Black and White ‘47
Ed O'Riordan
(U.C.C. History Dissertation 1999-2000)     (© Ed O'Riordan)  

Several sections of this work appear in the prestigious 'Atlas of the Great Irish Famine'.


Bias, prejudice and agenda are particular enemies of historiography and many a great work is rendered less great when one or all of these bedfellows befriends the historian. No period in Irish history has been as difficult to approach ‘sans bias’ as the years 1845-1850 not least because they have been labelled ‘An Gorta Mor’, ‘The Great Hunger’ or more commonly ‘The Great Famine’.  Almost everything that has been written about the period in the past decade has, understandably, been concerned with the adverse impact and diverse consequences of the potato blight on the poorer classes who died in cabin, workhouse or ditch from starvation and fever, or who emigrated to England, Australia and the United States of America.  The reduction of Ireland’s population by 2,000,000 through death and emigration over a ten year period has been seared into the Irish psyche and is not easily laid to one side when researching those years.

            While acknowledging that - just as two wrongs don’t make a right - two biases do not make a balance, it is the intention of this dissertation to produce a biased account of 1846/1847 as gleaned from the pages of the Tipperary Free Press and The Cork Examiner – newspapers which, as is the norm, also had their own bias and prejudice. In both cases that bias was Nationalist/Liberal.  Material from other sources will be used as appropriate. With the same sense of agenda as this student unwittingly approached writing a Famine report from those pages some years ago - an agenda that accompanies most ‘local’ Great Famine reports - it is here intended to trawl through the newsprint with eyes trained to ignore anything that smacks of potato blight, workhouse, pauper or Indian meal.  It is hoped that this approach will not be seen as attempting to minimize the devastation and horror of those years or detract from the memory of the suffering that existed but will, rather, provide a framework through which we can better view and understand that devastation and horror.

Chapter 1

Entertainment and Luxury

Micháel Ó hAodha suggests that the first half of the nineteenth century was a black and dreary period in the annals of drama in Great Britain.[1] A few obligatory references to Boucicault and Edmund Keane are all that seem necessary in a treatment of Irish theatre until Yeats and Lady Gregory burst on the scene in a blaze of Celtic Revival at the end of that century.  However, a perusal of the pages of the newspapers from 1846-47 shows that, in spite of this paucity of theatre, in those years at least, the ‘middle classes’ and the ‘gentry’ knew how to enjoy themselves.

‘Seldom, indeed we may say never, have we witnessed a more splendid Ball in Nenagh…’ asserted  the report in the Tipperary Free Press on Tuesday, 13 January, 1846. The ball was given by the officers of the 1st Royals.  The report continued:

As early as nine o’clock the rank and beauty of the country poured in and arrivals were continuous up to twelve… Several rooms handsomely decorated were thrown open, and refreshments abundantly provided.  The ballroom was magnificently decorated …[as the] graceful figures… floated on “the light fantastic toe” . The splendid Quadrille band  of the 831 regiment, from Limerick, was in attendance, and during the evening performed, amongst other airs, The Canadian Sleigh Waltz …[with bells] in imitation of sleighs travelling over the snow.[2]

Supper that evening consisted of ‘every delicacy that the season could afford or the most fastidious appetite desire’ with the ‘old Baronial Boar’s Head’ decorating the table. The tables were laid for 200 people.  The report finished by lavishing praise on the officers of the Royal First and stated ‘we can only echo the sentiments of all, when we say, long may such gallant fellows be quartered among us.’[3]

A notice that ‘Cards of Invitation’ had been sent out to the gentry of Birr in Co. Offaly for the ball on 15 January  appears on the same page as this report.[4]  The Nenagh invitations included the aristocracy and ‘many families of the respectable portion [emphasis added] of the residents of Nenagh.’ One can get some idea of the fashion worn at these balls by a perusal of the ‘Fashions for January’ column in The Tipperary Free Press on 3 January, 1846.  ‘The damas fashionable this season is the veloutes, the broad velvet stripe contrasting well with this description of silk.  These dresses require no trimming, but are made extremely full and very long behind;  on other materials flounces of Alencon, or point lace are worn.  Taffetas d’Italie are fashionable for petites soirees…’[5]

Tipperary followers of fashion were well catered for 16 months later - July 1847 - as Peter McSwiney and Co.’s ‘Victoria House’, and Laurence McGrath - both of Clonmel - vied for their custom.  McSwiney’s departments included a ‘millinery’ where every favourite style of the West End was available, a ‘fur department’ where the discerning buyer could save 20 per cent on sable, ermine, chinchilla, boas, capes and cuffs; a silk department with French and Oriental manufactures; as well as plaid, French cashmere, fancy dress, shawl and mantle, and woollen departments.[6]

Laurence McGrath’s emporium boasted a similar range of departments, with his millinery department offering ‘Real Genoa Silk Velvet Bonnets, Fully Trimmed, with Superb Rich Feather’ for a mere 12s. to 16s. [7]

A slightly more downmarket evening out in January 1846 – compared to the Nenagh Ball - but one that was nonetheless sponsored by ‘Twelve Families of first rate distinction’, was the appearance of ‘Bateman, “The Great Versatile Comedian of the Age” in Clonmel’s Theatre ‘opposite the Barracks’.[8]  Bateman was advertised ‘for one night only’ in what was to be the ‘greatest treat ever given in Clonmel’.[9] Also in January two letters to The Tipperary Free Press from Nicholas Maher and R.A. Fitzgerald respectively, announced those gentlemen’s  great pleasure in accepting an invitation to a Repeal Banquet in Limerick City on the 21st of the month.[10] The Repeal movement that dominated the political scene during the first half of the 1840s was to undergo change in 1847 with the death of O’Connell, but in August 1846 it was still very active.  During that month, the priests of the diocese of Cashel and Emly in County Tipperary held a repeal banquet at Ryall’s Hotel in Cashel. ‘The tables contained every delicacy of the season and the wines were excellent.’[11]

In  the village of Cloneen, County Tipperary, in January 1846, a festival of a different kind was held. A temperance festival in the ‘Teetotallers’ room’ continued, after tea, coffee, and cake, with dancing until the early hours of the morning.  The night ended with three hearty cheers for Fr. Mathew, the Apostle of Temperence.[12]

The entertainment continued at the ‘New Theatre Opposite the Barracks’ in February with the appearance of ‘the Celebrated Dramatic Ventriloquist’ Gallaher.  Many diverse characters were listed for the evening with each one being played by Mr. Gallaher. Doors were open at 7.30, show commenced at 8 pm precisely. Carriages could be ordered at ten o’clock. Boxes 2s., Pit 1s., Gallery 6d. ;

As 1846 progressed the entertainment appears to have become even more lavish.  In August the Royal Agricultural Improvement Society of Ireland held their show in Limerick where cattle were exhibited and agricultural implements displayed.  Banquet, ball and suppers brought the week to a close, a week in which the city was thronged.[13] The report from the ‘General Banquet’ at the Theatre  stated that ‘About 400 people sat down to an excellent dinner, provided, as on the former day, by Mr. John Goggin…The wines…were… as on the previous night, of the very best quality.’ Toasts were drunk to The Queen, The Queen Dowager, Prince Albert and the Royal Family.  The toasts were acknowledged with loud cheers, applause, and drunk with the ‘usual honours’.  The company stood and ‘cheered vehemently’ for several minutes when the president’s health was proposed.[14]

The only apparent discordant note was when a Captain Kennedy stood and suggested that things were not all well in the country but such were the ‘expressions of dissatisfaction’, loudly and frequently repeated, that Captain Kennedy was forced to sit down. [15]

The entertainment for the week in Limerick was brought to a close when a ‘ball upon an unprecedented scale of magnificence and splendour was given’ in an enormous gas-illuminated marquee, attached to the Philosophical Society House in Glentworth Street. Eight hundred tickets had been sold for this spectacular event. Mr. Murray’s excellent Quadrille band supplied the music, together with the full band of the 85th.[16]

Precisely one month later – September 19, 1846 - a public dinner was given at the Imperial Hotel in Cork city by the citizens of Cork for their ‘distinguished townsman and late representative’, Mr. Sergeant Murphy. It was attended by nearly three hundred gentlemen. ‘The dinner was served in the great room of the Imperial Hotel, whose ample proportions left nothing to be wished for in accommodation or effect… The gallery facing the chair was crowded with a party of elegantly dressed ladies, who listened with the deepest attention to the eloquent speech of the guest.’  Brilliant chandeliers and  numerous satin banners gave  a striking brilliance to the festive scene.[17] To a ‘melody of sweet sounds’  from the musicians, Mr. McDowell, the proprietor of the Imperial, on that occasion ‘surpassed himself’. The dinner comprised every delicacy of the season with a profusion of champagne and other wines.  Never was a company more gratified at the richly loaded board.[18]

In November and December 1846, Lord Lismore of Shanbally Castle, Clogheen, Co. Tipperary, received news of the birth of his first two grandchildren.  On both occasions 200 of his tenants and employees were entertained at Shanbally Castle to sumptuous dinners of roast beef and plum pudding.  The music for the after-dinner revelry was supplied by the Clogheen Amateur Band.  Bonfires illuminated the neighbourhood from the Knockmealdowns across the valley to the Galtees and dancing was kept up to a late hour.[19]

On 1 January 1847 a column headline on the front page of the Cork Examiner announced  
Irelan d’s Greatest Difficulty.

It continued:

‘The Public will readily admit that the greatest difficulty in Ireland is that of getting good tea. To remove “the difficulty” buy at Harman Dilis’s, Prince’s Street, Cork.’[20]

            Presumably, having purchased one of the many teas on offer in Dilis’s, thus removing the ‘difficulty’, the discerning host or hostess could then proceed to Bowden’s Established Piano-Forte Warehouse at 51, South Mall in Cork and purchase a piano from London or one of the many and varied musical instruments on offer. ‘Flutes, Cornopeans… Guitars, Harps, Violins, Violas’ were all available ‘in great and well chosen variety.’ For the convenience of customers Bowden’s had a ‘spring van’ available for conveyance of instruments ‘always ready’.[21]

Moving along the South Mall, to number 13, one came to Mr. Brennan’s Dancing Academy.  Mr. Brennan advertised private classes every day for the ‘VALSE a CINQ TEMPS, the rage at present in London at all the Nobility Balls…The Mazourka Quadrilles arranged for any number of couples…Families and schools attended to.  Lessons in Kalesthenic and Carthygean exercises as usual.’[22]

At number 17 Grand Parade, ‘For a Few Days Longer’, C. Pollard was showing, in two large and extensive rooms, his ‘Royal Mechanical Waxworks’. Models and figures of the Royal Family, ‘Moses in the bull rushes’, and ‘Androcles removing a thorn from the lion’s paw’ made up part of the exhibition which went on twice daily.  Prices: 1s. Morning,  and 6d. Evening.  Children - half price.[23]

Also advertised on the front page of the 1 January, 1847 Cork Examiner was a cornucopia of reading material.  Fraser’s Magazine for January was available for

2s. 6d. while at John O’Brien’s, Patrick Street one could pick up a copy of The Dublin Review.  The Minerva Circulating Library at 106 Patrick Street, Cork boasted thousands of books in stock.  Among the Kings of England, Count De Monte Christo and many travel books advertised one could pick up titillating titles like Life of a Beauty, Confessions of a Pretty Woman, or Memoirs of a Femme de Chambre.[24]

The Imperial Hotel was the scene for yet more entertainment on 18 January, 1847  when Mr. Forde’s Concert[25] took place, while the same venue was used for ‘The Grand Concert’ under distinguished patronage on 6 April.[26]  ‘Antient Concerts’ was how the concert of 23 March  was advertised where selections from Handel and Mozart were to be presented.[27]

            Later that year, in Clonmel, Colonel Ricketts kindly consented to allow the band of the Scots Greys Regiment to perform every Thursday evening at Fairy Hill. The Tipperary Free Press suggested that this would be a rich treat for the fair townswomen who could enjoy the beauties of Fairy Hill, ‘the witchery of the summer’s eve, and the delightful strains of one of the sweetest Bands in her Majesty’s service.’[28]  In nearby Cahir, in July, ‘a picnic on a very elegant scale took place at Caher Cottage. There were over fifty persons present, chiefly from the neighbourhoods of Clonmel and Caher. An amateur band attended, and after the dinner, which presented all the delicacies of the season, dancing was commenced and kept up much spirits until a late hour.[29]

November 1847 saw a banquet being given by the Repealers of Dungarvan in honour of their ‘late candidate’ John F. Maguire who had  apparently been beaten in a recent election.  The banquet took place at the ‘Franchise Club Rooms’ on a Sunday evening.  ‘The rooms, which were opened into one immense salon, were most tastefully decorated; and Mr. William Sheehan and his lady gave as splendid an entertainment as was ever yet seen in the borough.’ The evening was conducted by P. Landers, John Cleary, John O’Brien, Jeremiah Morrissey, Christopher O’Brien, James Boland and Richard Kelly.[30]

A February 1848 edition of the Freeman’s Journal gives an idea of the entertainment in the Dublin Theatres during that season. At the Theatre Royal, ‘Bohemian Girl’  was being performed with a concluding programme of a farce called ‘How to settle accounts with your Laundress’, while at the Queen’s Theatre another farce was playing - ‘My Young Wife and my old Umbrella’. [31]

The ‘Rotundo – Round Room’ saw the opening, that week, of an upcoming nationwide tour  entitled ‘Demonstration of the Heavens and Earth’. This was a travelling planetarium show which also included slides of abbeys, castles, landscapes, avalanches, alpine scenery and waterfalls, with a display of Chinese fireworks.  First, second and third class seats available. Family tickets on sale. Mr. Henry was soon to bring his show to Cork, Waterford, Limerick, and Belfast.[32]

Mr. W.E Mills – manager - informed the nobility, gentry, officers of the garrison, and the general public of Cork on 27 April 1848  that the Theatre Royal, in Cork City  was to open on Monday, 1 May.  A highly talented company selected from the ‘Principal Theatres of the United Kingdom’ was to perform on opening night. Mr. D. Leonard, ‘the celebrated Irish Comedian’ was scheduled to appear in May while fans of ‘Miss Jarman’ could catch her performance at a date to be announced.[33]

The introduction of gas light into private houses had many obvious advantages but the ladies had, according to the Tipperary Free Press in September 1847 , taken advantage - under pretence of the ‘dazzling  uncomfortableness’ of the bright lights - and taken to opening parasols at the evening soiree.  ‘A pink parasol, judiciously held between a lady’s face and a gas burner, throws a tender rosette hue over the complexion.’ The parasol could also be ‘dexterously manoeuvred’ as an aid if the ladies decided to favour someone with sidelong glances out of the glare of the lights.[34]

As summer gave way to autumn  the weather was still fine enough for outdoor activities. September was the month for the 1847 Killarney Lakes Regatta and Grand Stag Hunt.  Six races per day were on the card for the two day event, with six-oar boats, four-oar boats, two-oar boats and gigs taking part.[35]  For less energetic souls who wished to take to the water The Star Steamer plied between Cappoquin on the Blackwater and Youghal - at the mouth of that great river – on a daily basis; two trips daily with times scheduled to take advantage of tides.  Special attention was drawn to the times of boats on ‘Flower Show Days’.[36] The River Steamers Office in Cork city announced that evening trips were now discontinued (presumably owing to the darkening evenings) while other times for the Cork-Cove return trip remained the same.[37]

October heralded the first meetings of the season for some of Cork’s societies and clubs.  Cork Historical Society held its first meeting of the session at The Lecture Room of the Royal Cork Institution.  The President – Mr. M. J. Barry. Esq., (Barrister) was billed to deliver the opening address.[38]  The members and subscribers of the Cork Scientific and Literary Society were informed of a meeting to be held on 7 October :

Essay to be read – On Comedy and its tendencies – Ought the ‘School for Scandal’ be performed in this moral age? – by Wm. Keleher.

Essay for Discussion – On Oxygen and its compounds, illustrated with experiments – by Geo. Coleby.’  [39]

Members of the Royal Yacht Club in Cove were requested to take notice of the second general meeting of the season on Thursday,  7 October. .[40]  Presumably, a recent invention in Cork by Robert Buckley was the talking point of the evening.  Mr. Buckley had invented a ‘cork-stuffed life preserving mattress’ and tested same on the River Lee in June 1847. His letter to the Cork Examiner expressed concern that an English company to whom he had shown his device was trying to patent what The Examiner called a ‘Curious Invention’.[41] Mr. Buckley stated that he had fitted out the Cork Steam Ships Company’s vessels with the life preserver.[42]

By December of that year – 1847 – it was time for evenings out again and the members of the Loyal Munster Lodge of Odd Fellows announced the date – 14 December – for their Anniversary Soiree at the Confederate Rooms in Cork (formerly ‘Peoples’ Hall’).  The venue was kindly given by the Desmond Club.  A Full Quadrille Band was to be in Attendance.  Tickets at 1s. 6d  were available at several outlets in the city including the Odd Fellows’ Arms and the Odd Fellows’ Hotel.[43]  That week was particularly busy if one proposed attending the Odd Fellows’ Soiree and the ‘Grand Evening Concert’ at the Imperial.  Mr. Patton, ‘late violincellist at the Paris, London and Dublin concerts’ was presenting an evening of ‘Vocal and Instrumental Music’ on the 13th.[44]

Christmas was just around the corner and the annual chore of Christmas shopping had to be dealt with.  Thomas Carey of Carey’s Lane and Church Street in Cork brought to the attention  of the public the fact that he had just  imported, via steamer, a ‘Large Assortment of Raised Christmas Pie-Dishes…representing the most beautiful and accurate devices in Poultry, Game etc.’ ‘Rich Dinner, Tea, and Dessert services’ were available along with ‘Rich Cut Glass, Bohemian Glass and French China’. Goods for the country would be packed with the greatest of care by experienced packers. [45]

The organised and discerning shoppers would possibly have restocked their cellars and presses in September when the ships from Cadiz and Oporto arrived.  W.J. Tomkins gave notice that he had just received - direct from Cadiz - 12 Butts, 30 Hogsheads and 32 Quarter Casks of ‘most superior Sherry Wines, precisely similar to his late importations … which gave such general satisfaction’.[46]

George Smith at 5 Prince’s Street was offering the ‘Finest Old Malt Whiskey’ at eight shillings per gallon.  He also had an extensive assortment of ‘Pale, Golden and Brown Sherries’ available and offered ‘Full Flavoured Pale Sherry’ at 24s per ‘long dozen’. Parcels of ‘Five Dozen of Wine’ sent carriage free to any part of County Cork. [47]

At the ‘Magasin’ 83 Patrick Street, Ms. E.McAuliffe offered to the public a large and varied stock of fruits, foreign preserves, conserves, liquor, crystallised brandy, bottled fruits, jams and jellies, pickles and sauces, bottled meats, dessert and wine biscuits, and British wines.  From her warehouse she could supply Malaga and Palermo lemons, oranges, Lisbon grapes, New Turkey figs, Muscatel raisins, currants, nuts, foreign fruits and lozenges.  Ms. McAulife’s miscellaneous stock was ‘too large for the limits of an advertisement’.[48]  William Agar of Great Georges Street could supply original water colours of cattle, seascapes and landscapes and figures,[49] while J.O’Brien of Patrick Street was advertising ‘likenesses of O’Connell.’[50]

            Once Christmas was over thoughts would have turned to the upcoming ‘Grand Masonic Fancy Dress Charity Ball’ which was scheduled for 3 February 1848, and advertised in January by ‘The Worshipful Master, Wardens, and Brethren of the First Lodge of Ireland.’  Again the venue was the Imperial Clarence Rooms.  A list of over 100 of the patrons of the event reads like a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of Cork society.[51]  The committee trusted that all would adopt ‘Fancy Dress’ while the brethren were requested ‘to assemble in the Full Habiliments of their respective orders at half-past nine  on the above night, at the Imperial Hotel, for the purpose of forming the Procession to open the Ball.’ No masks or objectionable characters would be admitted and it was requested that, as the ball was for charity, no private assemblies or parties be organised on the same date.[52]  

One of the most extraordinary advertisements in 1848 was one for an ‘Extraordinary Exhibition of Aborigines’ at Theatre Royal, Cook Street in Cork.[53]  It consisted of ‘Two women, two men, and a baby of  The Bush Tribe, from the interior of South Africa, belonging to a race that, from their wild habits, could never before be induced to visit a place of civilisation.’ Admission was 2s to boxes, Gallery 6d. Children under ten – half price. ‘Private interviews…2s. 6d.’[54]

It is surely safe to speculate that these were the same Bush People who were on exhibition in Dublin earlier in the month.[55] A report in the Freeman’s Journal stated that when they were in London they were shown at the Royal property where their keeper had to restrain them due to their excitement and terror at the band-playing and the fireworks.  Vauxhall Gardens were crowded for the visit and many of the leading aristocracy were present.[56]

The following month, March 1848,  Mrs. Cotton announced, in the public notices of the Cork Examiner, that having been encouraged by many families of distinction she wished to announce that a ‘Grand Full Dress Ball’ was to take place at the Imperial Clarence Rooms on 26 April.[57]  


A small selection of the goods that were on offer through the advertisements in The Cork Examiner and the Tipperary Free Press has been referred to in this chapter.  A longer chapter could dwell at length on this particular aspect of 1846-47. For now it  just remains to outline briefly some of the other goods that were on offer in the newspapers in South Tipperary and Cork in those years.  Wines, coffee, cocoa, cider, silk and wool products, shower bath and curtains, hats, brandy, plated goods, marine paintings, clocks and watches, fine arts, groceries, tartan and clan, boots and slippers, sugar and jewellery. An ‘Immense stock of Valentines’ was available in 1848 from Guy Brothers, Patrick Street, Cork.[58] (For those with more money than they needed for shopping the pages carried an abundance of life insurance, assurance and investments schemes.)  For Christmas 1848 Woodford Bourne in Cork advertised their quality teas while A.P.Dillon offered  Christmas Presents and supplies, including coffee, port, whiskey, rum, cigars, ‘Prime Wicklow Hams’, sugar, spices and candles.[59]

Chapter 2


The first recorded game of golf in Ireland was on the Curragh plains in 1851-2 and so falls just outside the scope of this dissertation. This was four years prior to the establishment of the Curragh Camp and the above mentioned game was probably played by army officers from Kildare or by some of the Scottish immigrants who had come to Ireland in those years.[60]

Cricket had been played in Ireland since around 1792, this being the recorded date of a game near the Viceroy’s residence at the Phoenix Park in Dublin.[61]  The Freeman’s Journal stated that the game of cricket  was to England what the game of hurling was to Ireland.[62] Arthur Young expressed a more jaundiced view when he recorded - during  his famous tour - that ‘hurling was the cricket of savages’. [63]  It is reasonable to deduce from an advertised cricket match of 16 June 1846 that cricket was popular enough among the gentlemen of Cahir, County Tipperary, to warrant the setting up of a cricket club. One of their matches was Cahir Cricket Club versus The Garrison.  Class doesn’t appear to have been any problem on the Garrison side as the officers took to the field with the mere privates.  In spite of the best efforts of Pt. Dangate, who appears to have had a splendid game, Cahir Club was victorious.[64]

Freshwater angling has been popular for many centuries if we are to judge by Isaac Walton’s seventeenth century The Compleat Angler and the thought of mid-nineteenth century rivers teeming with trout and salmon can cause an increase in the heart-rate of modern anglers. George Markham felt compelled to put pen to paper on 27 February 1846 regarding the number of fine salmon taken by anglers in the river Suir in Clonmel in the first three weeks of February.  Mr. Markham was advocating that because these salmon had yet to spawn the Commissioners of Fisheries should delay the opening of the angling season until March and that it should close on the last day of October.  This action, he reckoned, could have the desired effect of increasing the number of salmon in the locality by many thousands each year.[65]  The opening date of the season for trout angling was dealt with in a notice in The Cork Examiner in January 1848.  It stated that ‘it would be lawful to angle for trout’ from 1 February,  that year.[66]

A more dashing and adventurous water-based sport that was gaining in popularity in the 1840s was yachting. The Royal Cork Yacht Club had been founded as early 1720[67] and over a century later  - in 1846  - it was decided to put the sport on a national level. Accordingly, The Royal Irish Yacht Club was founded in Kingstown in that year.[68]  The commodore was Herbert Dodgeon, and sloops, cutters, yawls and ketches from 2 to 25 tons were listed as club yachts. [69]

However, the sports that stood out among the rest in 1840s Ireland, if one is to judge by the number of meetings and reports, were horse racing and fox hunting. Colonel Wyndham-Quin, writing in 1919, stated that the Ormond and King’s County pack of fox hounds was supposed to be the oldest in the country, and a Mr. Henry Wilson of Ballygiblin (east Cork) was showing good sport with the Duhallows as far back as 1745. [70]  Referring to the death of a Mr. Fosberg in Dungarvan in July 1847, Col. Wyndham-Quin  shows some glimpses of hunting in ‘those days’.[71] The November and February meetings of the Kilkenny hunt were for two weeks duration and the dinners held at night were famous for good wine and good fellowship. ‘Sneyd’s claret largely fortified with Hermitage and Old Port were the liquids…’[72] The Duhallows come in for further mention, this time from Muriel Bowen when she refers to Mr. John Courtenay of Ballyedmond becoming the master of that pack in 1849.  It was the same Mr. Courtenay, she states, who brought the Grand National to Ireland in 1848.[73]

One of the names that was synonymous with racing and hunting in Ireland at that period was that of Lord Waterford.  He ensured the quality of his hunting with an outlay of £4,000 per year.  (This figure did not include the money spent on horses.)  ‘The most brilliant runs of their time’ is how his exploits were remembered when recalling the four famous runs he had from the same fox into woodstock in the 1848-49 season.[74]  In March 1846 the ‘Tipperary Fox Hounds’ met at Thomastown, at Knockelly Castle, and at Marlfield.  The Kilkenny Hunt met – during the same month – at Dunmore Park; Clonmanto Mills; Farmley Gate and at Kilmaganny. [75] 

Two years later in January 1848 meetings for hounds in Tipperary for the second half of that month were advertised:

Friday 14th -   Graystown Castle

Friday 14th -    Turtulla

Monday 17th - Killoran

Monday 17th - Glenconnor

Thursday 20th - Kenilworth

Friday 21st - Inch Gate

Monday 24th - Race Course, Thurles. [76]

The Castlemartyr Hounds in County Cork gave notice of meetings for February 1847:

Monday 1st, Newtown Gate

Wednesday 3rd, Watergrass Hill

Friday 5th Rockgrove

Monday 8th Ballyedmond

Wednesday 10th Watergrass Hill

Friday 12th Castletown House.[77]

In December 1847, The Castle Frake Hounds caused excitement when they put up 50 or 60 partridges which was considered to be an unusual sight at that time of year as they are a migratory bird.[78]

On the racing front the Irish Turf Appointments for 1846 were 26 in number and were scheduled from April to November.  Venues listed chronologically were:

Galway; Curragh; Tullow; Castletown Park; Curragh,  Lusk; Wicklow; Bellewstown; Carlow; Heath; Killarney; Down Royal; Ennis; Phoenix Park; Cork; Kilcock; Navanstown; Curragh; Tuam; Ballinrobe; Fermoy; Cashel; Curragh; Kilkenny; Maze; and finally, Mallow.[79]

A course named New Melton was constructed near New Inn in Cahir in the 1830s.  Following the Cashel races on 12 September 1846, a meet was held at New Melton towards the end of October.[80]  Apparently a handsome course, it was all grass, three miles long, and had thirty two fences.. [81] Mr. Power’s ‘Saucepan’ beat Lord Waterford’s ‘Firefly’ into second place in the first race.  The second race was won by Mr. Clutterbuck’s ‘Little Jem’ and the third by Mr. Curran’s ‘Wonder’ The final race of the day was a ‘Farmers’ Race’, Mr. Dunn’s ‘Little Moll’ taking the money from ‘Lady Agnes’, ‘Colleen Bawn’ and ‘Moonspike’. 

John Williams has  written that the fences at Liverpool, though different from Irish fences, did not deter the Irish from ‘returning again and again’.[82]  A point in favour of Liverpool was the easy access from Irish ports.  The 1847 Aintree Grand National was won by an Irish horse, ‘Mathew’, ridden by Denny Wynne.    Referring to that victory, Col. S.J. Watson states, ‘his victory was celebrated on both sides of the Irish Sea in a manner that may well have disconcerted the worthy Apostle of Temperance in whose honour he had been named.’[83]

It is impossible to assess the numbers who attended these race meetings in Ireland in 1847 from advertisements and race reports alone.  One is fortunate then to get an insight into the popularity of the sport from an unlikely source.  A report carried in the Tipperary Free Press on 12 May  1847 on the progress of the new Irish railways is revealing. It stated that the largest train ‘that had ever been started’ on the Great Southern and Western Railway since its inception had been to convey passengers to the Steeple Chase at Lucan in the previous week.  On that occasion 23 carriages conveyed 1,500 racegoers to their destination.[84]  Travelling on that line a few months earlier – January 1847 – Alexander Somerville recorded that the Irish trains were so steady that passengers would think they were sitting in a parlour.[85]  Kevin O’Connor writes that the carriages were revolutionary in terms of comfort with upholstered seats and arm rests and ‘ a décor similar to a Victorian drawing room, the whole lit by suspended oil lamps.’ Foot warmers were available for hire in the colder months and picnic hampers in summer.[86]  As the Cork Dublin line wasn’t completed until October 1849 the above report from the GS&WR must have referred to a train from Carlow to Lucan.  This line had opened during the summer of 1846.

Chapter 3

Health and Medicine.

The mid to late 1840s were wonderfully innovative years in the field of health and medicine in Ireland.  On New Year’s Day 1847, a mere eleven days after Europe’s first painless amputation, John McDonnell performed Ireland’s first ever amputation under anaesthetic.[87]  The operation, which saw the removal of the arm of a young girl, took place at the Richmond Hospital in Dublin.  McDonnell was so concerned for the safety of the young patient that he used the ether on himself the previous day.  Afterwards he wrote, ‘I regard this operation as one of the most important of this century.  It will rank with vaccination and other of the greatest benefits that medical science has bestowed on man.’[88]

            A medical book which became a classic of surgical literature, Treatise on Fractures in the Vicinity of Joints by Robert Smith - complete with 200 illustrations - was published in Dublin in 1847.  Smith was one of the first joint secretaries of the Pathological Society of Dublin which brought together surgeons and physicians thus encouraging ‘mutual co-operation in the pursuit of knowledge.[89] Smith’s output was so prolific that this was only one of the books which he published in that year.

William Wilde, father of Oscar, made significant contributions to medicine, literature and archaeology.  Among other titles his Treatise on Inflammation was noteworthy. [90] Wilde was an ‘eye and ear specialist’ and for a while his Dublin hospital was the only one in Britain and Ireland where aural surgery was taught.  Graduates came from as far away as America.  Pressed for space as the hospital expanded he moved to a larger building in 1848 and then had room for twenty public patients and boasted three private rooms, an operating theatre and outpatient department.[91]

Another medical breakthrough in Ireland during those years was the first ever injection of medication beneath the skin performed by the famous Dublin surgeon Francis Rynd in 1849.  He was educated at the Meath Hospital in Dublin. He also published a book on disease of the urinary tract.

However, while acknowledging the importance and impact of these inventions, innovations and publications, they were not the medical issues that grabbed the minds of the readers of the Tipperary Free Press and the Cork Examiner in 1846 and 1847. Illnesses  that were ‘closer to home’  had to be dealt with and the mind-boggling range of disabilities and the medicines and cures being advertised to cater for such illnesses in the provincial press is instructive.

In January 1846 (and again in November 1847[92] and at intervals) a publication entitled ‘The Silent Friend on Human Frailty’ was being advertised in the Tipperary Free Press as:

A MEDICAL WORK on the INFIRMITIES OF THE GENERATIVE SYSTEM, in both sexes, being an Enquiry into concealed cause that destroys physical energy, and the ability of manhood, ere vigour has stabilised her [e]mpire:- with Observations on the baneful effects of SOLITARY INDULGENCE…[93]

But help was at hand for Irish readers. Perrys, the publishers of the book, had a remedy - several remedies in fact - to counter the worst excesses of human frailty. Their ‘Cordial Balm of Syriacum’ – like some nineteenth century Viagra - was intended for those who suffered from  a multitude of afflictions including ‘weakness’, ‘total impotence’ and ‘barrenness’. The balm was particularly recommended for those about to enter matrimony ‘…lest in the event of procreation occurring, the innocent offspring should bear enstamped upon it the physical characters derivable from parental debility.’[94] By contrast, the claims in the advertisement for ‘Lord Eldon’s Aperient Pills’ were much more modest but customers could be assured of the efficacy of the pills in cases ‘arising from obstruction in the liver, spleen and billary ducts, and from morbid or disordered secretions of the Stomach and Bowels…’[95]

Seasickness was possibly not the primary pre-voyage concern or anxiety that occupied the minds of those contemplating ocean travel in the nineteenth century;  only those who have suffered from that particular ailment will appreciate just how it does occupy the mind when it strikes.  Happy then the voyagers who had the foresight to purchase a supply of Thompson’s guaranteed Sea-Sickness Remedy which allowed them  indulge in their  maritime adventures in comparative comfort and freedom from illness. Thompson’s Remedy, it was claimed, had, in extensive trials, cured or prevented sea-sickness in 98 cases out of 100. [96]

Back on ‘terra firma’ those concerned about the improvement and preservation of their eyesight most likely took advantage of the visit of Mr. Cowan Solomon -  Optician to the Royal Family – to Clonmel in April 1846.  Mr. Solomon was concerned for his customers and announced through the columns of the Tipperary Free Press that he had been induced to prolong his stay in Clonmel by the increasing demand for his services. If failing eyesight wasn’t a problem, perhaps deafness was, and Mr. Solomon could also assist in such cases. For the benefit of his customers, he had imported such things as magic lanterns and  spirit levels as well as his new improved hearing apparatus.[97]

The problem of toothache was also of concern to the newspaper-reading public of 1846-47. Those suffering from toothache  could follow the example of ‘families of distinction’ and acquire ‘Bullock’s Original Camphor Tooth Paste’ which preserved the teeth, strengthened the gums and prevented tooth ache.  As a bonus it sweetened the breath.[98]  Those who ignored the advice in that particular September 1846 advert could make amends in February 1847 when, not one, but two surgeon dentists advertised their services in Clonmel.  Irish parents were, no doubt, gratified to find that both gentlemen regulated and arranged children’s teeth while Mr. Jones also announced that, due to improvements, ‘persons can now enjoy the comforts of well adjusted Artificial Teeth’, and further, that the ‘Silician Teeth’ invented  by Messrs. Jones ‘are most effective in restoring articulation and mastication.’ [99]

Many patent medicines were advertised in the pages perused for this work, and the claims and testimonials made for and on behalf of the various products is worthy of greater research than this dissertation allows.  However, the most dramatic claim from an April 1847 advertisement and a testimonial supporting it, gleaned from the pages of the Cork Examiner,  deserve mention here.

The product in question was Holloway’s Ointment and the testimonial from Charles Tully – the editor and proprietor of the Roscommon Herald – stated that Mr. Ryan,  the well known proprietor of an hotel in Roscommon had two very bad legs, one with eight ulcers on it, the other with three. They were in such a fearful state that the ‘effluvis’ from them was very great.  Mr. Ryan was given professional opinion in Dublin that he had to have both legs amputated or face certain death but on his way home from Dublin someone offered him ‘Holloway’s Pills and Ointment’ and Mr. Ryan was, thankfully, perfectly cured.[100]

Patronage was everything in the sale of patent medicines.  The makers of ‘Paul’s Every Man’s Friend’ understood very well the value of being able to claim the Royal Family among their customers.  The advertisers were careful not to specify which royal family offered their patronage but to the readers of the Irish press it certainly seemed that THE royal family were using the ‘Corn Plasters’ which produced ‘an instant and delightful relief from torture.’[101]  Another tortuous complaint, the nature of which - according to the manufacturer - made it impossible to invite testimonials, was ‘Abernethy’s Pile Ointment’. According to the advertisement the ‘Abernethian’ prescription had been the means of healing a vast number of desperate cases.[102]

The frequency of insertion and prominence given to the 1846-47 advertisements regarding the above  illnesses and medicines would indicate that they were of concern to the readers of the nationalist newspapers and profitable for the advertisers.   In an age before advertising standards had been established it was possible to claim that ‘Parrs Life Pills’ would indeed invigorate and restore the health and appetite of the entire family,[103] or that Dr. Locock’s Pulmonic Wafers would cure asthma and coughs and give instant relief in all disorders of breath and lungs.[104] What is more, it was possible - without the benefit of the awareness and education that is taken for granted in the 21st century - to believe such claims and perhaps the combination of herbal preparations and placebo-effect really did make them work.


While the research for this dissertation was undertaken with a stated bias the results of that research have been presented without any moral judgement  and in as value-free a style as possible.  It is expected that much of the irony of the material will be obvious to the reader.  For instance, it wasn’t felt necessary to show the contrast between the clothes advertised in McSwiney’s and McGrath’s of Clonmel and the clothes of the peasants and labourers.  Neither was it felt appropriate to highlight the difference between the ‘Fashions for January 1846’ and the workhouse uniform, or the difference in the fare of the soup-kitchens and the banquets of the gentry and middle classes.  Freshly imported Malaga and Palermo lemons, oranges and grapes being offered for sale in Patrick Street in Cork in December 1847 while hundreds of thousands were affected by scurvy caused by vitamin C deficiency tells its own story.

   It is impossible not to mention here the differing modes of travel for rich and poor during the Great Famine and the intended destinations.  For some it was the famine march to the workhouse or to the ports to take them away from  hunger and death, for others it was the first class carriage on the Great Southern and Western Railway with  a day at the races at the end of the journey.  If one was a customer and user of Abernethy’s Pile Ointment, the upholstered seats in the carriages must have provided wonderful comfort.  It would be comforting to think that the 1,500 train passengers were all gout-ridden landlords but that was hardly the case. 

O’Connor asserts that the railways, in part, were built through famine relief, with night shifts working by the light of paraffin burning in tar barrels.[105] However,  Woodham Smith asserts that the Cork-Dublin line was the only line in a position to offer, and avail of,  famine  relief work.[106]     In the early 1840s investors in Ireland  realised that with cheaper land prices and cheaper labour than in England there was potential for investment in an Irish rail system and  the years 1845 – 1850 saw the construction of most of Ireland’s rail network.  1842 saw Ireland with 31 miles of rail track; this had grown to 700 miles by 1850.[107] 

          The fact that the organisers of the ‘Grand Masonic Fancy Dress Ball’ in Cork on 3 February 1848 felt it necessary to request that ‘no private assemblies or parties be organised on the same date’ would seem to indicate that they expected private assemblies and parties to be held if they did not make such a request. Lord Bessborough reported from Dublin, in 1847, to Lord John Russell, that it was the ‘balls and drawing rooms’ that ‘were knocking him up’.[108]

          It is thought-provoking to realise that in January 1847, around the same time   that the Cork Examiner carried an advertisement claiming  ‘the greatest difficulty in Ireland is that of getting good tea.’, it carried an article about a man and woman being arrested in Youghal for attempting to sell the body of a seven year old boy so that they could buy food.  A jury of twelve men, an apothecary, a doctor and  a sub-constable all sat and listened to the evidence.[109]  It would appear that the institutions of state were functioning adequately on that date.       

          That some profited from the Famine is not disputed.  Certainly some landlords lost their estates during those years but many of this group would probably have lost their estates anyway.   Antiquarians collecting gold and silver were well served by the Famine as families sold off the pieces that had become family heirlooms. J.F. Maguire asserted  ‘The potato-rot stripped the side-board of its gorgeous ornaments’ and ‘…the late crowning disaster glutted the shops of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and other large towns, with the first sad offering to the evil genius of the hour.’ [110]

          Was it because of a fashion-conscious, race-going, banquet-attending, rail-travelling, sherry-drinking section of Irish society that England handed the problem of Irish poverty over to Irish property in 1847? Was it because of this same section of society that Punch so viciously caricatured the Irish hungry?  Was it callous indifference or congenital inability to be concerned for the poorer classes that made the 400 diners at the Limerick banquet in autumn 1846 shout down the warning voice of Captain Kennedy?  Was there, after all, some truth in Mitchel’s claim that ‘they died in the midst of plenty’?
Ed O'Riordan University College Cork 1999-2000
Ed O'Riordan is a Historian from near Cahir in South Tipperary.  His work features in two chapters of  the 'Atlas of the Great Irish Famine'.  He is the author of 'In Terrible Discordance', an extraordinary perspective on the Great Irish Famine. O'Riordan examined the lives of the Middle and Upper Classes during those cataclysmic years. He maintains that the narrative of the Great Famine has been less than complete without including the continuation of sport, dress balls, picnics, theatre, horse racing, music recitals, banquets, flower shows, soirees etc.
 It is a unique approach which has now been adopted by others.
This dissertation was nominated for the John A Murphy prize by the History Department at University College Cork.


[1] Micháel Ó hAodha, Theatre in Ireland  (Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1974),  p. 12.

[2] T.F.P., 14 January, 1846.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5]  T.F.P.,  3 January 1846. (This regular column in the Tipperary Free Press was taken from the

    London and Paris Ladies’ Magazine.)

[6] T.F.P.,  27 October 1847.

[7] Ibid.

[8] T.F.P.,  3 January 1846. (Clonmel’s modern Regal Theatre stands at the site of the theatre mentioned here.)

[9] Ibid.

[10] T.F.P. January 10, 1846.

[11] E O’Riordan,  Famine in the Valley,   (Clogheen, Co. Tipperary, 1995), p.51.

[12] T.F.P. January 17, 1846.

[13] T.F.P. August 19, 1846.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] T.F.P.  19 September  1846.

[18] Ibid.

[19] O’Riordan, Famine in the Valley,  (1995) pp. 51-2.

[20] Cork Examiner, 1 January, 1847.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Cork Examiner, 8 January, 1847.

26 Ibid.,  22 March 1847.

[27]  Ibid.,  12  March  1847.

[28] T.F.P.,  14 July 1847.

[29] T.F.P., 17 July 1847.

[30] T.F.P., 27 November 1847

[31] Freeman’s Journal, 1 February  1848.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Cork Examiner,  April  1848.

[34] T.F.P.,  22 September 1847.

[35] Cork Examiner,  10 September  1847.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Cork Examiner, 4 October  1847.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Cork Examiner, 4 October  1847.

[41] Cork Examiner, 17 January  1848.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Cork Examiner,  6 December  1847.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Cork Examiner,  24  September  1847.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Cork Examiner, 24 September 1847.

[49] Ibid., 22 November 1847.

[50] Ibid., November 15 1847.

[51] Ibid. 25 January  1848.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Cork Examiner,  23 February  1848.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Freeman’s Journal, 1February  1848.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Cork Examiner, 27 March 1848.

[58] Cork Examiner,  8 December 1848.

[59] Cork Examiner, 15  December 1848.

[60] W. H. Gibson,  Early Irish Golf  (Oakleaf Publications, Kildare, 1988), pp.17 – 23.

[61] W.P. Hone,  Cricket in Ireland  (The Kerryman Ltd., Tralee, 1955) p.1.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Arthur Young,  A Tour in Ireland with General Observations on The Present State of that Kingdom.

  (1780), p.147.

[64] T.F.P., 20 June  1846.

[65] T.F.P., 28 February 1846.

[66] Cork Examiner, 24 January 1848.

[67] E. MacNally,  Irish Yachting,  ( The Parkside Press, Dublin, 1946),  p. 12.

[68] Ibid., p.27.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Colonel Wyndham-Quin, , The Fox Hound in County Limerick,

(Maunsell and Company, Dublin, 1919),  p. 9.

[71] Ibid., p.97.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Muriel Bowen, Irish Hunting,  (The Kerryman, Tralee, N.D.), p. 59.

[74] Ibid., p.187.

[75] T.F.P.,  28 February  1846.

[76] T.F.P.,  12 January  1848.

[77] Cork Examiner, 1 February  1847.

[78] Cork Examiner,   6 December  1847.

[79] T.F.P., 28 February  1846.

[80] T.F.P., 24 October  1846.

[81] J. Williams,  Irish Horse Racing – An Illustrated History,  (Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 1982), p.31.

[82] Ibid.  p.33.

[83] Colonel S.J. Watson,  A History of Irish Steeplechasing, (Allen Figgis, Dublin, 1969),  p.61.

[84] T.F.P,. 12 May 1847.

[85] K. O’Connor, Ironing the Land,  (Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 1999), p.51.

[86] Ibid.

[87] D. Coakley, The Irish School of Medicine,  Outstanding Practitioners of the 19th Century.

(Town House, Dublin, 1988), p.66

[88] Ibid.

[89] Ibid.  p.65

[90] Ibid.  p.73

86 Ibid.  p.84

[92] Tipperary Free Press, 3 November 1847.

[93] Tipperary Free Press,  7 January 7 1846.

[94] Ibid.

[95] Ibid.

[96] T.F.P. 28 February  1846.

[97] T.F.P. 8 April  1846.

[98] T.F.P. 19 September  1846.

[99] T.F.P. 17 February 1847.

[100] Cork Examiner, 14 April  1847.

[101] T.F.P., 19 September  1846.

[102] Ibid.

[103] T.F.P., 3 July 1847.

[104] Cork Examiner,  1 January 1847.

[105] O’Connor, K., Ironing the Land. p.58. 

[106] Cecil Woodham Smith, The Great Hunger, (London, 1962),  p.181.

[107] S. J. Connolly, (ed) The Oxford Companion to Irish History.  

(Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998)  p. 471.

[108] Asa Briggs,  ‘Poverty and Plenty: The Victorian Contrast’ in J. Hill and C. Lennon (eds), Luxury

 and Austerity, (Dublin, 1997), p. 199.

[109] Cork Examiner, 3 February 1847.

108 J. F. Maguire, The Industrial Movement in Ireland as illustrated by the National exhibition of 1852.

(Cork, 1853), p. 133.

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