Doolough Tragedy: March 30th - 31st, 1849

I hope that you are keeping well in these challenging times. My wife and I stopped at the commemorative site to those who died, and those who suffered bitter hardship in the valley on that awful, long ago night.

Below is a poem I wrote to memorialise that heart breaking event.

Stay safe, John Gilligan


Officials, Primrose and Hogrove, to Louisburg come,

Destitution the test, that there will be done,

On those in receipt of outdoor relief,

For the paupers there gathered the waiting is brief.


For reasons unknown the officials repair

To Delphi Lodge distant, to overnight there.

The relieving officer, deigns to inform,

‘Be at the Lodge the following morn.’


Four years of Famine they somehow survive,

Wretched and wearied, more dead than alive.

Around them they saw good friends swept away,

‘How blessed for the fallen, not to see such a day.’


Resigned to misfortune. In truth, beyond care,

Yet, desperate, determined to drag themselves there,

They set out in small groups, a few walk alone,

Some offer up prayers, more quietly moan.


Through the depths of the night on that stony bog path,

They tramp and they stumble, feel the wind’s cutting wrath.

The rain and the sleet blow, it is merciless now,

But they have to push on, to get there, somehow.


Without outdoor relief of grain and some clothing,

The prospect before them is one of grim loathing:

To go to the workhouse and sign themselves in,

To break up the family, a lamentable sin.


Seven, the time given. They arrive, much too soon,

As they wait on the lawn the clock ticks past noon.

For Primrose and Hogrove soon lunch will be served,

Could it be the trout they caught, the Lodge had preserved?


Then, after lunch, in their carriage they spin

Through Liscarney to Westport, ere evening sets in.

Now, the people must trudge home, crushed to the core,

Their hardship and loss, much clouded in lore.


The mountains won’t whisper, the dark lake won’t say,

But the winds in their keening remember the day.

The rains fall as teardrops. Can they ever cleanse

The stain on the valley that deeply offends?


Let numbers not tell the depth of their pain,

Nor miles trailed in darkness and bitter cold rain.

Their memories are written in suffering and dying.

Their story a tribute to the scale of their trying.


By the pathway we know, that seven souls died;

That ten didn’t make it, hard as they tried;

That several gained the scant comfort of home

Broken in health, no more to roam.


John Gilligan

July 29-Aug 1, 2020


Comments about this page

  • Just reading this amazing poem here with my 100 year old Louisburg born mum, Nora Hawkes nee Duggan. It is a superbly written poem. Thank you so much for writing and sharing it. 

    By anita hawkes (28/01/2021)

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