Doolough

Doolough-01

Doolough (The Black Lake) in County Mayo. During the Famine in Ireland more than 2.5 million people died of hunger and many more emigrated to America to escape starvation. Like the rest of Connemara the Famine had a devastating effect on the area around Killary Harbour. Still etched in the landscape to the present day are the ridges and hollows of the potato beds and the ruins of many tiny stone dwellings which failed to house such impossibly large families at that time. In March 1847, a crowd of over 600 starving people, including many women and children gathered in Louisburgh seeking assistance from the relieving officer. He informed them that they would have to apply to the Board of Guardians who were to meet next day at Delphi Lodge, ten miles away. Having traversed the short mountain route they spent the night in the open, and proceeded on foot to Delphi . When they reached Delphi , the Board were at lunch and could not be disturbed. When they finally did meet with them, assistance was refused. That day it rained and snowed and there was piercing wind. On the longer coastal return journey to Louisburgh, over 400 of these people were washed into the open waters or died from exposure by the shores of the Killary.

In 1841 the Choctaw Indians in Mississippi were forced from their homelands to journey many hundred miles cross country to Oklahoma . Many of them perished on what became known as the ‘Trail of Tears’. A report in ‘The Arkansas Intelligencer’ of April 3rd 1847 stated that the Choctaw Indians, on learning of the Doolough Tragedy, sent money to a famine relief fund in Ireland. Although destitute themselves, the Choctaws scraped together $710 to send to help the starving Irish. In 1992, in recognition of this extraordinary act of generosity, 22 Irish men and women re-enacted the tragic 500-mile ‘Trail of Tears’ which resulted in the Choctaw Indian population reduced to less than half. Raising 1,000 dollars for every one given by the Choctaws to relieve the suffering in famine-stricken Somalia . In 1997, at the annual ‘Famine Walk’ held between Louisburgh and Doolough, the Chief of the Choctaw Nation joined hundreds of others in remembering this tragic event. This monument in the valley has the following inscription from Gandhi, among others, commemorating the event. “How can men feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings?”

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