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Famine Memorial Stone

Sad plight of the Kelehan Twins recalled at Derryglad unveiling

The two boys, John and James Kelehan were admitted to the workhouse in Athlone in April 1847 as twins aged 11 years. It was discovered in early 1848 that their mother held some land and therefore they were not entitled to relief in the workhouse. Subsequently, they were discharged on the 15th February; they were given some bread and sent home. Both boys were found dead next morning and the Poor Law Commissioners ordered an inquiry.

The enquiry was conducted by a Mr. Flanagan who called witnesses and ascertained that the boys left the workhouse in good spirits, but seemed to delay in town before starting their journey home to Grange about eleven miles away.

Some schoolboys at Feamore School who thought they did not look well saw them in the afternoon. It was snowing at the time. At about 4pm the boys warmed themselves in the house of John Gaffey near Curraghboy. Nobody saw them again until the taller of the two arrived at the house of Martin Doyle about two miles from Grange round about midnight. Mr. Doyle gave him some bread and allowed him to stay in his barn, as his family feared the boy may have fever and would not let him into the house. He was found dead the following morning and his brother was found dead in a field just west of Curraghboy village.

When the local relieving officer visited the boys’ mother in Grange he found a house in good repair, about three barrels of wheat and no signs of distress. An older brother lived with the mother.

The enquiry found that the boys died of cold and exposure and not from starvation. When asked by the relieving officer why she sent her sons to the workhouse, the mother cried and said it was too late to think of that.

The Baptism register for Kiltoom and Cam showed that the boys were not in fact twins, as John was baptised on the 24th January 1836, while James was baptised on the 6th July 1837. There is no record of the family living in any part of the parish after 1855.

Alongside the stone, which stands to the right-hand side of the main entrance to the museum, is a Famine Pot that originally came from Mote Park. “It’s a bleak reminder of those times. It was used for boiling gruel, or stir-about as we knew it. People would come from all roads in those bad and sad times to the Crofton Estate in Mote Park and what you got there at that time was a ladle full of gruel every day, Monday to Friday. Then on Saturday you would get two ladles-full to tide you over on Sunday.

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