Starvation fears on Achill Island
Achill Island, 14 January 1918 - The inhabitants of Achill Island, Co. Mayo, face famine conditions owing to a shortage of flour. The island has a population of over 5,000.
According to the Rev. Fr Martin Colleran, the people on Achill are chiefly dependent on flour. He has suggested that the Food Control authorities need to send a supply to be given directly to the people themselves or to small shopkeepers in the different villages for distribution.
The people on the island, have the money to purchase flour, as many of them travel to England or Scotland each year for agricultural or munitions work. The issue is that there is no food to buy.
Deprived of their usual supply of flour, the people have fallen back upon their stock of potatoes. However, owing to the poor quality of the soil and the fact that seaweed is largely used for manure, the potatoes grown on the island are very unsuitable for human consumption, except on a very minor scale.
Dr James Ryan, the Medical Dispensary Officer for Achill has already been called out to attend to children from a colic-like sickness which he expects to spread if the island’s potatoes remain the only form of food available.
The dairy herd, too, are much inferior to those reared elsewhere and they produce comparatively small supplies of milk, even in summer. In winter, some families do not have enough milk to so much as ‘colour a drop of tea’.
Artist Paul Henry has drawn attention to the plight of the islanders in a letter to the Freeman’s Journal. He warned of the prospect of famine and starvation should the situation not change.
[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]