Declan O’Rourke Connaught Orphan

Declan O’Rourke Connaught Orphan

Declan O'Rourke Connaught Orphan

After the retaliatory exhilaration of  Johnny Hold the Lantern, O’Rouke returns to the Great Famine’s horror and its young victims.


For the centennial of the Easter Rising in 2016, O’Rourke wrote Children of ’16 about the (at least) 40 children under the age of 16 who died in the Easter Week’s fighting.  Crossfire caught most victims, but British soldiers deliberately shot or bayoneted others. (Independent article)


Declan O’Rourke Connaught Orphan

It is no surprise that the Great Famine orphaned so many children. It is also no surprise that even the most insensitive laissair faire proponent would do at least something minimal to relieve their conscience if not the orphans’ suffering.


 In the Connaught Orphan, we walk beside a barefoot 7-year-old boy walking his younger sister to the poor house ten miles away. Both starving.


There is room only for one. He leaves her there and walks the 10 miles back.  

Strings attached
Declan O’Rourke Connaught Orphan

It is still a common requirement from those who have relief to give that there be a quid pro quo. A demand that the suffering must first demonstrate their worthiness to receive aid.


In the case of the Irish peasants, assistance sometimes  depended on acknowledging the Church of England as the true church. To renounce Catholicism.


In our less religious 21st century world  (at least in terms of service attendance), such a demand might seem an easy one to comply with, but to the 19th century Catholic believer, such a change meant damnation.

Quakers

Declan O'Rourke Connaught Orphan

Declan O’Rourke Connaught Orphan

Quakers were the one religious group that seemed genuinely interested in assistance without strings attached. They formed the Central Relief Committee (CRC) to help coordinate relief. 


William E. Forster, a CRC member, traveled throughout Ireland and send letters describing what he saw. In one letter he wrote, “Poor wretches in the last stage of famine, imploring to be received into the (work) house; women who had six or seven children begging that even two or three might be taken in …. some of these children were worn to skeleton, their features sharpened with hunger, their limbs wasted almost to the bone” (more at Irish Famine site)


Unfortunately, even the most kindhearted actions can result in unforeseen consequences.


In this song, the Quaker wants to provide a bath and clean clothing, but the boy realizes that when his neighbors see him that way they will assume that he has renounced his faith or that he has lied about his neediness.


I’ll surely died of hunger now

If they see me with your nie new clothes

They’ll think I’m telling lies, and that

I have a mammy feeds me so


Declan O’Rourke Connaught Orphan

What kind of world had the British government allowed? One that forced a starving child in rags to refuse food and clothing?



Declan O’Rourke Connaught Orphan
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