|Linen weaver & flax spinner|
In 1833 an extensive survey of Ireland was initiated in order to investigate the causes for the widespread poverty and destitution in the country at the beginning of the 19th century. 'The Royal Commission for inquiring into the condition of the poorer classes in Ireland' conducted its survey over three years, from 1833 to 1836 and produced various reports of its findings and recommendations. These led to the introduction of the Irish Poor Law in 1838 which set up workhouses for the provision of the poor and poor rates collected for their upkeep.
Drogheda was one of the towns examined in the reports and makes for grim reading. It in it breaks down the various poorer classes into three distinct groups; the labourers e.g. weavers, mechanics etc., vagrants, and the destitute poor who do not work or have any income. The report from 1836 contains testimony from various businessmen and dignitaries of the town concerning its inhabitants, which could be scathing to say the least. It also highlights the decline of the linen industry in Drogheda at the time as being one of the main, if not the main, reason for the economic collapse in the town. It became cheaper to mass produce the linen in England; as a result, many local skilled weavers emigrated to England and Scotland, and local hand loom weavers couldn't compete with the prices and so suffered as a result.
The report offers a fascinating snapshot of life in pre-Famine Drogheda
for the poorer working classes and drives home the hardship that people had to endure.
Link to the third 1836 report here, well worth a read: http://eppi.dippam.ac.uk/documents/11048/eppi_pages/252539