and his known
Peter Thomas Richards
2006 - Updated December 2013
The following is extracted from:
"On June 29, 1846, the resignation of British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel was announced. Peel's Conservative government had fallen over political fallout from repeal of the Corn Laws which he had forced through Parliament. His departure paved the way for Charles Trevelyan to take full control of Famine policy under the new Liberal government. The Liberals, known as Whigs in those days, were led by Lord John Russell, and were big believers in the principle of laissez-faire.
Once he had firmly taken control, Trevelyan ordered the closing of the food depots in Ireland that had been selling Peel's Indian corn. He also rejected another boatload of Indian corn already headed for Ireland. His reasoning, as he explained in a letter, was to prevent the Irish from becoming "habitually dependent" on the British government. His openly stated desire was to make "Irish property support Irish poverty."
As a devout advocate of laissez-faire, Trevelyan also claimed that aiding the Irish brought "the risk of paralyzing all private enterprise." Thus he ruled out providing any more government food, despite early reports the potato blight had already been spotted amid the next harvest in the west of Ireland. Trevelyan believed Peel's policy of providing cheap Indian corn meal to the Irish had been a mistake because it undercut market prices and had discouraged private food dealers from importing the needed food. This year, the British government would do nothing. The food depots would be closed on schedule and the Irish fed via the free market, reducing their dependence on the government while at the same time maintaining the rights of private enterprise.
Throughout the summer of 1846, the people of Ireland had high hopes for a good potato harvest. But the cool moist summer weather had been ideal for the spread of blight. Diseased potatoes from the previous harvest had also been used as planters and sprouted diseased shoots. At first, the crop appeared healthy. But by harvest time the blight struck ferociously, spreading fifty miles per week across the countryside, destroying nearly every potato in Ireland.
A Catholic priest named Father Matthew wrote to Trevelyan: "In many places the wretched people were seated on the fences of their decaying gardens, wringing their hands and wailing bitterly the destruction that had left them foodless."
There were only enough potatoes to feed the Irish population for a single month. Panic swept the country. Local relief committees were once again besieged by mobs of unemployed demanding jobs on public works projects. The Irish Board of Works was once again swamped with work proposals from landlords.
Trevelyan's free market relief plan depended on private merchants supplying food to peasants who were earning wages through public works employment financed mainly by the Irish themselves through local taxes. But the problems with this plan were numerous. Tax revues were insufficient. Wages had been set too low. Paydays were irregular and those who did get work could not afford to both pay their rent and buy food. Ireland also lacked adequate transportation for efficient food distribution. There were only 70 miles of railroad track in the whole country and no usable commercial shipping docks in the western districts.
By September, starvation struck in the west and southwest where the people had been entirely dependent on the potato. British Coastguard Inspector-General, Sir James Dombrain, upon encountering starving paupers, ordered his subordinates to give free food handouts. For his efforts, Dombrain was publicly rebuked by Trevelyan. The proper procedure, he was informed, would have been to encourage the Irish to form a local relief committee so that Irish funds could have been raised to provide the food.
"There was no one within many miles who could have contributed one shilling...The people were actually dying," Dombrain responded.
Many of the rural Irish had little knowledge of money, preferring to live by the old barter system, trading goods and labor for whatever they needed. Any relief plan requiring them to purchase food was bound to fail. In areas where people actually had a little money, they couldn't find a single loaf of bread or ounce of corn meal for sale. Food supplies in 1846 were very tight throughout all of Europe, severely reducing imports into England and Ireland. European countries such as France and Belgium outbid Britain for food from the Mediterranean and even for Indian corn from America.
Meanwhile, the Irish watched with increasing anger as boatloads of home-grown oats and grain departed on schedule from their shores for shipment to England. Food riots erupted in ports such as Youghal near Cork where peasants tried unsuccessfully to confiscate a boatload of oats. At Dungarvan in County Waterford, British troops were pelted with stones and fired 26 shots into the crowd, killing two peasants and wounding several others. British naval escorts were then provided for the riverboats as they passed before the starving eyes of peasants watching on shore.
As the Famine worsened, the British continually sent in more troops. "Would to God the Government would send us food instead of soldiers," a starving inhabitant of County Mayo lamented.
The Irish in the countryside began to live off wild blackberries, ate nettles, turnips, old cabbage leaves, edible seaweed, shellfish, roots, roadside weeds and even green grass. They sold their livestock and pawned everything they owned including their clothing to pay the rent to avoid certain eviction and then bought what little food they could find with any leftover money. As food prices steadily rose, parents were forced to listen to the endless crying of malnourished children.
Fish, although plentiful along the West Coast of Ireland, remained out of reach in water too deep and dangerous for the little cowhide-covered Irish fishing boats, known as currachs. Starving fishermen also pawned their nets and tackle to buy food for their families.
Making matters worse, the winter of 1846-47 became the worst in living memory as one blizzard after another buried homes in snow up to their roofs. The Irish climate is normally mild and entire winters often pass without snow. But this year, an abrupt change in the prevailing winds from southwest into the northeast brought bitter cold gales of snow, sleet and hail."
End of Quote.
History of Roscommon
The British Government had seized the ancestral lands of the Irish citizens and its residents were living on the brink of starvation. Their land that had been overworked and they were forced to pay rent to the English Crown.
About 1834 when the leases "fell in" and the tenants failed or were unable to pay their full rent, lengthy legal proceedings were initiated and this continued for many years including the famine years which started about 1845.
A Rebellion occurred between 1834 and 1848 whereby a group of tenants refused to pay rent and they had many confrontations with police and bailiffs.
In 1847 in one township in Roscommon, 60 police, 25 cavalry and 30 infantry occupied their farms and a battle ensued. As a result their homes were destroyed and those who relinquished their rights to the land were sent to places like USA, Canada and Australia by the Crown.
The Great Famine
History has told us that there was a severe famine in Ireland from 1845 to 1850 and many Irish left for other English speaking countries. I have extracted the following from the Internet.
More information from
"It began with a blight of the potato crop that left acre upon acre of Irish farmland covered with black rot. As harvests across Europe failed, the price of food soared. Subsistence-level Irish farmers found their food stores rotting in their cellars, the crops they relied on to pay the rent to their British and Protestant landlords destroyed. Peasants who ate the rotten produce sickened and entire villages were consumed with cholera and typhus. Parish priests desperate to provide for their congregations were forced to forsake buying coffins in order to feed starving families, with the dead going unburied or buried only in the clothes they wore when they died.
Landlords evicted hundreds of thousands of peasants, who then crowded into disease-infested workhouses. Other landlords paid for their tenants to emigrate, sending hundreds of thousands of Irish to America and other English-speaking countries. But even emigration was no panacea -ship owners often crowded hundreds of desperate Irish onto rickety vessels labeled "coffin ships". In many cases, these ships reached port only after losing a third of their passengers to disease, hunger and other causes. While Britain provided much relief for Ireland's starving populace, many Irish criticized Britain's delayed response -- and further blamed centuries of British political oppression on the underlying causes of the famine.
The Irish Famine of 1846-50 took as many as one million lives from hunger and disease, and changed the social and cultural structure of Ireland in profound ways. The Famine also spurred new waves of immigration, thus shaping the histories of the United States and Britain as well.
The combined forces of famine, disease and emigration depopulated the island; Ireland's population dropped from 8 million before the Famine to 5 million years after. If Irish nationalism was dormant for the first half of the nineteenth-century, the Famine convinced Irish citizens and lrish-Americans of the urgent need for political change. The Famine also changed centuries-old agricultural practices, hastening the end of the division of family estates into tiny lots capable of sustaining life only with a potato crop."
End of quote.
On 26 June 1988 there was a reunion of Gralton descendants at 23 Collins Street Corinda in Brisbane. The following is from a booklet produced for that meeting.
FROM WHENCE THEY CAME
Post-famine Ireland was an exhausted, dispirited and divided country. In six years, 1845-51, the population had been reduced by two million, and one million of these had emigrated to America, England and Australia.
The four children of Cornelius and Ann (Kelly) Gralton, of Creeve, County Roscommon, left Ireland on separate voyages to seek a better life in a new country.
Our ancestor, Cornelius married Honorah Quillinan in London in 1854 (24th June 1855) where they heard that people were picking up lumps of gold in Australia. Honorah's eight brothers had gone to America, but Australia sounded more promising. Shipping lists show that they arrived in Sydney on separate ships, Cornelius on "Herald of the Morning" in 1858, and Honorah on "Winifred" in 1856.
Catherine had married Thomas Marshall at Christmas Creek, Macleay River in 1851, after arriving in 1848 aboard the ship "Lady Peel".
Ann arrived aboard the ship "Aloe" in 1857 her aged was stated as 18 years, and she married John Marshall, an Irishman, in Sydney in the same year.
The oldest son Henry also married in London (30th November 1850), to Margaret Dobbyns (Dobbins), and together with their four children, James, John, Henry and Catherine were passengers aboard the ship "Castilian" which arrived in Sydney on June 13, 1858.
The family lived at Frederickton for a couple of years before moving to Queensland. While at Frederickton, Henry Gralton was one of a group of patrons elected to manage the first school in July 1861 with an enrolment of 46. Eight more children were born in Queensland, Elias, Paul, Alfred, Louise, Josephine, Margaret-Anne, Austin and Winifred. (See note)
Some nine years later, in 1877, Francis Gralton aged 17 years and son of Michael and Mary (Cullen) Gralton, arrived from Roscommon aboard the ship, "Pericles" with his sister Cecily (16 years), his brother Phillip having died at sea. An older brother James had arrived on the "Earl Dalhousie" in 1876. James changed his name to Grant, apparently due to prejudice against the Irish. Francis came to Hunters Hill to relatives, the O'Donnell family. He boarded with Mrs. Quirk in Madeline Street where he met Kate Broderick who worked for Judge Manning at "Merilibah" in Alexandra Street. Francis' sister Cecily married James Donovan and they had four children - James, Mary, Michael and Francis, all living in Brisbane. Francis and Kate Gralton lived in the Villa Maria Parish until their deaths, Francis in 1919 and Kate in 1940. They are buried in the Field of Mars Cemetery. We have no proof at this stage, of any relationship to this family of Graltons, but I think we can safely assume that they were related to us. One interesting similarity is that the marriage certificate states Grant as the surname of Cornelius and Honorah.
Family Historian, John Gralton (son of Robert) tells us that Cornelius and Honorah lived in a tent on the Domain in Sydney for some weeks before acquiring some cheap land at Belmore River in the Kempsey region. There they farmed corn, potatoes and lucerne while rearing their large family. The oldest daughter, Ann, met a tragic death at the age of 12 while tending the clothes in the outside copper. She died of burns and was buried on the family property. Mary died at the age of 10 months. The third daughter, Alice, was a founding member of the Order of the Good Samaritan in Australia, and became Sister Blandina. Little is known of Francis, the third son who was sent to Ireland to study for the priesthood, returned to Australia, then enlisted for the Boer War. The remaining five sons all married and the names on the following pages speak for themselves.
Notes added by Peter Richards:
My Great grandfather Alfred Gralton was born Frederickton NSW on 7 January 1860 (8104/1860) and Austin Sarsfield Gralton was born Kempsey NSW on 9 February 1871 (12196/1871).
Catherine Gralton was 17 when she arrived in Sydney on 3 July 1849 on the 'Lady Peel' which transported female Irish potato famine orphans aged 15 to 20.
If Ann Gralton was born about 1836 then she would have been about 21 when she arrived in 1857.