This Sunday the 4th of May at 2pm, at the Paupers' Graveyard on the Camlough Road in Newry the Mayor, Mr Michael Ruane, and local clergymen, will lead the first annual commemoration of the Great Famine in Newry and Mourne.

The Paupers Graveyard in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
The Paupers Graveyard in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

The first Great Famine marker will be erected. It is intended that identical markers will be sited on every Great Famine graveyard across Ireland, north and south. Michael Blanche, whose Dublin Committee is spearheading the Great Famine Marker initiative will attend. The initiative is kindly funded by an American, Bill Fahey.

  The following extract from Anthony Russell's 'Mitchel's Town and the Famine' demonstrates how the Great Famine impacted on our town and townlands. 

"In Newry the winter of 1846/1847 was bitter. On the 12th of January 1847 the Baronial session for Upper Orier heard that two thirds of the people were in a state of destitution.  On 23 January 1847 Captain Brereton Inspecting Officer, Co Down reported that, “the amount of misery in the town portion of the Barony (Newry)…arising from scarity of food and want of employment is now perfectly frightful.” 800 families were destitute in the Barony of Newry. He praised the New Street Soup Kitchen committee for feeding 1100 people, and concluded that if it had not been for such efforts, “the destitution in the town would have been much worse.”

  Newry and Mourne suffered with the rest of Ulster, with the rest of Ireland and it is fitting that we remember the cottiers and labourers; those with one insecure acre or less; those who lived in mud cabins that have melted back into the landscape; those who bore the brunt of the Famine. It is fitting we remember the once prosperous small tenant farmers and weavers who suffered as starvarion and disease clmbed the social scale. 

 In April 1848 the Newry Union workhouse was full to overflowing with 1151 inmates and nearly 3000 on outdoor relief. An auxilary workhouse on Canal Quay was needed. There were lines of distressed people making their way along Hill Street to Warrenpoint and emigration. 

 Those who died in the workhouse were buried beside it and, with the later development of the hospital, were reinterred in the Paupers’ Graveyard.

 The short reflection on Sunday May 4 will remember those who perished and those who emigrated during the Great Famine.  All are invited to attend Newry and Mourne’s first annual commemoration of the Great Famine in Ireland.


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