Editorial from the Liverpool Mail, 30 Jan. 1847.

[During the Great Famine many of the Irish poor emigrated to England and some moved inland from the ports in search of work. Particular problems arose in Liverpool however, as some wished to settle there while others waited around the port for a passage to America. Local opinion was not always tolerant.]

We think the parish authorities have evinced a proper degree of forbearance in allowing the innumerable swarms of Irish beggars to infest the streets of Liverpool for so long. But there is a limit to everything, and we have no reason to know that, unless the present hired invaders be returned to Dublin or Waterford, their numbers will be daily increased.

It is a fact that would disgrace any country but Ireland, that subscriptions are raised by persons who call themselves the gentry of Dublin and other places to pay the passage of these vagrants to Liverpool. Instead of having the pride or the honesty to maintain their own poor, as the poorest parish in England does, they export them in ship-loads to prey upon the humanity of this country. This conduct is not only indecent, it is criminal and ought to be punished. Dublin is a magnificent city, they tell us, full of magnificent buildings, full of lawyers and priests; it has a university full of students, a court and a castle, splendid levees and balls, dashing and money-spending soldiers, distilleries and breweries, and wine and spirit stores without number ...

And yet the gentry and other wealthy inhabitants of this magnificent city have the meanness to subscribe their shillings to transmit their own famishing poor to beg in England. And it is the women, too, chiefly, and young children they send, in one of the most inclement winters ever known. We have reason for believing that many of the most importunate of these women have borrowed children with them whom they pass off as their own.

We have no desire to send the hungry woman, or even the female impostor, empty away. Nor have we any wish to stay the impulses of genuine charity. But we deny that there is any charity in the case so long as the gentry over the water can live in the style they have done and are doing at this very hour, and while there is so much prosperity in the large seaport towns of Ireland, and while such abundance of corn and all sorts of provisions is being poured into that country from the supplies, and at the expense of this country.

Give these beggars, we therefore say, a loaf of bread and send them home.

Reprinted in Noel Kissane, The Irish famine: a documentary history, Dublin, 1995, p.159.


  1. What kind of source is this?
  2. State two significant facts and two opinions found in the above source.
  3. Select any six words or phrases used in the above passage which you think are demeaning to the Irish poor.
  4. 'The editor of The Liverpool Mail ignored the fact that Ireland was part of the UK in 1847.' Discuss.
  5. What is the effect of referring to the magnificence of Dublin?
  6. Where does the writer lay the blame for the 'innumerable swarms of Irish beggars' coming to Liverpool? Give reasons for your opinion, referring to the text.
  7. Describe the attitude of the writer to the Irish women arriving in Liverpool.
  8. Comment on the effect of the final sentence.
  9. Discuss the passage in its historic context.
  10. Evaluate the passage as historical evidence.
  11. What effect did the editor of the Liverpool Mail wish to have on his readers, in your opinion?
  12. Suggest three possible consequences of publishing this editorial.
  13. Select three aspects of the passage that suggest it does not refer to the present times.


  1. Write a letter to The Liverpool Mail in response to the editorial.
  2. Discuss the view that the attitude of the editor of The Liverpool Mail is still to be found today.
  3. Role play a conversation between the editor and a wealthy Irish gentleman.
  4. Role play a conversation between the editor and a poor Irish woman with a child in her arms in Liverpool.
  5. Role play a conversation between the editor of The Liverpool Mail and the editor of the Illustrated London News who published the document that follows this one.
  6. Research the attitudes of English newspapers to the Great Famine. A selection can be found on the Internet.
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