During the Great Famine of 1847 in Ireland there was a famine pot located on the roadside in the Town land of Cullionboy, in the Parish of Townawilly in County Donegal. The famine pot became the property of local farmer, Patrick Colhoun. In later years the pot was used to heat water by the local farmers when they were dipping sheep.
In July 2011, I went in search of the famine pot only to discover it had been attacked and broken in a number of pieces. A quick check revealed only two small pieces of the pot were missing. One of the pieces was found a few days later in a nearby stream. Thanks to the expertise of Stephen Jarvis, who was given the onerous task of welding the pieces together, the famine pot was restored to its former glory.
A special word of thanks to the Colhoun Family who gave us permission to have the pot restored, Their only concern was that the pot would be respected according to its history and located in a permanent position in the Parish as a memorial to the famine victims, the emigrants and the survivors. It was agreed the most suitable location was a site at Leghowney Community Hall, a building that has been at the heart of our Community since it first opened its doors in 1937.
In 2012, Mattie Lennon and I began researching the history of the famine pots and the vital role they played during the famine years. While there are numerous publications dealing with the famine itself we found that because of bigotry, pride, misguided patriotism and inherited false information the role of the famine pots, was almost air-brushed from our history.
The famine pots serve as a reminder to the present and future generations of that grim period in our history when a million Irish people died of starvation and famine related disease and a million plus were forced to emigrate, many of them to die in the coffin ships bearing them to the land of promise. It has been said that if it had been possible to lay a slab to commemorate every Irish person who died at sea during the famine period, one could walk dry-shod to America.
The restoration of this priceless artefact would not have been possible without the help and support of a great number of people namely; The Officers/Committee Leghowney Hall, who provided the site and the financial resources to have the pot restored. The Sweeney family. Aodh O Donnell, James Cassidy, John Cassidy Stephen Jarvis, Athy Co-cooperative foundry County Kildare. C. I. E. writers group.
Earlier this year we decided, in conjunction with An Lar and Donegal TV, to make a 30 minute documentary about the famine pots. The documentary will be screened in early 2014. In order to establish how many famine pots are still in existence Mattie Lennon, in a letter to the Irish Times and other media outlets, appealed for information from the public. The response has been amazing and we would like to thank the many people who took the time to forward emails, photographs and stories of famine pots in their area.
Over the past twelve months we have located a number of these priceless artefacts and we would be grateful for any information, photos of famine pots in your area.
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