The pre-famine period was one of extreme poverty for those at the bottom.  Father Mathew said “if you wish to seek out the poor, go to Bantry”…

This is shown in the following extract from the journal of Asenath Nicholson an American Missionary who visited Bantry in 1845 and found a wild dirty sea-port with cabins built upon the rocks and hills, the people going about, not with sackcloth upon their heads, for this they could not purchase, but in rags and tatters such as no country but Ireland could hang out.   I found some deplorable cabins and looking into one, the sight was appalling………I saw a pile of dirty broken straw, which served as a bed for family and pigs; not a chair, table, or pane of glass, and no spot to sit except upon the straw in the corner, without sitting in mud and manure’.