I’ve followed a new group on Facebook, Holocausd na nGaedheal. Most of the posts are about the famine, how it affected those in Ireland and the causes behind the famine. One of the posts, lists all the places that will be commemorating the famine today, November 3, and tomorrow, November 4th. For the past year I have wanted to write about the famine and how it effected the area my family was from in County Cork and because of this one post, it is time for me to do so.
One thing that is very important to state, is that the famine could have been prevented. Yes, there was a blight on the potatoes. Potatoes were the staple of the native Irish persons life because the rest of the crops and animals were shipped out to England.
From Cork harbor on one day in 1847 2 the AJAX steamed for England with 1,514 firkins of butter, 102 casks of pork, 44 hogsheads of whiskey, 844 sacks of oats, 247 sacks of wheat, 106 bales of bacon, 13 casks of hams, 145 casks of porter, 12 sacks of fodder, 28 bales of feathers, 8 sacks of lard, 296 boxes of eggs, 30 head of cattle, 90 pigs, 220 lambs, 34 calves and 69 miscellaneous packages. On November 14, 1848 3, sailed, from Cork harbor alone: 147 bales of bacon, 120 casks and 135 barrels of pork, 5 casks of hams, 149 casks of miscellaneous provisions (foodstuff); 1,996 sacks & 950 barrels of oats; 300 bags of flour; 300 head of cattle; 239 sheep; 9,398 firkins of butter; 542 boxes of eggs.1
That is just from Cork harbor, not the other harbors!
Let that sink in. If this food had stayed in Ireland, how many lives could have been saved. During the time of the famine, 1845 – 1852, over 1 million people starved to death and one million emigrated (see my post about the Jeanie Johnston for information on one ship who brought emigrants to Canada). To this day, the population of Ireland has not recovered from this period in history.2
Mass Famine Graves
A great map that shows where the British troops were , where food was exported from and where the mass famine grave sites can be found.
In my travels across Ireland in 2015, we happened upon the mass grave site for the townland of Garravesoig, Dromtarriff, County Cork, Ireland.
It is obvious from the picture above that this mass grave site is not taken care of. To be honest, there was no way I could get any closer to the one stone that memorialized the people who were buried here. Nor can we tell how many were buried there, in that one year period.
Here is a close up of the inscription, which reads:
Erected to the memory of those who died
during the famine years 1847 – 1848
and whose remains are buried here.
May they rest in peace.
Because this occurred before Civil Registration there are no records that will tell us who died, unless there is anything listed in their local newspapers. Take some time to search for the word ‘blight’ or ‘blight death’ in the Irish Newspaper section and see what comes up.
Make sure to read tomorrows post, where I will share what I have learned about the famine and the area my family was from.