School: Knocktemple (B.)

Knockatemple, Co. Cavan
W. Tuite

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The Famine Period

Archival Reference

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0998, Page 201

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The Failure of the potato crop in 1847 caused dreadful havoc among the poor people of this parish. At that period there were no Labourer's Corrages as we understand the term today but the labourers lived in hovels, usually mudwall, on the various farms and the rent of these dwellings was what was known as "A Day a Week" which meant the labourer was to work a day in every week for the farmer who was his landlord. The farmer did not accept a day in every week but compelled the labourer to give so many days in Spring, so many in harvest and on the bog etc. Thus for a week in December the poor labourer would have to give a day in April and so on. The patch of land attached to the house was often only about a square perch in extent. This made it necessary for the labourer to seek "potato ground" which he got from his landlord - the farmer who charged a stiff rent for it; in 1890 it was eight pounds per-acre in this locality; the rent was again paid in labour, a circumstance which made the labourer, to all intents and purposes a "serf" of the farmer. He worked for him practically all the year round and in return got an indifferent roof over his head and a few ridges of potatoes, which if all went well kept him from starvation. It never happened that the farmer gave any corn ground to the poor serf. His horses required corn but not "his poor fellow worm". Labourers who had built cabins near bogs and had reclaimed a portion of the "cutaway" survived the dreadful time because they had usually a little patch of oats as well as potatoes. Consequently up to the time when cottages were built

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