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REPORTER: The town we are visiting is Kilrush, Kilrush, the centre of Kilrush Poor Law Union. For the part few weeks, London has got reports...many reports..of distress and starvation in this area, and we’re here to check the truth...or other wise... of these stories, and present the facts to you, the listeners. Kilrush was a thriving market town, it had a good export trade in corn, over thirty five thousand pounds worth in 1836. There was an import duty on American corn, but Westminster abolished it. Cheap imports of American corn have wiped out the trade from Kilrush in the past few years. And now, in the last week of the Eighteen Forties, this last week of December Eighteen Forty-Nine I will talk with the people, with the priests, with the landlords, with officials, with anyone. (PAUSE) Just a moment, there is a man coming this way, barefoot, head uncovered, dressed only in the shreds of a shirt, the rags of a pants. (SHIVERS) It is bitterly cold. I cannot understand why he has not frozen, frozen to death, already. (RAISES VOICE) Excuse me, Sir, excuse me.


REPORTER: Excuse me, Sir, Happy Christmas to you.

PAUPER MAN: Christmas? Christmas, you said. One thousand eight hundred and forty nine years ago Christ was born in a stable. There was no room at the Inn. I tell you, Sir, I tell you solemnly, in this blighted Union, this misery of a Poor Law Union of Kilrush, there is no room, not even in a shtable. If Christ were to be born here this Christmas, the Christ child would have the misery of a could, damp, ditch for his few living hours on this Earth.

REPORTER: But how can this be? The Poor Law was to provide for the poor, build workhouses, bring relief in the workhouse to the old and infirm, bring outdoor relief to the able-bodied without work.

PAUPER MAN: Workhouse. Yeah, we have a workhouse. There are nearly five thousand people in it today, Sir. Five thousand people, in a buildin’ set to hold eight hundred. Yes, Sir, eight hundred. You said, Christmas. Last night, the paupers had no food, no dinner, before that it was some soup and chopped turnips. The turnips were ones grown on the workhouse farm. There’s no money for food for them that’s in the workhouse. For the rest of us, God help us, there’s only wind for our bellies. Nothin’. No food, no help, no shelter. (FADING) Only death. Death at Christmas.

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