Local History by Seán Beattie


Drumfries and the Great Famine

Five town lands of the Meentiaghs had very different experiences during the Great Famine 1845-49. The townland of Ballinlough suffered the most in terms of population decrease, declining from 98 to 44 persons, a drop of more than fifty per cent. The remaining townlands of Ballintlieve (93 to 68), Carroghill ( 34 to 30), Glasmullan (77 to 71) and Meenadiff (32 to 24) suffered a smaller decline in population. The most striking change was in the number of houses that closed their doors for ever. Again Ballinlough came off worst with 10 houses out of 18 becoming deserted. Some of the old ruins remain but most have been cleared. As an inland district, fish was not available to the same extent as in coastal areas but flax was grown widely and able-bodied heads of households would have some cash to pay the rent. The absence of a resident landlord meant that there was no effective relief committee so residents were forced to go to Buncrana or Carndonagh. Buncrana offered some hope as Bishop Maginn operated a food kitchen on a grand scale offering hot porridge cooked in an open container. As the district was situated on a main road there were some opportunities available on public works but for many families the emigrant ship at Derry quay was the main alternative. In some respects, the district was caught between two large centres of population. Some benefited from the monies left in the will of the father of John “the Cloth”, merchant and philanthropist, as the will specified that assistance could be provided for neighbouring parishes.

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