Sunday, March 13, 2022

Loft over the hearth in 1846 Ireland

During the Irish Famine, or The Great Hunger of 1845-49, this image of a loft, oddly built over the hearth fire in a County Kerry tenent's cabin was in The Pictorial Times, London.
So what was on the loft?

Not fuel - peat or twigs - but potatoes were stored over the heat and smoke, which is different from our cooler root cellars, though both would protect them from freezing.
A sharper higher resolution picture from OPW – Derrynane House, was in the Illustrated London News. Close up pictures (click to enlarge) are followed by Irish talks, then this week's upcoming talks.

"Derrynane Beg – Cabin of Pat Brennan" is another picture (like the Oatcakes 1814 image) that I've had for many years but could not find the accompaning article. Recently I found an excerpt of it in an 1853 book. The cabin was located in southwest Ireland by the coast.

Baskets in right corner
Basket with potatoes and shovel
Iron pot by table
Pot over peat fire
Peat fire under the potatoes
"The Pictorial Times [1846] thus sketches a cabin of the better class, belonging to a man named Pat Brennan:—

… What a descent would an English agricultural labourer have to make if he changed situations with poor Pat Brennan, who is better off than most of the tenants of Derrynane Beg, and it may be in the best condition of them all! Brennan's cabin has one room, in which he and his family live, of course with the fowls and pigs. One end is partitioned off in the manner of a loft, the loft being the potato store. The space underneath, where the fire is kindled, has side spaces for seats. In some instances, the turf-bed is on one side and the seats on the other. The other contents of the dwelling are a milk-pail, a pot, a wooden bowl or two, a platter, and a broken ladder. [1853]
Turf basket for peat?

In the poor man’s cottage, the potatoes for family use are kept on a loft immediately over the fireplace, constructed of hurdles laid on beams, where they have the full benefit of heat and smoke, and off that loft comes the best and sweetest potatoes I ever tasted in my life. ...

No potato should be housed in the fall, but those intended for immediate use – all others should be pitted. [Pits: on high level ground near barn or shed, level it, potatoes heaped, slanted gradually inwards, cover with dry straw, not hay, then add dirt tapping down leaving an air-hole at top tightly filled with straw. Cover with sod or straw topped with dirt. When frost, cover with “half-rotted stable manure.”]

Every one has his potato house, in which, if heat in no other way can be introduced, a fire is made two or three times a week, the door shut, and the potatoes allowed the full benefit of both the heat and the smoke." [1845]

Derrynane House (museum) and Daniel O'Connell. For info with pictures go to The Office of Public Works website. HERE

Pat Brennan was a poor tenant farmer on Daniel O’Connell’s estate.

Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847) was lauded in Ireland as "The Liberator" for fighting for the Catholics in Ireland, abolition and other causes. He was a Member of Parliament, was jailed for several months in 1844, became ill, and died three years later.

People visited Derrynane House during his lifetime, even journalists from England who then wrote negitively about him. The house was owned by his family until the 1960s when it and many items used by Daniel were turned over to become a museum.

Irish food, famine, and drinks taped talks HERE

Peat harvesting - short films, old photos - blog post HERE
Cobden, John C. The White Slaves of England: Comp. from Official Documents. ... Auburn NY: 1853. p296. excerpt of Pictorial Times. Chapter on Irish Slavery 284-369 HERE

Potato pits, loft. Letter by ‘Grazier’ in The Dollar Farmer. Louisville, March 1845 p139.


Hearth with loft (sharper image) - Illustrated London News. OPW – Derrynane House

Hearth with loft - Pictorial Times Feb 7, 1846 on the website Famine: Contemporary newspaper articles and illustrations from the Great Hunger in Ireland, 1845-52.HERE

Potato basket - 'Peasantry on the O’Connell farms’, at Derrynane, Co. Kerry. The Pictorial Times, Jan. 31, 1846.

Derrynane House - Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly. Feb 1891

More pictures - Kissane, Noel. The Irish Famine: A Documentary History. Syracuse U Press: 1995. HERE


Mar 15 Tue 6 Ireland's Great Famine in Irish-American History: Fateful Memory, Indelible Legacy. Mary Kelly. Durham Public Library NH HERE

Mr 16 Wed 3 Market metropolis: cattle and the making of Dublin city. 19th century. Juliana Adelman. AHG Seminar Animal History Group HERE

Mar 16 Wed 8 Drink Me, I’m Irish. “Irish Whiskey different from bourbon or Scotch, and some ways to incorporate other Irish ingredients into cocktails, including Bailey’s Irish Cream and Guinness Stout.” Tammy’s Tastings $19 HERE

Mar 16 Wed 9:30-11 The Magic of Irish Whiskey. Holly Seidewand. New York Adventure Club. Tape for one week $10 HERE

Mar 17 Thu 1:30 Out of the Ashes: Reconstructing the Economic Fortunes of the Lordship of Ireland following the 1922 Destruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland. Bruce Campbell author of English Seigniorial Agriculture 1250–1450. School of Humanities, Sgoil nan Daonnachdan HERE TAPE HERE very interesting

Mr 28 Mon 9:30AM-12:15 Sources and Voices: Archives, Writing, and the Irish Diaspora. 2 panels of speakers. NUI Galway Library and The Moore Institute. HERE //



©2022 Patricia Bixler Reber
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