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Ulster American Folk Park

Single Room Cabin

Old World, building 4

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How the other half lived

It is hard to believe that only 200 years ago many of our ancestors lived in simple one-room cabins in families of 6-8 people.

This cabin came from Altahoney townland in the Sperrin Mountains near Park. It dates from the late 1700s to early 1800s and is an excellent example of the type of dwelling occupied by many poor tenant farmers. Many single room cabins had clay sod walls instead of stone walls.

The only furniture in the cabin would have been a crude table and a few 'creepies' (small stools). For most of the time potatoes would have been the staple food of the family but in good times they may have fattened a pig. The downside to this was that the pig would have shared the same living space as the family!

From 1800 to 1845, as the population of Ulster increased, lesser tenant farmers occupied smaller and smaller plots of land making subsistence a daily battle. As if these conditions weren’t tough enough, by 1845 a famine spread across Ireland caused by the failure of the potato crop bringing starvation and death to people who struggled to survive in the best of times.

The Devine family owned the cabin but we do not know who lived in it during the famine years. They may have paid the Devine family by working for them for a number of days throughout the year. As with so many other victims of the famine the family left no trace of who they were.

Look out for the the bed outshot - it is an alcove with a built-in bed extending into the back wall of the house, beside the fireplace.

Potatoes grew in the ‘lazy beds’ in front of the house. Potatoes were the principal source of food for the occupants.