Fermoy and the Great Famine

Just another letter? Not when its dated November 1846 and from Ireland. The period 1845-52 was to become known as “The Great Famine” and left its mark on Ireland and its people, places and politics for decades.

You see, this letter is written by a Stephen Barry, apologising to the recipient for the late payment of Lord Stewart’s account “I can offer no apology for my unpardonable neglect…”.

"...my unpardonable neglect..."

“…my unpardonable neglect…”

However, Stephen had very good reason to apologise. He was heavily involved with the Fermoy Relief Committee and their work to help the people in Fermoy and surrounding areas during famine times.

What makes this letter stand out is that it is written on a printed pamplet from the Fermoy Relief Committee asking the “Ladies of Fermoy” to help establish a Soup Shop.

Asking for Assistance

Asking for Assistance

Further explanation is given…

Further explanation

How will it work?

and promises “…tickets will be sold indiscriminately to all applicants”.

The work by Stephen was later recognised by Rev. M. Atkins Collins, Chairman of the Fermoy Relief Committee as seen by this tribute reproduced in To Die By Inches by Edward Garner.

A tribute to Stephen

A tribute to Stephen

As a little aside, take a look at the image showing Stephen’s signature. Notice anything unusual about it?

Stephen's signature

Stephen’s signature

The handwritten letter is difficult to read due to the ink ‘bleeding’ from one side of the page onto the other. That faded handwriting you see in the image is in fact on the reverse page. The extent of the bleeding is very much dependant on the colour and quality of the paper and can often frustrate when reading many pages in a letter.

The letter and pamphlet was donated to UCC Library in late 2013 and is classified as the Stephen Barry (Great Irish Famine) Collection (BL/LH/SB).

Access to the original item or any other material from the archives is by appointment via specialcollectionsarchives@ucc.ie and for opening times and further information check out Archives Service .

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