An Gorta Mór – The Great Hunger

By Plan B Writer’s Alliance –

(This is an excerpt from the book ‘Locusts on the Horizon‘ from the chapter titled ‘Meet the Beast’.)

One of the causes of famines has been the decisions and actions of a powerful elite few who decide that their personal wealth and power are more important than the lives of the ‘little people’.

For those who think it can’t happen in the USA, because this country is a ‘bread basket’, think again. Many Americans today are descendants of those who fled one of the worst famines in European history. It was a deadly famine which occurred in the midst of plenty while living in a country which was a bread basket.

Ireland, during a seven year period starting in 1845, in the very heart of the powerful and wealthy British Empire, lost almost a quarter of its entire population either through death or fleeing refugees, due to a famine triggered by a potato blight. A common name for this event was the Great Irish Potato Famine. Many Irish call this event, An Gorta Mór, which means, The Great Hunger.

Skibbereen 1847

Skibbereen 1847 by Cork artist James Mahony (1810–1879)

Approximately 1.5 million people died, and another million fled on ships heading for places such as the USA or Canada. These ships had such high fatality rates they became known as ‘coffin ships’. Ships, which had no orphans when leaving Ireland, often had plenty of them when they arrived in North America. Sometimes it was the other way around, and adults lost their children as they died, one by one, during the voyage.

Some families did the unthinkable, and in desperation, turned themselves in to the ‘workhouse’, a type of social welfare institution which gave basic food, clothing, and shelter in exchange for work every day. Fathers, mothers, and children were all separated and kept apart, often never seeing each other again. The workhouse may have kept them alive, but it was the end of their family and the end of their freedom.

The potato blight swept the country and destroyed most of the potato crop, upon which a third of the population of the country had become dependent. However, they were not dependent upon potatoes because it was the only food to be had in Ireland. They were dependent upon potatoes because so much of the population had become so impoverished that the potato was the only food they could afford. For many it was the main thing their small parcels of poor quality land could grow.

Bridget O'Donnell

1849 – Bridget O’Donnell and her two children during the famine

During the entire seven years of the Great Hunger which ravaged Ireland, a famine which killed 1.5 million men, women, and children, destroyed countless families, and caused another million refugees, Ireland was producing more than DOUBLE the amount of food it took to feed that country’s entire population.

So, where did all of the food go?

The majority of the wealth and land in Ireland, especially the vast majority of the best land most suitable for agriculture, was concentrated in the hands of the wealthy elite whose principle allegiance wasn’t to Ireland, but rather to what was essentially an occupying foreign power, England.

Here is a small sample of what was shipped out of Ireland by the wealthy elite during the famine:

In 1845, over 26 million bushels of corn and over a quarter of a million sheep were shipped to England.

In 1846, exports to England included over 480,000 pigs and over 186,000 oxen.

In 1847, the third year of the famine, over 4000 ships left Irish ports that year bound for England carrying peas, beans, rabbits, salmon, honey, and potatoes, almost 10,000 cattle, 4000 horses and ponies, 1 million gallons of butter, and 1.7 million gallons of alcohol manufactured from over 700,000 bushels of locally grown grain.

During the midst of the famine, more than enough food to end the famine instantly, and grown locally in Ireland, was shipped to England, and they didn’t stop, year after year, after year. The wealthy got wealthier, and the ‘little people’ died like flies, with the survivors scattered to the wind.

Dublin famine memorial

Famine memorial in downtown Dublin, Ireland

© Plan B Writer’s Alliance – Permission to copy and reprint this article is given so long as reference to the original author and the website are mentioned.

2 thoughts on “An Gorta Mór – The Great Hunger

    • We have no plans to release a PDF at the moment, since we already have an eBook release, and anyone can download the Kindle software for free.

      However, we are looking into the possibility of producing a hard copy version. We are still shopping around for a printing solution and trying to see if we can do it in an economically feasible manner. The sheer size of the book means that any hard copy will be about the size and thickness of a college calculus or chemistry textbook, and priced accordingly. It will be WAY more expensive than the eBook version.

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