Destitution in Killarney (1862)

Killarney, Monday. – Immediately before the celebration of last Mass in the parish church of this town yesterday, the Rev. J. O’Connor, D.D., made some affecting allusions to the distress prevailing here. After some introductory remarks he said:

For the last three months I intended to say a few words about the misery I every day witness; but hoping that ‘a good season’ as it is called, would take place this year, I abstained from doing so. Now, however, I feel I would be wanting in my duty as a priest, were I to continue silent any longer, if by my voice I could awaken the sympathies, or influence the charities of either townspeople or strangers in aid of the suffering poor of Killarney. Their state is as near starvation as one thing could be to another.

The lanes are crowded with people who are dragging on a most miserable existence. In the midst of plenty, they are the children of want and destitution. They will not break up their wretched homes and separate their little families as long as the remotest hope remains but now to a great extent their hopes are blighted. Up to this time there has been scarcely any agricultural labour and now the season proves not as satisfactory as would be the wish of the people.

The suffering population is to a great extent composed of boatmen, car-drivers and guides. Most of them have been for some time without employment, owing to the unfavourable season, their clothes are in pawn – their children are hungry – their wives are heartbroken. Many of them, I have been informed, go on the Lakes without their breakfast, yet to the strangers they appear contented and comfortable.

My God! How it grieves me when I see their misery and have not the means of relieving it. How it crushes within me all hope for our unhappy country, when I see young men wasting their manhood without any incentive to industry within their reach; and hundreds of fine young women standing about their doors in listless idleness because for them there is no work – no sort of employment whatever.

I make these few remarks that you who listen to me may make some efforts, according to your means, to alleviate the destitution that exists in this town.

The Cork Examiner, 9 September 1862.