Irish History: The Plague
Irish History From The Annals

In the Spring of 1439 the plague returned to ravage the people of Dublin.

The Annals of the Four Masters record that in the spring of 1439 Dublin was again ravaged by a plague that killed up to three thousand people. This wasn’t just a Dublin outbreak but affected the whole island and the annalist lists a number of significant personages, such as Edmond Burke of Clanrickard, to illustrate the impact outside of Dublin.

The plague raged virulently in Dublin, so that three thousand persons, both male and female, large and small, died of it, from the beginning of Spring to the end of the month of May. Donough, the son of O'Dowda, i.e. the son of Teige; Conor, the son of Donnell, son of Cormac Mac Donough, and his wife, the daughter of Teige Mac Donough; the Vicar of Imleach Iseal, Donough, son of Tomaltagh O'Beollain; Edmond Burke, the son of Mac William of Clanrickard, and heir to the lordship of Clanrickard, all died of the plague.

While the mortality was not as high as the Black Death of 1348-50 it still represented a tremendous blow to the city with an estimated population of fewer than 30,000. The Black Death is now known to have been caused by a variant of the bacterium Yersinia pestis and this was probably also responsible for the 1439 plague. Plague would be a continuing source of danger and anxiety to the people of Dublin until the seventeenth century.

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