Famine 1741 Richard Pococke 1758

Richard Pococke (1704 – 1765), the English-born Bishop of Ossory, travelled in the South West and in 1758 wrote the following in respect of Bantry ‘the chief support of the town is fish and a clandestine import of French brandy’ and re the Beara area, which would have a reference to the other peninsulas ‘they keep their sheep and black cattle ….  They can legally send no fish to France but salmon, all the rest goes to Spain’…… ‘They make huts to keep their cattle in the mountains in summer and live on new churn milk’. …… ‘Girls married at the  age of thirteen  and boys at sixteen’   … ‘People here live to a great age, notwithstanding they drink drams immoderately, living on fish and potatoes, and the sea air makes this custom less pernicious … but then smallpox is very mortal among them, supposed to be owing to the first died.   A sort of scurvy also, which sometimes come near to a leprosie, is frequent among them.   They have great notions of fairies in all these parts, which take the place of witches in other places. …..    All workmen, though only making a ditch or thrashing, do all sorts of handicraft in a private house or fields, had the shameful custom these parts more than any other, of holding a string or something across the way and begging money’.  In relation to smallpox it might be noted that in 1842 the Ordnance Survey Name Book for Rooska mentions a disused sand pit since levelled formerly used to bury smallpox victims.  A Bandon doctor, John Milner Barry had noted in 1800 that exposure to cowpox gave immunity to smallpox; this was known in West Cork as ‘shinach’ from ‘sine’ the Irish word for teat.  There were outbreaks of fever in the mid-1740s, 1762, 1771 and a major epidemic in 1800, 1801  There was a reputed church at Kilhanagan, between Altar and Dunmanus which had a leper’s window.