1800-1859 | Demolishing villages | Famine



An evicted couple face similarly bleak circumstances c. 1890. T.H. Mason – The National Library of Ireland.

[ 15 December 1847 ]

On 15 December 1847, Redcoats of Britain’s Forty Ninth Regiment enforced one of many routine mass evictions by Irish landlords against their tenants, many of whom, due to a devastating potato blight, were overdue on their rent payments. Mr. J. Walshe, the proprietor, having recently evicted half the neighbouring village at Tiruan, decided to eject all 102 families living at Mullaroghe. We know a little about what happened because James Tuke, a member of the Society of Friends, who was investigating famine conditions in County Mayo, recorded detailed interviews with starving survivors.

On arriving at the village, Tuke was shocked to discover ‘a scene of devastation almost beyond belief.  It was literally a heap of ruins. I tried to count the roofless houses, and after proceeding as far as seventy gave up in despair; for not only had the roofs been thrown down, but in many cases the gable ends and the walls of the houses demolished, so that nothing remained but a heap of stones… and all around were scattered the broken remains of looms, bed frames, stools, straw mats, crockery and rafters.’ He also saw ‘a few miserable objects’ still wandering amid the ruins of their homes. One elderly woman told Tuke that:

‘She was living in Mullaroghe with her husband, when the younger Mr. Walshe came about ten days before Christmas. The first day they made a “cold fire,” the second day the people were all turned out of doors, and the roofs of the houses pulled down. That night they made up a tent or a shelter of wood and straw; that however, the drivers threw down and drove them from the place… they had to go head foremost under hail and storm… She had lived there all her life, also her father and the father of her mother. Her mother had died about three days after Christmas from cold and hunger.’1

Mr. Higgins of the British Relief Association, reported to Charles Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, that Captain Charles Glazebrook, just 25 years old, commanding the troops was so appalled by the miserable condition of the villagers, that he tried desperately to invent excuses for not answering a request by the landlord to return again to finish the job.2  There is no record as to whether Glazebrook was ever punished for this attempted dereliction of duty and only six years later, he died of tetanus from a wound sustained during the siege of Sevastapol.3


  1. James Hack Tuke cited in ‘Walsh Doings in Mayo’ The Tuam Herald, 13 May 1848, p2 and James H. Tuke, A Letter Addressed to the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends, Dublin, London 1848 accessed online at url https://archive.org/stream/avisittoconnaug00irelgoog/avisittoconnaug00irelgoog_djvu.txt
  2. Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849, Penguin Books, London 1991, p. 320.
  3. Captain Charles Stuart Glazebrook’s age and details accessed online at url http://glosters.tripod.com/crimstaff.htm

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