I spent a fascinating time to-day, researching in the diary of Fr. John Sullivan, P.P. of Kenmare during the Famine. This is part of my research into the background of life as it was being lived when the 117 Kerry girls were chosen to be sent to Australia from the four Kerry Workhouses under the Earl Grey Scheme in 184/1850, I wanted to get a ‘feel’ for the conditions in Kenmare and its hinterland. Fr John Sullivan was a very strong minded priest in Kenmare during the entire period of the famine. He was well able to deal with all classes from what were then called ‘paupers’ right up to the Lord Lieutenant in Dublin Castle. He kept a handwritten Diary and included any newspaper clippings that mentioned Kenmare or the problems there. He was sending letters, and copies have been kept in the diary, all the way to the Charles Trevelyan, to Lord Landsdowne and anyone he thought could help.
One of his letters written on 10 April 1849 to the Lord Lieutenant was on behalf of a man named Patrick Shea who had been sentenced at Tralee Assizes to twelve months imprisonment for ‘having a shirt the property of the Kenmare Union, on his person’. Fr. O’Sullivan felt very strongly that this sentenece was not justified as ‘Shea up to this had the highest character for honesty and industry’. He also pointed out that ‘he was much in my own employment and I feel so much for the poor man and his wretched family who have now no option but the Workhouse’.
We have no idea if his plea was successful or not.