Contemporary sources tell of famine life in John Cunningham's book
John Cunningham (centre) at the launch of his book, 'The Great Silence' (Famine in Fermanagh 1845-1850) with Councillor Bernice Swift and Bryan Gallagher of the Fermanagh Authors' Association.<
Fermanagh author John Cunningham's latest book, "The Great Silence - the Famine in Fermanagh 1845-1850" has been launched.
Using contemporary sources, he tells of life in Fermanagh during those terrible years when over 40,000 Fermanagh people died of hunger, disease or emigrated from the county.
The well-known Belleek writer and local historian - speaking at the 216 page book's launch at the Killyhevlin Hotel last Wednesday evening - said that the topic of the Famine has been with him for a very long time and he said this was his latest attempt to engage with a complex and complicated situation.
"I draw few conclusions in this book. The reader can draw them themselves," indicated John, who in reference to the book's approach, explained that "it is based on the accounts of the time in one of Enniskillen's papers, the Enniskillen Chronicle and Erne Packet of 1845 to 1850."
He told the gathering: "It is the voice of the times as written at the time by editors and correspondents to the paper. I added to this account from reading the English Newcastle Couriant newspaper of the north east of England and took more local material from the Ballyshannon Herald for additional material. Thus there is a wide range of sources telling how it was at the time by the people of the time."
John pointed out that the title of the book "The Great Silence" paraphrases the Irish phrase "An Gorta Mhor" the Great Hunger and is explained at length on the book's back cover. "The physical silence at the end of this terrible period when Fermanagh lost more than 40,000 people - more than two thirds of the present population of our county; the silence of those who benefitted from the famine or those who exacerbated it and the silence of those who were silent as a result of feeling guilty for surviving while their friends died around them," indicated John.
He extended thanks to a number of people, including Mr. Rodney Watson of the Killyhevlin Hotel, the staff of Fermanagh County Library, Bernice Swift who helped to launch the book, and Bryan Gallagher who acted as MC on this occasion. He acknowledged Ecclesville Printing Services of Fintona, and also Patricia Conlin who set up the book for printing and designed the cover.
The book is available from Fermanagh County Museum, Fermanagh Tourist Office and from the author.