Stranorlar during the Famine

Image of Stranorlar Workhouse
Photo courtesy of Bernie Walsh

Cróna Cassidy, author of the ‘Great Famine in Stranorlar, County Donegal’ is the daughter of Susanna (nee Timoney from Finntown) and Philip Cassidy (from Airne, Co. Fermanagh),  former proprietors of Cassidy’s chemist shop, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal. Cróna studied history at degree and masters level in N.U.I.M. Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Cróna is head of history in Meánscoil Iognáid Rís, Naas, Co. Kildare, where she now lives. Cróna thrives on bringing history to life by facilitating guided historical walks with her students.

The book tells the story of these terrible years in and around Stranorlar was the site of the workhouse for Stranorlar Poor Law Union, a rural area that experienced much poverty and starvation due to recurrent failures of the potato crop, rapid population growth, disease, subdivision, absentee landlords, severe winters and inadequate government relief measures. Unemployment resulted in emigration from the region, principally through the port of Londonderry, creating a Stranorlar ‘Diaspora’ in places such as Greenock, Scotland, Brunswick, Canada, Australia and the U.S.A. Due to emigration, the community of Stranorlar grew in strength abroad, and at the height of the Famine emigrants embarking from the port of Londonderry numbered well over twelve thousand.

Stranorlar workhouse opened on 3 May 1844 at a cost of £6,700 and was built to accommodate four hundred people, but the greatest influx of inmates recorded was four hundred and sixty-three in June 1849. During the Famine, entry into the workhouse was the only option, but food exports continued unimpeded. There was a fever epidemic resulting in 32 fatalities in Stranorlar workhouse in 1847.

Post-Famine Stranorlar witnessed a change from arable to pastoral farming, which led to agrarian unrest and a rise in the tenant right movement. The Stranorlar region also saw many demographic changes and changes in farming structure and landownership and the consequent changes in tenant, landlord and clergy relationship, ongoing crime and continuing emigration from the area in the aftermath of the Famine. 

The book is available locally in 'The Book Centre' and 'The House of Books' in Ballybofey.





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