Kilcasheen Graveyard and 1740-41 Famine Burial Ground , Moveen.

Gravestone at Kilcasheen Graveyard
Robert Brown
Kilcasheen Graveyard ,overgrown and not used for grazing.
Robert Brown

Cairde Chill Caisín committee was established over 20 years ago to restore Kilcasheen Graveyard and one of the only know Famine Buriel Grounds of 1740.It is located in the Parish of Carrigaholt, beside Moveen National School, on the north side of the Carrigaholt to Kilkee Road.

The committee have raised the money to buy the site and agreed the price with the owner. The site includes the graveyard , space for parking and an access path to burial ground.They have planning permission for a small car park (3 cars),access path to burial ground, fencing and sinage. They will need to raise money to get this done. The committee have agreed to fund all the works as per the planning permission so there is no cost to the Clare County Council. C.C.C. have agreed to take over the Burial Site only.

The committee appeal to C.C.C. to take over the access route as well as the graveyard when the works are complete due to the insurance issues involved. Without this assurance from C.C.C. the project will not go ahead.

The site is a national monument of huge historical value as it is one of the only recognised Famine Burial Grounds of the “forgotten” 1740 Famine as well as been a Graveyard of the local families. The last recorded burial in Kilcasheen Graveyard took place on Sunday 1st January 1953.

We need you to press your councillors to agree to taking over ownership of access site as well as the Burial ground.

In 1839 , the great Irish scholar professor Eugene O’Curry from Doonaha wrote     “There is another burial ground called Kilcasheen in the town-land of Kilcasheen in this parish. This was a deserted burying place in the year 1739 but in the ensuing year when famine and pestilence raged through the country and dead bodies were to be met with by the roads and ditches ,my grandfather Melachlin-Garbh-O’Cómhraidhe ,who tenanted ,at will (being a papist) the tract of land now called Moveen and in which Kilcasheen is situated, employing himself , his workmen, his horses and sledges in carrying the victims of the plague from all parts of the neighbouring district and burying them here, so that it has continued since to be a burial place , although not a popular one.”

History of the 1740-41 Famine  The Irish Famine of 1740-41 is estimated to have killed 480,000 people of the 2.4 million 1740 Population which was a proportionately greater loss than the Great Famine of 1845-52.

During 1739 a great volcanic eruption on the remote Kamchatka peninsula in Russia pumped thousands of tons of smoke, dust and ash into the upper atmosphere and it was this that may have been responsible for the dramatic climatic changes in Ireland and Europe for 21 months  between December ,1739 and September,1741.

Prior to 1740 , the winters had been quite benign which had lulled the people into a false sense of security regarding their food supply however on the 29th and 30th December 1739 a violent storm blew in from the east bringing with it a most penetrating cold. The winds lasted for less than a week but the terrible cold intensified during the course of January,1740 though hardly any snow fell. The first visible signs were the freezing over of the rivers and lakes in the whole country. Rivers like the Liffey ,the Lee, the Slaney ,the Boyne and sections of the Shannon were frozen within days as were all the lakes including Lough Neagh. Some people were delighted at first by the novelty and carnivals and fairs on ice were held at many venues where there was music and dancing.There was even a hurling match on ice near Portumna.

The disastrous cold had immediate effects on every day life most notably on people trying to starve off hypothermia. Country people who had turf fared better than townsfolk for awhile but supplies soon ran out. Coal was not available in the towns and fuel was collected where possible with trees cut down and hedges stripped bare.

Food scarcity became a problem as the frozen rivers could not turn the waterwheels for the mills to grind oats and wheat. When the thaw came in early February 1740 it was found that the extreme cold had destroyed virtually every potato in the land. There were hardly any to provide seed. Then during the Spring and early Summer of 1740 Ireland experienced a parching ,dry and bitterly cold easterly wind and the country had a parched look as nothing was growing. There was no sign of wildlife as the cold had killed of the birds and other small animals.Rainfall was only a fraction of what it ought to be ,cattle fodder was almost non -existent ,and such crops it had been possible to sow perished in the drought. Sheep and cattle were dying from starvation.

The one and only compensation during this bleak time was that turf was saved , drawn home and stacked by the 20th April which was not known to have happened before or since.

Snow started to fall in May with continued cold. The price of wheat doubled and by mid-summer 1740 the country was in a the midst of a social crisis. The rest of the year of 1740 was no better with a violent storm in early August and followed by a very windy September. Blizzards swept in along the east coast in October followed by massive falls of snow in the following weeks. Two storms arrived in November followed by rain and widespread flooding in December. A day after the floods the temperature dropped massively , followed by a snow fall of over 2 feet. This cold spell lasted for ten days and was broken by the end of the year with another storm as temperatures rose significantly.

In 1741 the famine tightened its grip with violent storms in late January 1741 followed by another Spring without rain. The weather in March was dry frosty and dusty with any new grass being blasted and burned and the drought lasted more or less until July when the weather suddenly changed,rains fell and the remainder of the Summer was very hot.The harvest was fair with a reasonable crop of potatoes and a good crop of wheat. Early September massive floods in Leinster caused structural damage but was the finale of the extreme weather conditions.

1741 became know as “The Year Of Slaughter” during which nearly half a million people died either directly from starvation or as a consequence of dysentery and typhus. The time of the “great Frost” remains to this day the longest period of extreme cold in modern European history.


Documents Professor Eugene O’Curry.

Dr David Dickson’s “Artic Ireland: The extraordinary story of the Great Frost and Forgotten Famine of 1740-41”


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