New Historian

Remains of Youngest Victims of the Great Famine Uncovered


<![CDATA[About five hundred child skeletons unearthed from a mass workhouse grave have offered new details about the youngest victims of the Great Irish Famine. Remains of the children who lived in the grounds of the Kilkenny Union Workhouse between 1847 and 1851 have revealed the stress suffered by young children during the crisis. The study, which was funded by the Irish Research Council, shows that approximately 2/3rd of the 545 children that were buried in this mass grave were under the age of 6. Workhouse records also show that the mortality rate for infants under the age of 2 was approximately four times higher than the mortality rate of the older children. The study is believed to be the first of its kind to be completely centred on the child victims of the Famine. It reveals that the tragic victims suffered from all sorts of infectious diseases, and that the child population was susceptible to growth retardation. Dr. Jonny Geber, a bio-archaeologist working for the UCC, examined these skeletons over three years. His studies show the deep suffering of the children who had often lost their parents to the Famine. Evidence of workhouse segregation, where children over the age of two were taken away from their mothers, has also been found. Dr. Geber states that it is heartbreaking to imagine how these young infants coped with the situation, and just how many of them ended up dying at the workhouse. He now believes that he is well equipped to narrate the story of the children who did not manage to survive the Famine, a story that has never been told before. Dr. Geber explains that most of his deductions have been based on the child skeletons that have been uncovered, and that these skeletons provide a unique insight into how the children lived and suffered. The Famine would have obviously brought about infections, diseases and malnutrition. Things were made worse by the workhouse itself, because it put its child inmates under extreme distress, particularly when it separated them from their parents. If the children weren't already orphans, they would have still lost their parents through the process of segregation. Upon further examination of the teeth of the child skeletons, those who had suffered from illnesses before the Famine struck managed to survive much longer than the others, most likely because they had developed stronger immune systems. Dr. Geber states that the most striking aspect of the study was the high scurvy rate that was found. Scurvy is an extremely painful disease that leads to bleeding gums, painful diseases and lesions on the teeth. The study proved that the majority of child deaths were not due to starvation, but a result of infectious diseases. There is no doubt that young infants and children need a lot of comfort and emotional security for their normal growth, particularly during their tender years. It is distressing to imagine what these young children had to suffer when they did not receive the comfort of their parents. A number of studies have proven that a lack of emotional comfort and proper care can increase the risk of death amongst small children. ]]>

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