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Photographer's Note

Pictured here is the Spire of Lloyd standing at the top of the summit of the Commons of Lloyd outside the County Meath town of Kells.

This structure surprises many visitors to the area, not for the fact that it is a 100 foot high lighthouse, but for the fact that it is inland and stands about 45 kilometres from the nearest coastline at Drogheda, County Louth.

It was built as a folly by the first Earl of Bective in memory of his father Sir Thomas Taylor. Constructed in 1791, its designer was Henry Aaron Baker and it created work for the local population during a time of local famine. When built, it was used for viewing hunting and watching horse racing by the more wealthy in the area.

Inside the tower, a 164 step staircase leads to the top where magnificent views from the top of the 428 foot above sea level site allows visitors to see as far as the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland on a clear day. Sadly, the tower is rarely open and was not on the day I visited.

On the east side of the tower is the Headfort coat of arms with the family crest of “Consequitur quodquinque petit” (“He follows what he seeks")

The sense of whimsy brought to the viewer in this place is balanced by the sense of loss as this site is also a mass grave for victims of the great famine. The area around Kells was devastated by this hunger. In 1851 the site around the spire was officially established as a paupers graveyard, although victims had been buried here before this.

On the west side of the green, there was once a work house and a Famine road existed between it and the paupers graveyard, a horrific indicator to those living in the squalid conditions of what their future held.

By 1841 the population of Ireland had risen to over 8 million people, and over one third of those were landless laborers who already lived in desperate poverty. These people were almost entirely dependent on the potato to stay alive, which they grew on the tiny plots of land granted to them in exchange for back breaking labor.

Even though many crop failures had occurred over the years, 1845 saw the arrival in Ireland of Phytrophtora Infestans, a fungus which caused widespread crop failure across the country. The result of this crop failure was the Great Famine.

Initially, the British government did act to try to help the Irish in this time of tragedy, but the Undersecretary for the Treasury of England with Special Responsibility for Irish Famine Relief decided to cut assistance because he believed "The judgment of God sent this great calamity to teach the Irish a lesson".

The results of his decision were catastrophic. More than a million people died of starvation and disease and more than a million more emigrated to the UK, US, Canada and elsewhere. The despised workhouses overflowed with those souls seeking refuge from the devastation wrought upon them, and many of those trying to flee died on the journey in the horrid conditions of the Coffin Ships.

This particular site is the final resting place for well over a thousand people, though the final number is not known.

To mark this the parkland here (known today as the Peoples Park) also features a simple Celtic Cross, and a large rock inscribed with the words :

"In the immediate aftermath of the great famine, this mass burial place was opened in 1851 for the poor people of the Kells District. Their memory challenges us to end the scandal of hunger in todays world of plenty".

Situated as it is a few miles outside the town of Kells and at the top of a windswept hill, there is a sense of desolation and loneliness here as this place does not receive many visitors. It is easy to imagine the scenes of horror and grief that this green field bore witness to, and all in the shadow of the Tower of Lloyd; a folly of absolute wealth.

Ireland has never recovered from the effects of the great famine, and its population never again reached that of the 8 or so million before this event. Sometimes, it seems the great famine is part of the ancient history of this country, but it should be remembered that this nation changing event happened no more than a mere 165 years ago.

Thanks for looking.

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Additional Photos by Noel Byrne (Noel_Byrne) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2525 W: 12 N: 5995] (20902)
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