16th January 1847
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In the entire period of the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1851) the most dramatic population decrease from death and emigration occurred in "Black '47".

Very lamentable accounts are given from various parts of the county of Cork. From Bantry, Skibbereen, Crookhaven, Castletown, and Tracton, the reports present the same gloomy features. The intelligence from these scenes of misery is summed up by the Cork Examiner as follows:–


In the parish of Kilmoe, fourteen died on Sunday; three of these were buried in coffins, eleven were buried without other covering than the rags they wore when alive. And one gentleman, a good and charitable man, speaking of this case, says – ‘The distress is so appalling, that we must throw away all feelings of delicacy;’ and another says–‘I would rather give 1s. to a starving man than 4s. 6d. for a coffin.’

One hundred and forty have died in the Skibbereen Workhouse in one month; eight have died in one day! And Mr McCarthy Downing states that ‘they came into the house merely and solely for the purpose of getting a coffin.’

The Rev. Fr Clancy visits a farm, and there, in one house, ‘he administered the last rites of religion to six persons.’ On a subsequent occasion, he ‘prepared for death a father and a daughter lying in the same bed.’ Dr Donovan solemnly assures a public meeting that the people are ‘dropping in dozens about them.’ Mr Marmion says that work on the public road is even more destructive than fever; for the unfed wretches have not energy enough to keep their blood in circulation, and they drop down from the united effects of cold and hunger–never to rise again.

In Tracton, deaths, it appears, are occurring too. Rev. Fr. Corcoran, P.P., in a letter to Mr Redington, says: 

‘Over sixteen deaths occurred in my parishes for the last ten days. I am morally certain that each and every one of them was occasioned and accelerated by want of food and fire. Buckley, of Ballyvorane, and Sullivan, of Oysterhaven, died suddenly. Buckley dropped dead on the works, after a journey of three miles before the day. His wife will make an affidavit, that he had not sufficient food the night before he died, and that she and the rest of her family lived thirty-six hours on wild weeds to spare a bit of the cake for him. (In this case, a Coroner’s verdict was given without sight of the body.) This horrifying economy is practised by scores of families in this district. Similar effects must be expected from similar causes. I fear we must bury the dead coffinless in future. My God! what a revolting idea! Without food when alive, without a coffin when dead.'”

The Rev. Robert Traill, chairman of the Schull Relief Committee, County Cork, states that 15,000 persons in that wide district are destitute; of this 5000 are entirely dependent on casual charity; fifty deaths have resulted from famine and “hundreds” are so reduced that no food or medicine can restore them. The deaths, he adds, now average 25 daily!

Ten additional deaths by starvation have occurred in the barony of Bantry. The Jury at the inquests at Bantry handed in the following remonstrance, by their foreman, Mr. E. O’Sullivan:–

“That we feel it our duty to state, under the correction of the Court, that it is our opinion that, if the Government of the country shall persevere in its determination of refusing to use the means available to it for the purpose of lowering the price of food, so as to place it within the reach of the labouring poor, the result will be a sacrifice of human life from starvation to a frightful extent, and endangerment of property and of the public peace . . .

The illustration shows a benevolent attempt to mitigate the suffering in the city of Cork, viz., the Society of Friends’ Soup House. There are many similar establishments in operation through the county; but, we prefer the annexed because the idea originated with the Society of Friends. The funds for its support are chiefly raised among this charitable class; and we are happy to state that the establishment is now in a position to supply 1500 gallons of Soup daily, at a loss, or rather cost, of from £120 to £150 per month to the supporters of the design. The present calls are for from 150 to 180 gallons daily, requiring 120 pounds of good beef, 27 pounds of rice, 27 pounds of oatmeal, 27 pounds of split peas, and 14 ounces of spices, with a quantity of vegetables. Tickets, at one penny each, are unsparingly distributed, on presenting one of which, each poor person receives one quart of soup, with half a small loaf of bread; and both are of good quality.

In the making of the Soup, the greatest possible cleanliness is observed; attention is paid to the poor, who throng the place daily, for their cheap supply of food; as well as to the visitors, who go to see the soup made, and who are requested to test its quality, and suggest any improvement. The vats, which are shown in the Sketch, are worked by a steamengine, in an adjoining house; and, to ensure cleanliness, as well as sweetness, they are used alternately. Too much credit cannot be given to this establishment, and to the exertions of the Society of Friends in general; for, not content with originating these Soup Establishments, they have also raised a sum of money for distribution in the west, so as the more effectually to relieve the poor in distant districts.


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    Johanna (O’Neil) Copperthite born in 1848 at # 11 Ellen Street Newtown, Little Ireland, Cardiff, Wales, U.K.

    Daniel and Catherine O'Neil her parents were from County Cork Ireland. She later lived at 9 Ellen St with her siblings and at age 6 had a brother Daniel aged 3, and younger sister Catherine aged 1.

    Johanna's parents were literally placed as ballast on an empty coal ship at the height of the potato famine in 1846…shipped from Cork, Ireland to “Little Ireland” Cardiff, Wales, where Johanna was born at #9 Ellen Street. In a few years, her family to made their way to America. She met a young wagon driver from the H.H. Olds & Co. Bakery in New Haven, Connecticut. They married and honeymooned in Georgetown the place a young Henry was stationed as a wagon driver for the 79th Highlanders of NY during the War Between the States. Together they planned to open their own bakery and as a consequence started about the process of learning all there was to know about the soon to be booming industry of food processing, manufacturing, baking, sanitation, marketing, and delivery.

    By 1888 family, friends, and Civil War buddies had flocked to Georgetown to work at the newly constructed modern pie manufacturing facility at the corners of Wisconsin and O Streets. Washingtonians were consuming 14 Million of our pies annually and here along with our factories in New Haven, Bridgeport, New York, Baltimore, Richmond, Petersburg, Newport News, Norfolk, Memphis, and Omaha, made us the largest Pie Concern on the planet and the second largest bakery in America. By 1924, our nationwide fleet of Ford Trucks was delivering over 30,000 million pies nationwide over 65% of all the pies consumed in America. In Washington, on average every man women and child in the District ate one of our pies every 5 days!

    At the turn of the last century, Henry and Johanna Copperthite were millionaires who never forgot where they came from. Henry co-founded the Humane Society, hired, and paid a fair wage to people of color and from all walks of life. We provided pies and donations to the homeless at the Central Kitchen in DC, helped restore St. John’s Church and other historical buildings in Georgetown, and gave donations to organization’s that serviced the poor and directly to the needy.



    Friday 7th February 2020 01:13PM
  • Your story is wonderful. I am a native Washingtonian who grew up by the Cathedral not far from Wisconsin and O Street. As a teenager I worked in a bakery at Wisconsin and Macomb Street.

    All of my great -grandparents came from Ireland. My grand-father Lawrnce Sheridan had a bakery in Trenton, New Jersey.

    I am also very familiar with DC Central Kitchen and admire the incredible work that they do.

    I can't imagine being ballast on an coal ship but weren't they and my ancestors lucky to come to this our great country and be given the chance to start over and succeed.

    Kathryn Hogan Didden


    Kathy Didden

    Sunday 13th September 2020 11:49PM
  • My great great grandfather Alexander Armstrong and Joseph his 15 yr old son(great grand father) came to Australia with out his wife/mother.

    Have to assume Jane his wife died in famine.

    They were married in 1835 and had Joseph in 1837 ish. She would imagine there were other children - have no idea but it is my mission to find out. Very difficult.

     Jeanie Peach


    Monday 14th September 2020 12:32AM

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