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An extraordinary climatic shock, the "Great Frost" struck Ireland and the rest of Europe between December 1739 and September 1741, after a decade of relatively mild winters. Charting its course sharply illuminates how climate events can result in famine and epidemic disease, and affect economies, energy sources, and politics.Though no barometric or temperature readings for Ireland survive from the Great Frost, a scattered few records survive from Englishmen who made personal readings.This action was in response to Cork Corporation (City of Cork), which remembered vividly the city events of eleven years earlier when serious food riots erupted and four people died.In Celbridge, County Kildare, Katherine, the widow of William Conolly, commissioned construction of the Conolly Folly in 1740 to give employment to local workers.The mercury thermometer was invented 25 years earlier by the German pioneer Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit.Indoor values during January 1740 were as low as 10 °F (−12 °C).
Coal dealers and shippers during normal times ferried coal from Cumbria and south Wales to east and south-coast ports in Ireland, but the ice-bound quays and frozen coal yards temporarily stopped such trade.
Also affected by the Frost were the pre-industrial town mill-wheels, which froze.
The machinery was stilled that customarily ground wheat for the bakers, tucked cloth for the weavers, and pulped rags for the printers.
In the period before the crisis in January 1740, the winds and terrible cold intensified, yet barely any snow fell.
Ireland was locked into a stable and vast high-pressure system which affected most of Europe in a broadly similar way, from Scandinavia and Russia to northern Italy.
The Church of Ireland parish clergy solicited donations, which they converted into free rations in the city parishes, distributing nearly 80 tons of coal and ten tons of meal four weeks into the Frost.