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The Great Famine in Attymass 1845-49

Records show a massive decease in the population of Attymass as a result of the Great Famine. The parish, being entirely rural, was particularly badly hit and was the first in Ireland to report deaths directly due to the Famine when, on the 19th November 1846, Attymass PP, Fr. Michael O'Flynn, wrote to the local Justice of the Peace informing him of the deaths from hunger of four persons.

Dying ChildAn entry from the Chief Secretary's Office Registered Papers dated 30th Oct 1847 and signed by Bernard Egan PP of neighbouring Bonniconlon parish sums up the desperate situation:

"These two parishes [Attymass & Kilgarvin] are situated at the foot of the Ox Mountains ... The two successive failures of the potato crop have reduced a large number of the inhabitants to an awful state of destitution ... It has been ... admitted ... that this district is with scarcely an exception the most impoverished and destitute in the entire county of Mayo..."

Parish historian and NS teacher Patrick Flannelly collected what was "left of Famine traditions in this district" in the mid 1940's and presented his record in a handwritten manuscript which is held in the UCD Folklore Collection, Dublin. Drawing on this manuscript together with contemporary official records an Overview of the Famine in Attymass has been prepared for download/printing. A full transcription of the Flannelly manuscript is also available. [Right click/save as to download files to local machine]

"Local tradition says that there was a population at least four times the present [1946] one ... Tradition says that whole villages existed where there is not a trace of a homestead now ..."


Links and further reading:

Overview of the Famine in Attymass

The Great Famine 1845-1852, Attymass Parish. Patrick Flannelly 1946. [Original held in the Folklore Collection, U.C.D.]

Account from “The Nation” Newspaper, June 5th 1847

The Famine in Mayo. Ivor Hamrock 1998. ISBN: 0951962450. A collection of contemporary records from books, newspapers & official documents.

In Their Own Words. The Famine in North Connacht 1845-1849. Liam Swords 1999. ISBN: 1856072479.

Famine. Liam O'Flaherty 1937. ISBN: 1-903582-20-2. Fact based, historically accurate novel based on the Galway/Mayo border during the Famine. Gives an excellent feel for the times.

The Ballina Workhouse/Poor Relief Act etc.

Illustrations and text from contempory newspapers - a collection compiled by Steve Taylor.

National Archives of Ireland, Bishop Street, Dublin 8. Board of Guardians' minute books and other papers.

Local History Department, Castlebar Central Library, Castlebar, Co Mayo.