SINCE the preceding pages went to the press, Mr. Townsend has furnished us with more ample details, and further statistical returns. In describing the present condition of the town, he mentions the increase of fever, and the further stagnation of trade; that one poor family has been reduced to the necessity of lying on some straw in the market place, another has made an old boiler by the side of a narrow lane their temporary shelter, to such an extent is the place crowded, and so scanty the means for obtaining a lodging. Though not desirable for Skibbereen itself, it is not unnatural that the destitute persons from the adjacent villages and hamlets, where there are no relieving staff, should crowd into a neighbouring town which is the head-quarters of the local committee, and where they know that a soup kitchen has been established. Mr. Townsend gives in his letter another instance of the frightful scenes daily occurring in these wretched districts, but we have thought it too revolting to be inserted.
The state of the Workhouse, he informs us, is most deplorable; nearly half the inmates are diseased; and the deaths during the last week were declared to be 65. The place is found almost intolerable by the visitors; it is crowded to excess, and has been closed against further admissions. The building was constructed to accommodate 800 persons, and is reported at present to contain as many as 1449 inmates.
With reference to the mortality in the parish, Mr. Townsend assures us that the Local Committee estimate the number of deaths every day at from 35 to 40, exclusive of those in the Workhouse. The manager of the public coffin alone received payment for the interment of 65 bodies in three weeks.
In reply to an enquiry on our part, as to the adequacy of the wages received from the public works to support the labourer and his family, we have been furnished with the following statement.
“The price of meal per quart (9 quarts to the stone of 14 pounds) is 5d. by retail.
Now, for a labouring man, 1-1/2 quarts,
for a woman, 1 quart,
for a boy of fifteen, 1 quart,
or an infant, 1 pint,
are computed as the quantity required for their daily food.”
This of course excludes the price paid for milk, and for the means of cooking. The wages at the public works vary from 8d. to 10d., broken days and time of sickness being deducted. Taking then the case of a family of five, (a moderate average,) 1s. 10d. would be required for their daily maintenance!