Sunday, October 25, 2015

More than One Irish Famine

Most people have heard of the potatoe Famine in Ireland from 1845 to 1852. I suppose that's because many of us cannot get further in our Irish research than about those dates. The Great Hunger or the Great Famine or the Irish Potatoe Famine was also well known because at this time about 2/3 of the Irish population depended almost solely on this cheap crop. So during the famine, approximately one million people died. Another million left the island.

In 1851, the Census of Ireland Commissioners recorded 24 failures of the potato crop going back to 1728, of varying severity. General crop failures, through disease or frost, were recorded in 1739, 1740, 1770, 1800, and 1807. In 1821 and 1822, the potato crop failed in Munster and Connaught. In 1830 and 1831, Mayo, Donegal, and Galway suffered likewise. The following year, 1832, saw a Cholera epidemic sweep across Ireland and much of Britain. In 1832, 1833, 1834, and 1836, dry rot and curl caused serious losses, and in 1835 the potato failed in Ulster. Widespread failures throughout Ireland occurred in 1836, 1837, 1839, 1841, and 1844. According to Woodham-Smith, "the unreliability of the potato was an accepted fact in Ireland". Things were relentlessly tough through the century for many of our ancestors, both before and after the Great Famine of the 1840s.

The following is from Mr. Mike Collins author of A Letter From Ireland Volume 1 and 2.


Charlotte Blake Thornley was born in Sligo town in 1818. While she was still a young girl, a cholera epidemic hit Sligo with a huge force in 1832. And this followed on from two successive years of a failure in the potato crop. The bodies mounted up all around her - and local carpenters could not source enough wood to keep up with the required coffins for burials. It must have been a horrific place to live each, to see those corpses line the streets of your home town - and wondering which of your families and friends might be next. Also, some of these supposed "corpses" were still living, too weak to pull themselves back to the living - a horrific thought for a a young girl to endure.

I'll carry on with Charlotte's story in my next post titled - Samhain/Halloween (pronounced Sow-en - Sow as in pig)


No comments:

Post a Comment