A WANT OF INHABITANTS
The Famine in Bantry Untion
Ebook edition available
In the idyllic setting of Bantry Union, thousands of the poorest inhabitants starved to death in the decade of the 1840s. Little is known about the sequence of events of the famine in the Union and how this tragedy unfolded. Many people living in West Cork today think that the ravages were less severe in Bantry than in neighbouring Skibbereen Union. Not even the geographical extent of the Union is clearly known. We do know there was no happy ending. This vital work, combining archival research and social history, seeks to lay bare the factors that led inexorably to catastrophe.
Geraldine Powell grew up in Dublin in a family that emphasised scholarship. The nursery walls were covered with peeling maps of eighteenth-century Europe. Her earliest memories include running around ancient ruins during weekend outings of the Royal Antiquarian Society. Summers in the Ballingeary Gaeltacht provided a nationalist influence, while an education by English nuns did somewhat the opposite.
After qualifying in medicine, Geraldine moved to the United States. She worked as a pathologist, then as a psychiatrist with Vietnam veterans, and later with prisoners and in the community health system. In addition to her medical career, she studied creative writing at the University of California, San Diego. A few of her short stories were broadcast in the United States and on RTÉ.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Geraldine, her husband and three children visited West Cork frequently and bought a holiday home there, a cottage in an old clachan near Bantry. Over twenty-four years of visits, rehabbing, exploring and reading about the area, she became fascinated by the extreme contrasts and complexity of society in nineteenth-century Munster. When, in 2016, she returned to live in Ireland, she continued researching and received an MA in local history from UCC.
Geraldine Powell now lives with her husband in Dungarvan, Co. Cork.