HERITAGE TALES 8
The Soup Kitchen
The alleyway between 52 and 54 Main Street was the location of a soup kitchen which was set up to provide relief during the Great Famine. The Famine, caused by successive years of blight affecting the potato crop in Ireland, started in 1845 and led to extreme hardship, hunger and disease. In January 1847, a letter from Randalstown to the Britannia newspaper reported that “The fever continues to rage in some parts about here, and starvation to stare the people in the face… They say the carpenters are up all night making coffins and the hearse is always in request…”
In the same month a meeting was held in the town to consider ‘the state of the suffering Poor’ and as a result a temporary soup kitchen was established ‘for the purpose of relieving their present urgent distress’. The soup would be distributed on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays via a ticket system. The initiative attracted substantial local support with Lord O’Neill contributing by far the largest single donation of £50. This is estimated to be worth more than £5,000 at today’s values.