date has been set yet. I have been reading William Henry's book Famine: Galway's Darkest Years  which was published in 2011. I found two interesting facts in it:

1.      Page 38: "The Assistant Secretary to the Treasury at the time was Charles Edward Trevelyan. This was his official title, but he was in fact the permanent head of the Treasury. Although some would argue that he worked hard on relief schemes, he was against the idea of providing free famine aid. Indeed, his attitude towards the Irish people was appalling. He believed that the famine was a punishment by God on an idle, ungrateful and rebellious country. Trevelyan is immortalised in the song 'The Fields of Athenry'”.

2.      On  page 114 when Henry refers to the quote that was in the Galway Vindicator on the 5 July 1848 it mentions that  "A few days ago the sheriff of the county paid a visit to the lands of Gurrane, in the neighbourhood of Athenry, on the estate of a man calling himself the Honourable Col. Bermingham Sewell, and demolished the entire village of Cahertubber, leaving but two houses stranding, one of which was converted into a depot for the remnant of roofing of those that were not committed to the flames.
The wretched and unhappy victims are to be found squatted upon the road side, presenting the most frightful appearance of destitution. In vain have those beings looked for compassion from the Honourable Col, although all their gardens are well cropped, and a few short weeks of bounteous Providence would have left them in a situation to discharge the trifling demands of this most Christian landlord, who liberality, generosity and hospitality are in perfect keeping with his honourable cognomen" 

That Honourable Col.Bermigham Sewell also owned lands at Ballydavid, Athenry. The following is Sewell’s family lineage from the Landed Estates research that was completed by NUIG Thomas Bermingham Daly Henry Sewell was a son of Elizabeth Bermingham and Thomas Bailey Heath Sewell and grandson of Thomas Bermingham 1st Earl of Louth and Baron Athenry. His claim to the baronetcy of Athenry failed in 1800.
    At the time of Griffith's Valuation the Sewell estate was one of the principal lessors (landlord) in the parish of Athenry and the representatives of Colonel Sewell also held land in the parishes of Clonbern, barony of Ballymoe and Dunmore, barony of Dunmore. Thomas Sewell's had 4 daughters who married Sir William Edward Leeson (who held 710 acres in county Galway and 230 acres in county Roscommon in the 1870s), General Marcus Beresford (one of their daughters married George Brydges Rodney), George Drummond Earl of Perth and Melfort and the Reverend Solomon Richards, whose representatives held 2,544 acres in county Galway in the 1870s

It will be interesting to find out who the sherriff was in 1848.

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