23.06.11 2011 National Famine Commemoration To Be Held in Clones, County Monaghan
Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, today ( Thursday 23rd June, 2011) announced the plans for the 2011 National Famine Memorial Day.
Minister Deenihan said: ‘I am delighted that Clones, County Monaghan, is to be the location for the National Famine Commemoration in 2011 and to learn of the great support in the local communities in Monaghan for this event. It is evidence of the deep respect still held today for all those who perished, suffered and emigrated during this tragic period in our history. I look forward to discussions taking place over the coming weeks between my Department and the relevant stakeholders to make the necessary arrangements and I hope to announce the date of this year’s commemoration very shortly.’
There is nothing else in the history of the Irish people that can be likened to the Great Famine, either for its impact or its legacy of emigration, cultural loss and decline of the Irish language. That legacy also includes a strong appreciation among Irish people of issues such as food security and a strong commitment to humanitarian aid and relief, even today in these very difficult economic times.
Respected historians have pointed to the significant impact of the Famine in Ulster as a whole and to the particular impact in south Ulster. Indeed, Clones was amongst the hardest hit areas in all of Ireland. Before the Famine, Monaghan and neighbouring parts of Fermanagh had one of the highest population densities in all of the island of Ireland. In 1841, the population of the Clones Poor Law Union was 42,225. However, by 1851 this had fallen by 27,487, a decline of 35% and the number of inhabited homes dropped by 2,000. As Brian McDonald states in the Clogher record:
‘More than 2,000 families gone from townlands and parishes, the traces of potato ridges, the fallen thatch and crumbling walls the only tangible evidence of their having lived and loved this place they knew as home’.
At least 13,000 people died from starvation and disease in Monaghan between 1847 and 1850. By the end of March 2007, the Strangers’ Burial Ground of St. Tighernach’s Church of Ireland was full. A memorial plaque at the Clones Famine and Workhouse mass grave bears the following moving inscription:
‘Erected in memory of all the people from Clones Union who died because of the Great Famine 1845-1850; Also those who died in the workhouse 1845-1921; The meek shall inherit the earth…’
Famine relief schemes were set up throughout the country during the Great Famine and one of them in Clones gave rise to the world renowned Clones Lace. In 1847 Rev. Thomas Hand and his wife Cassandra arrived in Clones from Surrey and were so horrified by the devastation caused by the Famine that Cassandra set up the lace/crochet making as a relief scheme. By 1851, almost every family in Clones was involved in the crochet industry.
When making the announcement today in Clones, Co. Monaghan, Minister Deenihan also expressed his gratitude to the members of the National Famine Commemoration Committee for their commitment in ensuring that the catastrophic events of the Great Famine are appropriately remembered and that the extraordinary contributions of those who emigrated and of their many descendents abroad are justly celebrated.