Friday, 4 March 2011

"Captain Kennedy's Daughter" by Giles Watson

I wear wee shoes upon my feet
And on my head a bonnet;
My father drives a wagonload
And I am riding on it,
And when we stop, then I lean out,
The crowd about me presses.
My lily hands don't shake at all
A-handing out the dresses.

I know not if they're girls or boys,
Their cheeks are all so hollow.
They totter after on bare feet
Scarce strong enough to follow.
Their ragged parents urge them on,
Their faces lined with sorrow
Since Colonel Crofton Vandeleur
Deprived them of tomorrow.

Twelve thousand people dispossessed,
Left to die in ditches:
They hobble on a-shivering
For want of shoes and britches.
Though I am small, come one come all,
The cart is heavy-laden.
You're shy of adult charity?
You'll take it from a maiden.

"Lyrics by Giles Watson, 2010, to the tune of 'The Maid Who Sold Her Barley'. Captain Arthur Kennedy's daughter is depicted handing out clothes for the destitute in an 1849 illustration for the Illustrated London News. Kennedy, a Poor Law inspector of an unusually compassionate disposition, was deeply critical of the mass evictions which left thousands homeless in the Kilrush union between 1847 and 1850. Kennedy, who was honest as well as charitable, himself admitted "that there were days in that western county when I came back from some scene of eviction so maddened by the sights of hunger and misery I had seen in the day's work that I felt disposed to take the gun from behind my door and shoot the first landlord I met." Vandeleur and other landlords claimed that Kennedy's estimates of the numbers rendered homeless were inflated, but a House of Commons select committee vindicated his figures by comparing the number of farms marked on the 1841 Ordnance Survey maps with the number still in existence at the end of the decade. Vandeleur was shown to have evicted over a thousand people on his estate alone."

Posted on Youtube on the 15th of December 2010 by GilesConradWatson.

See also:
Reports and Returns Relating to Evictions in the Kilrush Union 1849

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