The Great Famine

The Great Famine took place in Ireland from 1845-1851. Clare suffered grieviously, with the rate of excess mortality in Clare in these years being in the top quartile of the 32 counties. As a proportion of the 1851 population, Clare had the most evictions of any county. Ironically, because of the deep poverty, emigration was low in comparison to other counties, as the cost proved prohibitive [1]. Shortly before the famine, in 1834, there were 1877 Catholics and 20 Protestants in Kilnamona. The attendance at the Roman Catholic chapel was 400, while a hedge-school educated 65 boys and 35 girls [2]. The subsequent decline in the population of Kilnamona can be observed in the census summary page.

The following story, which appeared in the Clare Journal in 1846, illustrates the horror of this time in the region. In neighbouring Inagh, a young boy, who lived with a family called St. Leger, had been living on a diet exclusively made up of cabbage leaves for a length of time. Having become revolted at the monotony of the diet, he fasted for a few days, until he was forced by hunger to consume a large quantity of this food. His constitution was unable to sustain the shock. He went missing and was later found "lying beside a ditch in the agonies of death". The post mortem of Dr Morony of Ennis returned a verdict of death by starvation [3].

Kilnamona Famine Memorial
Kilnamona Famine Memorial

The effects of the famine were still being felt in Kilnamona as late as 1851. Getting a report from their Limerick Examiner correspondent, a national newspaper reported yet another death from starvation in Kilnamona. It seems the deceased had been denied relief in the workhouse by the Ennistymon guardians, so he was forced to "wander through the country, a wretched remnant of humanity, until death ended his mortal career in the wilds of Kilnamona" [4].

Information about the Kilnamona people on the public works schemes during the famine is also available on this site.

Further details about Kilnamona during the famine can be found through examining the letters of parish priest Fr. Thomas Quinn.

  1. Ó Murchadha, Ciarán. (1998) Sable Wings Over the Land : Ennis, county Clare and its wider community during the great famine. Ennis: Clasp Press.
  2. (1845) Parliamentary Gazeteer of Ireland Available at
  3. July 30, 1846 Clare Journal
  4. March 6, 1851 Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser