Famine story-short version

One the interesting things about the guided tours we have done is the bits of info you glean. Like in the old days if you were a big landowner and had several buildings you were taxed according to your buildings. They had what they called a roof tax so that unliveable buildings weren’t taxed. The down side of this was people who had old buildings, like a castle on their land would remove the roof to save tax and that spelt the end of that building.

We learnt the other day that house owners at one time had to pay a light tax. This seems incredible, but the more windows you had, or effectively the more light you had coming into your house, the more tax you paid. You’d think hard about windows when you were building then for sure. They had large fireplaces that took up 10% of the floor space and seats placed either side where peat burned slowly away and soupy broths simmered.


The peasant family’s diet of course consisted of, well just of potatoes actually. You’ll be thinking I got that wrong but almost the only thing they had available to them was potato and this is why the potato blight led to a famine so quickly. They’d lose their whole crop overnight and the ground would be a rotting mess. This meant they couldn’t pay their rent to the landowner and many were turfed out and to prevent them coming back they’d demolish their house. Whole families would then walk the roads. Emigrate if they could find a way, or live in the appalling conditions of the workhouses, or starve, which so many did. Bodies were picked up by horse and cart each night and dumped into large pits. Whole families disappearing.

The peat they burnt in those days is still smelt in the air now as you’re driving thru even tho it is discouraged, as the fields where this is harvested are getting lower and lower. Still used because it’s the cheapest form of heating in some areas and what they know.

These very cute thatched roof cottages are still around. The thatch is replaced anything from two to five yearly depending on quality of thatch and what was available. They were generally a three roomed cottage, dark and smokey inside. That’s enough for today’s lesson…

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One Response to Famine story-short version

  1. graham says:

    Thanks T
    all informative and stuff would never know of nor likely read of
    love to hear of your folks enjoying the never ending b&b accommodation as well, meeting those locals must be a treasure in itself
    know i yearned for a break from listening to/sharing travel stories, places to go see, when nightly in the ole YHAs ha … good modern day choice ..

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