This is from Phil Irwin and concerns an episode during the Famine :
INQUESTS—DEATHS FROM STARVATION—
A CORPSE FOR SALE.
On Friday last, D. Geran, Esq., Coroner, held an Inquest at Youghal, on the body of a boy seven years old named Wm. Miller. The corpse was taken by the Police while exposed for sale. The following jury were summoned upon the occasion. William Walsh, Thomas Dee, John Forde, John Annour, Leonard Parker, Thomas Treacy, Patrick Brien, Edward Kelly, William Cunningham, Thomas O’Neill, Edward Condon, and Thomas Garivan.
Mr. John D. Ronayne being sworn, deposed as follows. I am an Apothecary in the town of Youghal ; was in my own shop about one o’clock in the afternoon of Wednesday, the 27th inst., a man, now in Court, whose name I don’t know, came into my shop, and asked me did I want to buy a corpse ? I asked was it a man or a woman ? He first said it was a man, and then that it was a boy. I asked the age, and he said seven or eight years old ; asked was the boy coffined and buried ? and he said he was ; asked where the boy was from ? he said from the West, asked was he his own child ? he replied not ; at this moment I was called into my house, and on my return back to the shop the man was gone. In the interim, I saw a Policeman passing bye ; I called him, mentioned the circumstance, and desrcibed the man who was in my shop. In about ten minutes after the Policeman returned with the prisoner, and asked me was that the man that offered to sell the body ? and I said it was. In about three hours afterwards, on the same day, I saw the body of a boy about seven years old in the Police Barracks, Youghal. I never knew anything of the kind to have occurred in Youghal before, nor even knew of the sale of bodies there.
Mochael Mangan, Sub-Constable, sworn.—I was passing the town of Youghal at midday on the 27th inst., another Sub-Constable gave prisoner in charge to me ; observed a woman, now in Court, standing close by—she had on her back a basket and her cloak over it ; asked what was in the basket ; she said “nothing ;” removed the cloak, and took a little straw out of the mouth of the basket ; and there found, doubled together, the dead body of a boy, about seven years old ; the man and woman were arrested, and brought back to the Barrack ; did not know them ; while under way to the Barrack the male prisoner wanted to state something to me ; cautioned him not to do so, as I would bring it in evidence against him ; on coming into the barracks ; took the basket, with the corpse in it, off the woman’s back ; the male prisoner began to state a second time why he brought the child for sale ; was cautioned against doing so, but perservered. He stated that the child was sickly some time before he died ; that it was want that compelled him (prisoner) and his wife to offer for sale the dead body ; admitted the child did not belong to himself ; that he was an illegitimate child, belonging to a sister-in-law of his ; and he reared the child for the last six years, and that his mother went to England.
Richard Ronanyne, Esq., M.D., sworn—On Monday last was called on to make an examination on the body of a male child, apparently between 7 and 8 years of age—went to the Police Barrack at Youghal, was pointed out the body, doubled up in a basket, and covered with straw ; there were no marks of violence on the body ; on opening it I found the contents of the chest and abdomen perfectly healthy, but there was not a particle of food in the stomach or intestines, nor a particle of adipose or fatty matter ; from all these circumstances, together with the extremely emaciated appearance of the child, is of the opinion he died from hunger.
The Coroner asked was there any more witnesses, and none appearing, Thomas Miller, the person charged, asked permission to say a few words. The Coroner cautioned him against saying anything that would criminate himself.
Miller, a poor emaciated looking-man, who was in custody of the police, then came forward and stated —I lived with Mr. Gaggan, of Greenland for the last ten years ; and since the potatoes failed I got 8d. per day, and that was not able to support my family, being six in number. When the public works commenced Mr. Gaggin [sic] knocked off all his men but two. I went then to the public works, earned about five shillings a week, and that would not give my family a meal a day when things got dear. I had to break off from work from want of food ; I went to beg for food among the neighbours, and sent my wife to be taken, in my place for a couple of days at the works —she was refused. I went back to the works again on the following Monday, and was without food from Monday morning till the following Thursday on the works ; I used to take a drink of spring water sometimes and faint every night with weakness, and then turn into bed, not having light or fire, and I left the work on Friday to go a second time a begging. I went to Ballymacoda, to the relief committee, the gentlemen were coming out, I saw there Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Egar, the rector of the parish. Mr. Fitzgerald asked me why I was not at work ? I said I was not able, Mr. Egar looked at me, and said “I was not able to work from starvation.” Mr. Egar rode on, and told me to follow after ; I followed, till he came to a house where he sold bread at half price, at Ballymacoda ; he told me to rap at the door ; the woman came out, and Mr. Egar ordered me 2s. worth of bread ; I got it and went home. Having so much bread to share among my children on Friday, I went to the works on Saturday. I was paid my wages on the following Wednesday, 4s., and of this I had to pay 3s. 6d. to Pat Griffin, of Ring, who passed his word for meal for me the week before. I had only 6d. left going home, and took with me the worth of it in bread. I shared the bread among my children, and God knows how little of it I left myself ; the day following I saw the children had nothing, till my wife went when the tide was out to cut Doolamaun (sea weed) off the rocks ; she brought it home, boiled it, put a little salt on it, and on this we were living for days before the child, William Miller, died. I went to work again, on last Tuesday morning and on returning in the evening the child was dead. This statement I am ready to make on oath ; and if you doubt me, ask the Rev. Mr. Egar of Lisquinlan, or Mr. Fitzgerald of Ballykennely, and with the exception of the charge now against me, nothing was ever laid before to my charge.
The prisoner’s wife, a wretched care worn looking woman, with an infant at her breast—said—The reason I was selling the child was from want, and I would do anything to keep the life in my children and in myself ; and this I shall publicly say, however I may be punished by law. A couple of days before the child died, I went to my master’s son, John Gaggin of Greenland, for a few turnips to eat ; he said the last of them were in the [illegible] for the horses ; I went then and stole a few [illegible] of boiled turnips for the children ; Mr. Gaggin saw me, and told me never to do it again. I was not able to sweep the house from weakness, and would eat the cat through hunger.
The Coroner addressed the jury, and told them that exposing for sale a dead body was an indictable offence that would come before another tribunal. It was for the jury to enquire how, and in what manner, the boy Wm. Miller, came by his death. The principle evidence was that of the Doctor, and upon his testimony the jury should return their verdict.
The jury, after a short consultation, returned a verdict—Death by starvation.
Same day, inquests were held on the bodies of Margaret and Patrick Croneen, mother and son, who died at the Windmill, near Youghal. It appeared on evidence that the parties lived for days upon turnips, and latterly on the putrid remains of a pig, that died on the premises of a neighbouring farmer, and for days before death they had nothing to eat.
The Jury at once returned their verdict, finding that Margaret and Patrick Croneen died from starvation.