Sunday, 17 May 2009


A detail from a Famine Memorial

The Great Famine of 1847 caused national devastation in this country as the potato crop (then the national staple diet) repeatedly failed and disease and starvation claimed anything from 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 lives. It was a pivotal event in our history as in addition to the dead a further 1,000,000 emigrated thus depleting this country’s population to levels that have never been restored to pre-famine numbers. The real tragedy of the whole thing was that while people were dying in huge numbers, large quantities of grain and livestock were being exported to Britain as the poor had no money to buy them and the government (the occupying British regime) had no mind to ban exports and allow the Irish to be fed. The experiences of that time further alienated the Irish from their British rulers and the famine experience has long been recited as yet another woe inflicted on this island by our nearest neighbour. The enduring effects of 1847 can be seen in that this National Famine Commemoration Day is the first in our history , 162 years after the event. ~GOSh.~



I thirst beside the heather-laden bogs –

no samaritan for me;

no one here to see

that I shall die amidst the

plenty, in the field –

and that its yield

will sail to shores beyond the sea.

How can it be

that flocks of sheep can find their fill

while I lie empty and in pain?

or is it vain

to beg attention to my plight?

How can I fight

when I am listless, drained alone,

shrunken to the bone

while others eat what I have

grown in toil?

Woman of the soil –

I fade against a wall of human greed

and - sower of the seed –

I languish as it grows...

Anne Therese Dillen


Mike said...

Those sorts of numbers are hard to imagine. I never think of famines in the west. Thanks for brining this too mind.

Elf Girl said...

I have Irish blood in me, though I'm not sure how it wound up here in America. Perhaps one of my ancestors was forced out by this very event. I pray we may never forget it, but that it may serve as a lesson to all. Compassion and equality could have made a big difference then. It still can today. Thanks for the reminder.

Antoin said...

Its funny we Irish still don't know what to do with our history. We also are beginning to realise that it may not have been the way we were thought at school. The Good Irish peasant verses the Bad English Landlords.

Having read detailed accounts of the famine it reminds me very much of current world events ie recession, banks etc. Hard to put the finger or point the blame on one particular event or person. Its suddenness caught everyone by surprise and by the time bumbling politicians got their act together many had died or emigrated.

What is really sad is famine is so wide spread today; and today we know about it (if we want to) and have the resourses to make a difference; but we don't, do we? Probably for the very same reasons people did so little in Ireland in the 1840's.

Anonymous said...

Yo Gerry,

One of the problems that caused the Famine was the fact that the Irish only used one kind of potato - the Tuber. I watched a programme about potatoes & it showed the importance of having different types. But I have a doubt in my mind & it might be pure hogwash, but the British & Americans slaughtered millions of Indians with infected blankets. They would wrap them around a dead person who had died from some infectious disease & then fold them & leave them outside the Indian camp. The Indians would come out & bring them into their camp after the British or Americans had left. The rest is history. I suspect the British wanted to decimate our 8 million of a population for security reasons. It seems we were breeding like rabbits compared to the British.