Irish History - Origin and History of the Potato Famine
The great potato famine also known as the potato blight and in Gaelic as 'An Gorta Mor' reached its peak in Ireland in 1847 and has had a huge impact on the history of Ireland. It caused death and mass emigration of millions of Irish people. The potato famine of the 1840's was not the first potato famine in Irish history, the potato famine of 1741 and 1822 killed hundreds of thousands of Irish people who relied on the potato as their main food source. The Potato Famine also known as the Potato Blight was caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans.
It is widely believed by historians that although the potato famine was a significant natural disaster, its affect on the Irish people could have been minimised. The lack of assistance from the British government, particularly from the Prime Minister, Lord John Russell made the impact of the famine on the country of Ireland much worse.
Ireland have commemorated the great famine since 2009 by hosting a week long festival in May as well as a National Famine Commemoration Day. The festival is held at a different location each year and rotates between the four provinces, Ulster, Munster, Connaught and Leinster. Several events now take place annually to remember the potato famine victims, not just in Ireland but all over the world.
Effects of the Potato Famine
People did not just die from starvation during the famine, although many did. Other famine related diseases such as Cholera, Fever and Typhus claimed many lives. People were weak from the lack of food, their immune systems were low and they did not have the strength to fight disease. Many of the emigrants grew ill on the famine boats taking them to their new life. Booking brokers often misled people into believing they would be given food and drink on the crossing, unfortunately many were denied even clean water! Greedy captains filled the boats as full of emigrants as they could without a thought for the terrible conditions the people had to endure.
Disease spread like wildfire and the dead were simply tossed into the ocean. The long wait at immigration depots caused even more deaths, boats were queued for days before their passengers were inspected, many were refused entry and sent back on the boats to face inevitable death at sea without ever setting foot on foreign shores.