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It Happened On This Day: 173 years ago.

“How can men feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings?” – Mahatma Gandhi.

A ‘Great Famine Walk’ between Louisburgh and Doolough, Co. Sligo, takes place every year to commemorate what history records as the “Doolough Tragedy”.

Today, here in Thurles, as the last piece of our Great Famine heritage (1845-49) is finally eradicated from the face of this earth, supported by Mr Seamus Hanafin, (Fianna Fáil Councillor) and others, we remember that 173 years ago, on this same day, (Friday March 30th, 1849), two officials of the Westport Poor Law Union arrived in Louisburgh, southwest Co. Mayo.

“Doolough Tragedy” In ár gcroíthe go deo.

Their purpose for coming, was to inspect people who were in receipt of outdoor food relief and to verify that same should continue to receive it.

This inspection, did not take place as scheduled and the two officials moved on to Delphi Lodge, considered more suitable to accommodate, worthy inspecting officials.

The lodge today is situated some 12 miles (19 kilometres), south of Louisburgh, on the southwest corner of Clew Bay in County Mayo. It was here they chose, to spend a night or two.

Delphi Lodge was first built in the 1830’s by the Marquis of Sligo as a hunting/fishing lodge. The family seat was Westport House, near Westport, County Mayo. [Family titles included – Baron Mount Eagle, of Westport in the County of Mayo (created 10 September 1760), Viscount Westport (in 1768) and Earl of Altamont (in 1771)].

It is stated that the building was named ‘Delphi’ based on the area’s similarity to the home of the “Oracle” in Greece, latter an important shrine, built around a sacred spring, and regarded as the ‘omphalos’ (meaning the centre or navel) of the world.

Over the next 120 years, it was used throughout by the family or on occasion leased out to British army officers and members of the protestant clergy.

In 1903 Delphi Lodge was visited by King Edward VII, and in 1995 by a recent visitor to Tipperary, last week, Prince Charles.
This house eventually fell slowly into semi-dereliction until rescued in 1985,
by Mr Peter Mantle, together with investors, who restored the Lodge, its Cottages and Fishery.

Meanwhile, 173 years ago, the several hundred people who had gathered for this now delayed inspection, were consequently instructed to appear at Delphi Lodge, at 7:00am the following morning. The lodge was then owned by Mr George John Browne [1820–1896] 3rd Marquess of Sligo. The ultimatum in the inspectors instruction stated that if they wished to continue receiving their relief, they should be present to be examined.

For much of the night and day that followed, hundreds of Irish people, same destitute, starving and in a weakened and infirm state, had to undertake what for them was an extremely fatiguing 12 mile journey, in extremely cold, wet and windy weather.

In a letter written to the “Mayo Constitution” newspaper, [Published January 3rd, 1828 – May 11, 1872], a short time later; we learn that the bodies of seven persons, including women and children, were subsequently discovered on the roadside, between Delphi Lodge and Louisburgh, which overlooks the shores of Doolough lake, and that nine or ten more people never reached their homes.

Other sources claim that the total number of dead numbered 20 people, while local people claim that the number who died along the way exceeded all previous reports.

Co. Sligo has chosen to hold on to its strong history; on the other hand, Thurles Councillor Mr Seamus Hanafin and Tipperary County Council Officials have decided to destroy Tipperary history, without the consent of Thurles residents.

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