John McCullagh April 27, 2006
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This is an attempted analysis of one Famine time Census Return.   Please read and comment!

Parish etc

Area
acres

Pop 1841

Pop 1851

– Pop

Homes ’41

Homes
’51

No. of fewer Homes

Ardarragh

456

314

252

62

53

44

9

B’holland L

292

273

260

13

49

44

5

B’holland U

363

335

315

20

66

55

11

B’craig

682

217

238

+21

40

45

+5

Benagh

680

593

484

109

100

92

8

Carnacally

516

442

317

125

81

71

10

C’haugh

342

63

97

+34

12

18

+6

Carnmeen

362

182

137

45

33

29

4

Castle Enigan

253

201

143

58

38

31

7

C’ramer

510

341

255

86

62

51

11

Commons

58

458

414

44

76

72

4

Corcreechy

439

209

171

38

29

31

+2

Creeve

266

252

227

25

48

41

7

Crobane

58

514

443

61

94

84

10

Croreagh

306

163

167

+4

28

30

+2

Curley

382

207

155

52

33

29

4

Damolly

503

283

249

34

54

46

8

Derryboy

304

151

124

27

26

25

1

D’lackagh

63

353

312

41

72

64

8

Desert

683

485

398

87

89

71

18

D’cashellone

300

141

118

23

26

23

3

Edenmore

396

315

271

44

62

56

6

Finnard

602

339

282

57

61

60

1

Gransha

588

271

201

70

54

42

12

Greenan

633

570

463

107

118

100

18

Lisduff

278

129

98

31

21

17

4

Lisnaree

314

184

153

31

34

31

3

Lisserboy

204

99

84

15

21

19

2

Lou’hhorne

465

211

149

62

39

31

8

Ouley

444

215

130

85

39

28

11

Ryan

391

305

173

132

61

29

32

Savalbeg

366

129

78

51

21

13

8

Savalmore

303

204

159

45

34

28

6

Sheeptown

500

400

294

106

58

37

21

Shinn

463

346

223

123

61

43

18

Turmore

374

191

173

18

34

34

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

16141

10091

8207

1884

1867

1564

303

N’ry in Down

 

8099

9564

+1465

1430

1412

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

 

18099

15771

419

3297

2976

321

It is accepted as the duty of the historical statistician to elucidate and explain – and then to point out areas worthy of further study.   This we now attempt.

The table is an abstract from part of the 1851 Census Returns of the Barony of the Lordship of Newry. Column 1 names townlands and their parishes: 2 is its extent in Irish Acres: 3 the total population from the 1841 Census: 4 that for 1851: 5 the population difference over that decade: 6 the number of occupied homes as returned in 1841 for that parish: 7 the same for 1851: finally, 8 is the difference in numbers of homes in that parish at the end of that decade.

The bottom three rows are the various totals: then the equivalent figures for that part of Newry in County Down (i.e. excluding Ballybot and the West end of the river):  then finally those latter two totalled.

The reader should appreciate that there is a precision herein implied that is somewhat unlikely: and that I and others may have erred in reproducing even these figures. It is best therefore to draw general conclusions and encourage areas of further study.

CONCLUSIONS:

Had not this decade represented the worst period of Hunger and suffering in all of Irish history, one might imagine one was witnessing the fastest and most dramatic period of urbanisation. Whereas the rural parishes experienced a dramatic ~20% population fall, urban Newry (East) had a corresponding increase (last three rows)!  The reality is more complex;  for example, a landlord-driven ‘land clearance coupled with a loss of faith in the land, unparalled disease and starvation deaths and emigration to England, USA and Canada and beyond.  The latter will be illustrated in an article shortly.

The total size of these population changes too is not clear from the context. One must remember that it followed a sustained period of rapid increase over the previous half century and more.   The fall is thus much more significant than it might have been.

Any rational interpretation however, gives the lie to those blinkered historians who allege that our area was little affected by the Great Hunger. Nothing could be further from the truth: and we must keep in mind that South Armagh and Newry (West – or Ballybot) suffered even more.

Hidden within these figures is some terrible suffering: and information requiring further study. How did Newry (Down) sustain an extra 1465 persons with 18 fewer homes in 1851 compared with 1841?  Why were the parishes of Ryan, Carnacally, Sheeptown, Benagh, Shinn and Savalmore worst affected in population decrease?  If it was proximity to Newry, why then did Carneyhaugh and Ballinacraig do best, with an increase both in population and numbers of occupied homes?

Why were there less occupied homes in 1851? Clearly a great number had died or emigrated, leaving deserted homes behind. But in addition, politicians of the time were almost exclusively of the landed classes who then wanted to ‘clear’ their ‘encumbered estates’. Whether they saw them as encumbered with debts or with impoverished tenants made little difference when policies of clearance and evictions became the norm. The final column shows a considerable reduction in the housing stock and a comparison of that with column 5 will give some indication of the density of occupation of those former homes.

One can only guess at the numbers of extra deaths in these parishes compared with the numbers of emigrants.

Other conclusions drawn by readers and posted on Discussions would be most welcome.


While any noticed errors of mine would be accepted  and corrected, it would be best to view this article as an indication of trends. 

And if you’re from any of the districts affected (especially the parishes named above as the worst affected),  could you contribute to the body of information by further study?  

Famine times are greatly neglected by local historians!


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