The County of Kerry suffered a drop on population of 19% between the Census of 1841 and the Census of 1851 as a result of An Gorta Mór – from starvation, disease or emigration. While this was the overall drop, it varied from from 52% drop in Killahan, Dunquin 48%, to Kilflynn 9% and Killarney 8%. Do you know what your Civil Parish suffered? See full list here.
Since Jan 2023 we have fresh evidence from five Kerry Catholic parishes of the death rate and other first-hand accounts These were published in The Death Census of Black 47: Eyewitness Accounts of Ireland’s Great Famine (Open Access). To-day we will learn of Moyvane and Knockanure but I would strongly recommend reading the accounts of the Kerry parishes in full through this Open Access or your local library.
Moyvane parish, also called Newtownsandes, is located in north-east Kerry, to the east of Listowel parish. Revd. John Long, of Murhur, had been parish priest of Moyvane since at least 1834/5. The parish is called ‘Menheer’, in the printed return, but this is probably a misprint for the name Murhur as the Catholic parish was coterminous with the civil parishes of Murher and Knockanure. In 1841, 49 per cent of the housing was classified as fourth class and the female illiteracy rate was 78 per cent.
The return for Moyvane was compiled by Fr, Long. Long had been a staunch supporter of Daniel O’Connell’s politics for a prolonged period, collecting money for his case during the 1830s and 1840s.
The statutory censuses had reported populations of 4,224 in 1831 and 4,651 for the combined parishes of Murher and Knockanure. The population was almost exclusively Catholic; only 6 of the 1831 population were identified as Protestants by the Public Instruction Commissioners.
Return of Revd. John Long, P.P. of Moyvane:
Number of deaths from 1st October 1846 to 1st April 1847? – 180, exclusive of children, of whose deaths there was no return kept, but I would venture to say there could not be less than 40.
Number of same known to be caused by famine? – 106 adults, besides children, and I would say from their tender age that a higher proportion of them, died by famine.
Number of deaths during the same period last year? – 40 adults, besides children. I mean by adults all those who receive the rites of the church in the last sickness.
‘Of the number who died by the famine a whole family, consisting of eight, died almost unknown to the people, as they lived in a remote part of the parish. Eight died by the ditches, and our of them were buried without coffins – three in one day. The present state of the parish is awful, and it is my firm conviction the arrangements now on foot will rather aggravate than stay the famine, inasmuch as that twenty percent of the limited number on the public works are it is said, to be knocked off on the 24th instant, and the entire on first of May; and I am afraid – nay I am certain from passing events – that even the more destitute will not get any relief adequate to that which (though miserably poor and scanty) they could purchase for their hire were they continued on the public works – which by the outdoor relief bill many cottiers having small plots of ground and many small farmer equally destitute, will be precluded from any relief under the new arrangements, so that there is no prospect before them but irremediable despair. As to the extent of land tilled and being tilled, those farmers who were able to keep their seed corn have already tilled, and are tilling more corn than ever they did before; but the cottiers and small farmers have neither seed nor provisions, and consequently their lands will remain untilled.
There are none as yet emigrated from this parish, but numbers of the small farmers have given up their holding either to their landlords or others for some pecuniary assistance to take them out of the country, and are preparing themselves. I should mention, of the number who died of hunger I administered the last rites to eight of them in my own house, seven of whom died shortly after. Perhaps I ought also to acquaint you that before the famine my parishioners were honest, exemplary and religious. I am sorry to say now that theft and robbery, and nighly burglary are commencing to appear among them and of course the dismissal of the poor from the public works will increase these dreadful crimes, the out-door relief cannot be in operation in this parish for five weeks’. Source: The Pilot, 28 April 1847, 3-4.