Newswire » Local History » Life in 1916 Ireland: Stories from statistics

Life in 1916 Ireland: Stories from statistics


The Irish Museum of Modern Art is presently running a project called A Fair Land. It is a village operating in the courtyard of the Kilmainham Royal Hospital predating 1916.

Walking through this little village, you are supposed to ‘time-travel’ back into the past and experience what life was like then, but this is Ireland and here it is either a blitzkrieg or a funeral procession.

The CSO recently published statistics called Life in 1916 Ireland: Stories from statistics, attempting to do something similar, take the reader back to 1916. These are the statistics newspapers would have used when reporting on housing, marriage, transport, farming etc.

A census took place on the 2nd of April 1911 and it was estimated that the population of Ireland stood at 3.1 million. Comparing 1911 to 2016 the population has now increased by 46%,  bringing the number to 4.76 million.

Statistics also found that people were all calling their children by the same names, everyone was either a Mary¹  or a John². A hundred years on and Irish parents are now more inventful; names like Oisin and Aoife are now popular names for boys and girls.

More people lived in one room tenements, 36%, compared to those with large houses with ten or more rooms (only 22% of the population were privileged enough to afford this commodity).

Ireland back then had more domestic servants than now, one in ten workers worked as domestic servants and nearly 50% workers were employed in Agriculture.

1916 was a time of war and fighting for independence and during that time many of the leaders of the Rising were writers and poets, Patrick Pearse and Thomas McDonagh, to mention a few were among them.

William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called ‘Easter 1916’³ telling of these two men and their writing talents, but going by what statistics in 1911 revealed, nearly 10% of the population would not have been able to read any of his poems, literature or the proclamation (8.3% of the population were illiterate).

With only 70.7% students attending National school daily in 1916, what else could you expect. The Irish student has pulled up his socks though and this figure has now raised to 94.1% and only 4.2% of the population are considered illiterate.

A hundred years on and there are less Protestants living in Ireland (3.6%), and more people speaking in Irish, 40% compared to 20% Irish speakers in 1911. With Ireland being a predominantly Catholic country it was seen as a sin to have your babies outside of marriage (92% of marriages were Catholic ceremonies).

In 1916 only 2.4% committed this sin, now people just don’t care about Catholic principles and 33.3% babies were born out of wedlock in 2012.

More babies would die before they reached the age of one, the mortality rate in Ireland in 1916 was 81.3%. In 2014 the mortality rate was estimated at 3.7% per 1,000 births.

Bronchitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis were among the biggest killers of the day back in 196, now it is old age that is killing us.

In 1915 there were only 10,000 cars in Ireland, unbelievable huh? In 2014 1.9 million private cars were counted. If you drove 10,000 miles in a year and one gallon of gasoline produces 18.07 pounds of carbon dioxide, that would mean that you alone are producing 4.5 tons of carbon dioxide a year with your car.

In 1916 this would have amounted to 45,000 tons of carbon dioxide; today we are producing 8.55 million tons of carbon dioxide. To conclude, it was a greener Ireland then, it was a sicker Ireland then, it was a lazier Ireland then, but it was a holier Ireland then.

One Response

  1. Tony Gorman says:

    A great bit of reading Jacqueline, well done.
    I loved it, so will my friends I shared it with.

Leave a Reply

© 1991-2014 Fountain Resource Group Ltd. · Registered Company Number: 193051C · RSS · Website designed by Solid Website Design