Irish Potato Famine - Scalpeen of Tim Downs

Irish Potato Famine - Scalpeen of Tim Downs Ethics Law and Politics Social Studies Visual Arts World History Civil Rights

This makeshift dwelling, depicted in the Illustrated London News (ILN)—on December 22, 1849—is the shelter of Tim Downs. 

Forced from his home in Dunmore, in the parish of Kellard—where the Downs family had lived for more than a century—Tim had nowhere to go.  Destitute and homeless, he and his family were actually fortunate to have this hovel (known as a "scalpeen"). 

The ruins, depicted in this sketch, show other homes which had been deliberately destroyed.  As the reporter for the Illustrated London News notes: 

This Sketch shows the Scalpeen of Tim Downs, at Dunmore, in the parish of Kellard, where himself and his ancestors resided on the spot for over a century, with renewal of their lease in 1845.

He neither owed rent arrears or taxes up to the present moment, and yet he was pitched out on the roadside, and saw ten other houses, with his own, levelled at one fell swoop on the spot, the ruins of some of which are seen in this Sketch. None of them were mud cabins, but all capital stone-built houses. (See ILN, 22 December 1849 issue, at page 406.)

The editors of the ILN—in the December 15, 1849 issue—attribute the misery of people like Tim Downs to the New Poor-Law:

The present fearful Condition of Ireland, made considerably worse, we believe, by the operation of the New Poor-Law, has induced us to give, as far as possible, a faithful report of the working of this law with Illustrations of Localities, sketched by our own Artist.

In other words, the plight of Tim Downs and his family was shared by many others across Ireland.

Media Credits

Image from "The Illustrated London News," December 22, 1849. Online, courtesy Vassar College.




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"Irish Potato Famine - Scalpeen of Tim Downs" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Dec 13, 2019.
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