the Great Famine, there was a famine pot located on the roadside in the
Town land of Cullionboy, in the Parish of Townawilly in Co. 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
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.
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 artifact would not have been possible
without the help and support of a great number of people namely the officers/committee
of 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 Co. Kildare and
the 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 12 months, we have located a number of these priceless
artifacts and we would be grateful for any information, photos of famine
pots in your area.