Cloughjordan Famine Victims

Depiction of the Irish potato famine

On the 15th January 1848 a child William Quirke aged 4 years died from starvation in a roadside hut at Bantiss, Cloughjordan. He was the youngest of six children. His mother Bridget, a widow, was paralysed on her right side from the effects of starvation

An inquest into his death was held in the hut on January 16th attended by reporters from the Tipperary Vindicator and the Nenagh Guardian. The newspaper reports stated that 3 children, whose skin was yellow and limbs fleshless, were lying on a litter of straw on the floor of the hut unable to move their limbs because of mortification of the extremities and that the other 2 children, trembling and almost naked, were holding their mother by the remnants of an old gown and bawling for food which, alas! she had not to give them. The body of the dead child lay on a table in the middle of the hut.

Bridget told the inquest that she believed that the rest of her children would also die soon because of their condition. Within a week Bridget, herself died of starvation. The inquest was told that the Quirke family had very little food for 18 months and for the 6 weeks prior to William’s death they had subsisted on turnips and for the last 3 days they had no food at all. It was also stated that the Relieving Officer – William Young of Ballygibbon House – had refused Bridget outdoor relief because she and her children had voluntarily left Nenagh Workhouse and were therefore not entitled to any outdoor relief. Dr Thomas Purefoy who examined the corpse of William stated that the flesh had completely wasted off the bones and that death was due to want of food.

It is not recorded what happened to the remaining 5 Quirke children. It is almost certain that they all died as the Tipperary Vindicator reported such was their condition that their deaths were imminent.

There is more information and exhibits on the Quirke family at the Thomas MacDonagh Museum, Cloughjordan and also in Cloughjordan Heritage Volume X.

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