Saturday, 12 November 2011

Black Death in Ireland

Black Death in Ireland - Famine in Ireland

The Black Death had spread throughout Europe into England and it was only a matter of time before it made its dreaded appearance in Ireland.

Like elsewhere the black death in Ireland was spread by the disease infected black rats and carried by them and fleas. The first known sign of it was in Dublin in July 1348, and spread throughout the country like wildfire.
So contagious was this most horrid of diseases that anyone even as much as touching an affected person was instantly affected and died. Many people died a horrible and painful death, some of boils and abscesses which were visible on their armpits or shins, others from blinding headaches, and others from spitting blood, but all of them horrible.

What was noticeable in Ireland was that in the main, ports and cities were impacted and as such, the English colonists suffered more than the more Gaelic rural people of Ireland. Just how many lives were lost in Ireland are unknown as no records exist. This plague added to the misery of perpetual warring and it was simply a struggle to survive.

Clearly this was a most miserable time in Irish History for the people of Ireland but more so for the English colonists who experienced the worst of it.

The population diminished as the famine along with the Black Death, and lack of crops drove them away. Edward sent his son Lionel to Ireland as his lieutenant with a huge English army in 1361.

Edward’s main aim was to improve the economy of Ireland and return it to profit so as he could use that profit to once again wage war on France. His son Lionel was technically the Earl of Ulster, so he had little experience of Ireland as a country and was equally uneducated in waging war.

He failed miserably despite the investment in troops and arms and his only lasting memory in Ireland is that he resided over a parliament at which the Statutes of Kilkenny were agreed and passed.

These statutes contained some 35 chapters and included administration reform, the preservation of public order, economic matters and with the separate identity and protection of the Anglo-Irish. They forbade Irishmen to be appointed to certain offices within the church.

They also forbade Englishmen from using the Irish language, from riding without saddles, from patronising with Irish poets and musicians. They forbade marriage and fostering between the Irish and English which would be considered high treason and punishable by death.

Despite all of this, these statutes much like Edward's mission had little or no impact. Edward III had been very successful abroad but there were now only four counties in Ireland that could be classed as English, mainly due to Edward concentrating his efforts elsewhere.

You should now read about the Dublin Pale.