Gweedore and Cloughaneely Relief Fund Appeal 1858
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At a meeting held in Dunfanaghy, on the 18th January, 1858, for the purpose of devising the best means of alleviating the distress among the peasants of Gweedore and Cloughaneely - the Very Rev. Hugh McFadden, P.P. and V.F., of the united parishes of Tullaughobegly and Raymunterdoney, in the chair - the following resolutions were put and unanimously adopted:-
1. Resolved -"That the deplorable state of Gweedore and Cloughaneely call for the prompt interference of the charitable and humane, and that this meeting appeal to the sympathies of our countrymen, of every class and denomination, for Funds to enable us to relieve the peasants of these districts, who are at present undergoing the most indescribable sufferings and privations."
2. Resolved - "That the Rev. Daniel McGee, P.P., Gweedore; the Rev. Hugh McFadden, P.P., Cloughaneely; the Rev. J. Doherty, P.P. Rossgull; the Rev. James McFadden, C.C. Clougheneely; the Rev. Bernard McMonagle, C.C., and the Rev. J. McGroarty, C.C., both of Doe, be constituted into a Local Committee, with powers to allocate and distribute for the relief of those in distress, whatever Funds may be received through our appeal to the public."
3. Resolved - "That the Rev. Daniel McGee, P.P., Gweedore, be appointed Treasurer of these Funds(?)"
4. Resolved - "That the Rev. John Doherty, P.P., Carrigart, Strabane, be appointed Honorary Secretary."
5. Resolved - "That this Committee meet every fortnight, for the purpose of disposing of the Funds on hands, and of conferring for the benefit of those in distress."
6. Resolved - "That these Resolutions and Appeal be printed in all the Provincial and Metropolitan Newspapers favourable to our cause."
Countrymen and Fellow Christians, - In the wilds of Donegal, down in the bogs of Gweedore and Cloughaneely, thousands upon thousands of human beings, made after the image and likeness of God, are perishing, or next to perishing, amidst squalidness and in misery, for want of food and clothing, far away from human aid and pity. On behalf of these famishing victims of oppression and persecution, we venture to appeal to your kind sympathies and religious feelings; and hope that, for the sake of him who bore our infirmities, you will share with us their distress by lending some substantial assistance to enable us to relieve their wretchedness, and rescue them from death and starvation. The ground of this Appeal is simple, and may be thus simply told :-
The districts of Gweedore and Cloughaneely are the bleakest and most mountainous in Donegal or in Ireland. The entire surface is broken up by huge, abrupt, and irregular hills of granite, covered with a texture of stunted heath, while the space between is but a shaking and spongy marsh. The inhabitants of these wilds are all Celts of the 'pure old race, with the pure old faith,' who cultivate small patches of arable land along the shore or claddagh on which their wretched cabins are built, and subsist principally by rearing stock and grazing sheep on the steep sides of their mountains and in their hollow glens. The increase of their flocks they sold to meet the landlord's rent, and the other exigencies of life; while of the wool of their sheep they manufactured frieze and tammy as clothing for the male and female members of their families respectively. Thus, from time immemorial, they lived in the enjoyment of these wild mountains, living a most innocent and peaceable rural life, warm and faithful in their friendship while their attachment to the old faith was stronger than death.
Last year brought a change on these warm-hearted peasants. All the landlords of these districts, save one, simultaneously deprived them of their mountains, giving them to Scotch and English graziers for sheep-walks, and, at the same time, doubled, trebled, and, in many instances, quadrupled, the rents on the miserable patches left them. These mountains, so unjustly pressed from the unfortunate natives, were peopled with Scotch and English sheep. But, sadder still, the strange sheep imported to these mountains throve not. Last winter was very prejudicial to sheep, particularly under Scotch treatment - the Donegal mountains proved treacherous, and their tracts devious to strangers. The sheep recently placed on this strange pasture were prone, from natural instinct, to wander, and the Scotch shepherds were supinely negligent in the duties of their calling. The natural consequence was, that large numbers of the sheep strayed - large numbers of them were lost in bog-holes - and large numbers of them perished through the inclemency of the winter and the want of proper care. During the Penal Laws, we are told that Grand Jury levies were made upon Irish Catholics for loses sustained by Protestant merchants at the hands of Catholic powers, with whom England might happen to be then at war. It must have been in the same spirit that, in order to recompense these losses of the Scotch and English graziers, an enormous and unjust grand Jury Warrant was obtained against these innocent Celts. And, in order, moreover, to carry out this iniquitous enactment, and the more effectually to secure the adverse and unjust possession of those mountains, an extra force of constabulary was, at the instance of these landlords, ordered to these districts, for whose support a most ruinous tax has been imposed on the wretched inhabitants. In short, by those and similarly unjust and arbitrary proceedings, the sum of about three thousand pounds has been levied on the poorest and most miserable district on God's earth. Already the law officials, backed by 300 constabulary, have, at the bayonet's point collected the last farthing of this enormously disproportioned levy. The poor, shivering, and famishing peasants, under the terror of an armed force, wielded by officials without feeling or humanity, were obliged to sell their little scanty bins of potatoes and small stacks of rye and corn to meet this merciless demand. It is almost incredible the means the poor creatures resorted to in order to make up the necessary sum. Many went 30 miles to borrow or beg the money from their friends - many sold their kitchen furniture and utensils - and even mothers were known to have sold their cradles. It was, truly, a sight to make angels weep, to see the poor helpless fathers, amidst the tears and wailings of their more helpless wives and hungry children, parting with the last stone of their potatoes and other necessities of life to pay this iniquitous tax. The stalwart and robust peasantry could do nothing but weep, the womanly hearts of the mothers were wrung with agony, and the ragged children - poor innocent things - bewailed, in loud cries and convulsive sobs, their forlorn lot. And we, who witnessed these scenes of woe, are not ashamed to confess that we, too, shed tears - unavailing tears - of pity and sympathy for them. But there was no remedy! Like Herod's savage massacre of the Innocents, the warrant was unfeelingly executed. The foul and dastardly deed was perpetrated - consummated. And thus the food of some thousand families has been swept away, and their only means of supporting and clothing themselves cruelly pressed from them. Whether the object of the landlord's harsh and tyrannical treatment to these poor peasants is to crush them out, or wring from them a large revenue, we will not stop to inquire; but we have no hesitation in saying, that, unless they are assisted in their present distress, they must sink under the weight of their misery - must be blotted out of existence; and that their once happy homes will become walks for Scotch and English hoggets. They are now, at all events, in consequence of such treatment, perishing of hunger and nakedness, in their damp and comfortless cabins. But we will venture a little into detail :-
There are at this moment 800 families subsisting on seaweed, crabs, cockles, or any other edible matter they can pick up along the sea-shore, or scrape off the rocks.
There are about 600 adults, of both sexes, who, through sheer poverty, are now going barefooted, amidst the inclemency of the season, on this bleak Northern coast.
There are about 700 families that have neither bed nor bed-clothes, but are forced to lie on the cold damp earth in rags worn by them during the day.
There are about 800 families without a second bed, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, being huddled together as best they can.
Thousands of the male population have only one cotton shirt, and wear none whilst it is being washed, while thousands have not even one. The females are still in a worse condition.
There are about 400 families, in which there may be half a dozen full-grown females, who have only one dress among them, in which they can appear in public; mothers and daughters alternatively using this common wardrobe when they go out of doors.
There are about 600 families who have now neither cow, sheep, not goat; and who, from the beginning of the year to its close, hardly ever knew the taste of milk or butter.
There are thousands of youths, of both sexes, verging on the age of puberty, who are so partially and scantily clothed that modesty forbids one to look at them - they are only objects for the eye of charity.
We will not, though we could, go further into particulars, but, on behalf of those, and these, and all, appeal for funds to enable us to assist them in their respective wants. And we appeal in the name of Him who said, "Deal thy bread to the hungry." "Clothe the naked." "Give drink to the thirsty." "sell what you possess and give alms to the poor." The Son of God ? the person of these perishing peasants. He is hungry - will you give him to eat? He is thirsty - will you give him to drink? He is naked - will you clothe him? Do it to them, and you do it to Him. For he says himself, "for as long as you did it to one of these, my least brethren, you did it to me."
We appeal to fathers and mothers, with fond and promising children, and request that "as you would that others would act to your children, if they were in want, act you to the desolate families in the wilds of Donegal."
We appeal to the chaste and virtuous young ladies of Ireland, and say, "As you value that priceless ornament of your sex, maiden modesty. And as you know what it is to put female delicacy rudely to the blush for want of sufficient clothing, grant us, of your superfluous dresses, wherewith to enable us to buy plain dresses for these half-dressed girls of Donegal." Both we and they will pray that God may screen you from all shame and confusion.
And finally, before all, and beyond all, we appeal to the patriotic young men of Ireland. This fine old Celtic race is about being crushed aside to make room for Scotch and English sheep. We appeal to your noble and generous feelings, as men and patriots, to assist us in our efforts to prevent their total extinction. We declare it, in the face of the world, as our solemn conviction, that, in the sight of God and men, there is not a more precious offering than alms from the patriot's muscular hand, when given for the love of country and the relief of his kind.
JOHN DOHERTY, P.P.., Carrigart, Rossgul.
HUGH McFADDEN, P.P., Falcarragh, Cloughaneely.
DANIEL McGEE, P.P., Bunbeg, Gweedore.
JOHN O'DONNELL, P.P., Dungloe, Rosses.
JOHN FLANAGAN, P.P., Rathmelton.
HUGH McFADDEN, C.C., Allsaints.
JAMES McFADDEN, C.C., Falcarragh, Cloughaneely.
BERNARD McMONAGLE, C.C., Dunfanaghy, Doe.
JOHN McGROARTY, C.C., Cashelmore, Doe.
HUGH CULLEN, C.C, Rossgul.
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