The Irish Potato Famine
The Great Hunger
An Gorta Mor 1845/1852
The Story As I See It By : Micheal McCarthaigh Aka Irish
Who planted the seeds that caused the Irish famine and forced the Irish to migrate from their home land ??
The proximate cause of the Great Irish Famine (1846-52) was the fungus phythophtera infestans (or potato blight),
but who planted that fungus seed and why is the big question still unanswered ,only one body has the full facts of the fungus
that reached Ireland in the winter of 1845. The fungus that destroyed about one-third of that year's crop, and nearly all
that of 1846. After a season's remission, it also ruined most of the 1848 harvest. These repeated attacks made
the Irish famine more protracted than most. Partial failures of the potato crop were nothing new in Ireland before
1845, but damage on the scale wrought by the ecological shock of potato blight was utterly unprecedented
(Solar 1989; Clarkson and Crawford 2001). However, the famine would not have been so lethal had dependence on
the potato been less. Poverty had reduced the bottom one-third or so of the population to almost exclusive dependence
on the potato for sustenance. For those in this category, the daily intake was enormous: 4 to 5 kilos (9 to 11 pounds)
daily per adult male equivalent for most of the year. That, coupled with an inadequate policy response from the
authorities, made the consequences of repeated failures devastating (Bourke 1993).
The Great Irish Famine was not just a watershed in Irish history, but also a major event in global history,
with far-reaching and enduring economic and political consequences. Individual memories of the famine,
coupled with 'collective memory' of the event in later years, influenced the political culture of both Ireland
and Irish-America -- and probably still do (Cullen 1997; Donnelly 2000; Ó Gráda 2001). The famine brought
the era of famines in Ireland to a brutal end. Serious failures of the potato in the early 1860s and late 1870s,
also due to potato blight, brought privation in the west of the country, but no significant excess mortality.
The famine also resulted in higher living standards for survivors. The bargaining power of labor was greater.
Any negative impact on landlords' income from a declining population was more than compensated for by
the relative increase in the prices of land-intensive output and the prompter payment of rents due. Higher
emigration was another by-product of the famine, as the huge outflow of the crisis years generated its own
'friends and neighbors' dynamic. Only in a few remote and tiny pockets in the west did
population fill the vacuum left by the 'Great Hunger,' and then only very briefly (Guinnane 1997).
Like all famines, the Irish famine produced its hierarchy of suffering. The rural poor, landless or near-landless,
were most likely to perish, and the earliest victims were in that category. Farmers found their effective land
endowment reduced, since their holdings could no longer yield the same quantity of potatoes as before.
They also faced increased labor costs, forcing them to reduce their concentration on tillage. Landlords'
rental income plummeted by as much a third. Many clergymen, medical practitioners, and poor law officials
died of infectious diseases. Pawnbrokers found their pledges being unredeemed as the crisis worsened.
Least affected were those businesses and their work forces who relied on foreign markets for their raw
materials and their sales. The relative impact of the famine on different occupational groups may be inferred
from the 1841 and 1851 censuses. The overall decline in the labor force was 19.1 percent.
There were 14.4 percent fewer farmers, and 24.2 percent fewer farm laborers. Not surprisingly,
given their vulnerability, the number of physicians and surgeons dropped by 25.3 percent.
The small number of coffin makers (eight in 1841, twenty-two in 1851) is a reminder that during the famine
most coffins were not made by specialist coffin makers. It is difficult to identify any significant class of
'winners' in the 1840s, though the census indicates increases in the numbers of millers and bakers,
of barristers and attorneys, and of bailiffs and rate collectors. The huge fall in the numbers of spinners
and weavers was partly a consequence of the famine, partly due to other causes (Ó Gráda 1999: chapter 4; 2001).1
The Irish were the largest group to enter the United States.
Today, there are over 43 million that claim Irish descent. The Irish didn’t all come over at one time,
but can be considered to be in three waves. The first wave was the missionary effort of the early medieval Christian church.
The second was the fight of the Roman Catholic nobility. Finally,
the third was the mass emigration since the great potato famine of the mid-19th Century.
The people from (Ulster), were called Scotch-Irish. After 1600, they had settled in Ulster,
because they were encouraged by the English to plant a Protestant Presence in Catholic Ireland. For several generations,
Scotch-Irish belonged to Presbyterian churches, and farmed land obtained from the English.
The first and second waves of immigration were mostly caused by conditions after 1717 that began to grow uneasy.
There were periodic crop failures. Not only was farming their jobs, but it was the only food that they had to eat.
Rents on their properties started to rise. Without being able to farm, the Irish had no way to pay off the rent.
What little amount of women who had jobs,
lost them due to a failing linen industry.
Not a single Irish could live without a religious conflict. They all stood up for what they believed in.
They believed that no one could possibly take away their freedom of religion. This led to fighting and killing of Irish against Irish.
All of these conflicts combined is what led to a migration of over two hundred thousand-Irish over a sixty year period.
Those factors listed were what pushed Scotch-Irish from Ulster. They began their great migration to America.
The Scotch-Irish mostly landed at Philadelphia, the colonies’ main port for immigrants in the first and second migration waves of the Irish.
Most of the Scotch-Irish came to America as indentured servants.
That was almost the only work that the unskilled Irish could do. The nation’s first real immigrant reception station was Castle Garden,
which opened in 1855.1 In the 1890’s, a new center opened up, Ellis Island. It closed in 1954,
but it had been the gateway for almost three-fourths of all immigrants.
The third waves of Irish immigration began in the mid-19th century around the early 1840’s.
Many of the Irish immigrated to America and Canada. Many of them left because they wanted to be free .
Back in Ireland they had no rights and very restricted privileges. Freedom attracted and pulled them towards America.
Another pull factor in the third wave of Irish immigration was that their were many job openings in the railroads,
and many other industrial businesses that needed workers throughout 1840 to 1870.
Immigrants in America were paid very poorly, but they felt conditions were better here than in Ireland.
The push factors were major back in Ireland, and made people want to leave.
Back in Ireland the people were being persecuted by the British.
They were under British rule until December 6, 1921 when they received their Independence.
Back then in Ireland the British occupied much of Ireland and required taxes for land and crops.
They received religious persecution all their lives. Also, food and jobs were very limited in Ireland. Many people were poor and starving.
Then, one of the greatest tragedies of the 19th century began. A potato famine hit Ireland in the early 1840’s when a cold,
wet summer brought potato rot. Virtually the whole crop was wiped out,
and almost one million people, nearly one-fourth of the population, died of starvation and disease.
The famine spurred the third wave of Irish immigration known as “The Great Migration.”
Poor houses were overwhelmed, and soup kitchens could not feed the hungry.
Hundreds of thousands died, orphans wandered motherless,
and then cholera and typhus pulled the half-living into the fever pits -
the mass graves.
Many Irish immigrated to Canada, but many left across the St. Lawrence to the United States.
American relief ships were sent to Ireland with food returned with immigrants.
The trip across the ferocious Atlantic Ocean was perilous. Many died on the trip to the United States.
The dead were thrown overboard. The ships were quarantined before the passengers were released to their destinations.
These newcomers settled first in New York City and Boston. Some worked as unskilled factory laborers.
Others drifted west with construction gangs. The Irish were ambitious, especially for their children.
Irish-born parents made sacrifices to keep them in school and took pride in seeing them fill positions in the various
professions and attain power in political offices.
In the United States, immigrants were crucial for the economic development of America.
Due to this, promoters actively recruited European and African laborers. However,
the arrival of so many different people led to social and religious conflict here in the U.S. too.
After the American Revolution, Catholics won the right to worship as they pleased. They even received full civil rights.
The nation moved toward a growing toleration of religious diversity.
Scotch-Irish who had not yet come to America, or just Irish in general,
heard about the better opportunities there were in the United States. They heard word of better life in America.
There were better jobs and religious freedom there too. Some Irish figured that anything was better than Ireland.
Even though many were poor, some had enough money to be shipped to Boston.
When they arrived they did anything to get money and food.
Many Americans were pushed out of jobs by large groups of needy Irish immigrants.
Americans resented the Irish, and were not glad they came. This caused many barriers.
The Irish were put under strict medical exams, and were sent back if they had poor health,
which many had because of the bad health care in Ireland. A good majority of Catholic Irish were sent back,
too. America was a predominately Protestant nation. Catholics were feared and detested,
and Americans thought that their culture, religions,
and backgrounds could not be retained if thousands of Irish immigrants moved in.
To get around these barriers many lied about religion,
and came back to America a repeated number of times after they
had received some medical attention to past the exams.
Gradually the famine subsided, but the land tenure system in Ireland
was so unfair that the Irish continued to emigrate by the thousands. Eventually,
the Irish became one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States.
If possible, some Irish still try to immigrate to the United States,
but due to certain government laws the Irish. Other Europeans,
have to wait many years before they are permitted to come over.
Today, a reason the pushes them away from Ireland is that many fear civil war and discrimination
between the Catholics and the Protestants.
Kristen Normandin writes:
When looking back on the Irish community during the early 1850ís,
we see that they are very much involved in their communities.
After looking at the pictures and reading the articles that were in The Pictoral Times,
and seeing that life in Ireland had taked a turn for the worst,
it should not be a surprise that the Irish wanted to start a new life in another country.
They had been forced to become beggars on their own land,
they had nothing to eat and they were living life in torn and tattered clothes.
Those who could afford to come to America did so right away,
and those who decided to wait and see if
things got better, were going to regret that decision.
Yet there was a steady flow of emigrants coming to the U.S. from Ireland for many years to come.
This would cause many domestic problems (domestic meaning Worcester). Many had established themselves
and had at least tried to make new lives for their families,
and when new settlers arrived they too wanted to fit in right away.
People who were once neighbors,
were not people who simply did not understand how the other one lived.
It would have been difficult for an Irishman now living in America to imagine how people
would want to live in such horrible conditions as they were in Ireland.
And when the new settlers saw that life was much better in America,
they wondered why they ever stayed so long
It must have been difficult to allow a new group of people into your little world.
It is obvious, from the reading,
that the Irish were not being accepted in Worcester, as well in other parts of the nation.
So why would they want the process of acceptance to take even longer?
It seemed like the more new settlers they took in,
the more they were disliked and the more that they were looked down upon.
They had a decision to make, did they leave their fellow countrymen
to fight for themselves, and allow themselves a better life?
or did they forget themselves and help their friends and neighbors,
even knowing that they may not be accepted
It is difficult to say which side they took.
But we do know that the Irish continued to fight for their equality
in the work place in Worcester,
"Help Waned: No Irish Need Apply" for example.
But we also know that there was no bar in Worcester that went broke due to the Irish emigration.
SO perhaps they did agree to stay together and make sure that
there was never a famine situation where they were all trying to survive until the next day.
Michael McCarthy Aka Irish Immigrant
I left my home country in 1974, times where hard even then 124 years after the famine . I was born of a big family
six brothers and four sisters although my father and mother had work it still was a struggle to keep such a large family and
pay the rent . Those times I remember with pride and admiration for my father and mother who are one of many many parents
who done the best that they could for their families in hard times, my first visit to London was a short stay with my
Aunt Kate Mullins Camberwell 1974 along with my mother we stayed two weeks . that gave me a taste of a better
life than the one I had back in Ireland . On our return to Ireland I made a pledge I would return to London and I did
after a lot of study and hard work I managed to scrape £25 together for my lone journey to London my single fare
was £5 that left me £20 to survive on on-till I got work which I did straight away after speaking to the landlord I
rented a room from for £3 per week he arranged work with one of his friend's for me . and thanks to him I've not
looked back things only got better and a big improvement from how it was back in my home land in 1974 .
I always been interested in Irish history and my heritage since I've had access to the internet I've improved my
knowledge on Ireland and the great Irish Famine 1845/6/ 1852 which helps me portraying an Irish Immigrant
at my Camp
on Wattlehurst farm with my family and it gives us great pleasure to be part of the
western family community at Deadwood .portraying living history !
Padraigh's knowledge will improve on his interest in who and what we portray and hopefully he will
continue our plight long after us ..!
Go Western At Wattlehurst Farm And Deadwood Western Town Uk
I'm also A proud member of the O.W.L.H.R.F And Carry
Third Party Public Liability Insurance
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Latest Update 18th September 2012
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