Letters from Irish Great Famine bought by archive

Tue May 18, 2010 5:44am EDT
 
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DUBLIN (Reuters Life!) - Letters relating to Ireland's Great Famine years, that were due to be auctioned on Tuesday, have been bought by an archive in the country.

Dublin auctioneers Adam's did not say which archive would take the collection of letters, only revealing that they would be available for academic research in due course.

One million people died and more than one million left Ireland in the 1840s when potato blight caused widespread famine. Those who left emigrated mainly to North America and Ireland's population dropped by about a quarter.

The collection includes letters from landlords' agents concerning rent collection as well as priests asking for charity for those who could not write themselves and from tenants asking for relief and mercy.

The Irish Times newspaper reported there had been fears the letters were going to leave the country after Adam's said the auction had aroused much interest, particularly from the United States. Adam's will still offer for sale lots of statues and publications relating to the period.

The letters come from the recently discovered archives of a firm of Dublin solicitors, Stewart & Kincaid, who acted as landlords' agents during the period. They also give an account of the situation on the ground, some recounting how damaged potato fields were.

Ireland held a ceremony on Sunday to commemorate those who died during the famine years.

(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian, editing by Paul Casciato)