An Gorta Mor. Great Famine in Ireland

These sculptures can be seen if you walk along the promenade of Dublin, the capital of Ireland. They appeared here in the 1997 year and are designed to remind of the terrible misfortune that came to this country in the middle of the XIX century. This trouble has a name - Great Famine: An Gorta Mor (Irish) or Great Famine (English).
An Gorta Mor. Great Famine in Ireland

Great Famine Stamp, Ireland, 1997 Goodaboomthe. Great hunger in ireland

I must say that for millennia, hunger has been a real curse of mankind. He reigned throughout the Earth, was a regular guest in Europe, America, Asia and Africa. In The Revelation of St. John the Evangelist, Hunger is one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse (on the black horse, the other horsemen - Plague on the white horse, War on the red and Death on the pale).

V. Vasnetsov. Riders of apocalypse. Museum stories religion, St. Petersburg

Only relatively recently, hunger left economically developed countries, and the human body gratefully reacted to this phenomenon of “acceleration” that surprised everyone in the post-war years. For the first time, “acceleration” was recorded at the beginning of the 20th century - when compared with the data of the 30 of the 19th century, it acquired an “explosive” and noticeable “naked eye” character (when teenagers were suddenly higher than their parents) in the 60 of the XX century centuries (including in the USSR).

Currently, famine has receded into the countries of Asia and Africa, where, as before, it collects abundant “tribute” in the form of deaths and related diseases. And in the rich countries of Europe at that time, about 100 million tons of food products are thrown out or sent for processing annually, in the USA, according to the UN Commission, the share of thrown out products reaches 40% of the produced ones.

But it was not always so. And, relatively recently, in Ireland, which is now quite prosperous, a real tragedy broke out before the eyes of the entire “civilized world”, resulting in the deaths of about a million people (from 500 thousand and a half million, according to various estimates).

This country is literally depopulated, having lost in 10 years (from 1841 to 1851 years) 30% of its population. The sad tendency continued in the future: if in 1841 the population of Ireland was 8 million 178 thousand people (it was the most densely populated country in Europe), then in 1901 there were only 4 million 459 thousand - about the same as in 1800 year. This was the result of hunger, disease and mass emigration of the indigenous population from a country in a humanitarian disaster. Ireland has not fully recovered so far, and at present it is the only European state whose population has not increased but decreased since the mid-19th century.

County of Clare was one of the most affected regions: at the beginning of the XIX century, the number of its inhabitants reached 208 thousand people, and in 1966, only 73,5 thousand lived in it.

But how could this happen on the European territory of one of the most powerful empires in world history? Not somewhere overseas, in India, Burma, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, the Fiji Islands or New Guinea, but very close to the shortest distance between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland is 154 km (St George's Strait).

The first colony of the British

First of all, it should be said that Ireland was still a colony of the British (the first in a row), and the relations between the Irish and the British were never friendly.

It all began in the 1171 year, when the English king Henry II Plantagenet, with the blessing of Pope Adrian IV at the head of the army, arrived on 400's ships, invaded the territory of Ireland.

Coin of Henry II Plantagenet

Artaud de Montor, Pope Adrian IV

The Irish Catholic Church, which until then remained the only one independent of Rome, was subordinate to the popes. The population of the island overlaid with a huge tribute. Irish was banned (in the 17th century, a reward equal to the premium for a dead wolf was paid for the head of an underground teacher). As a result of this policy, the mother tongue (learned in early childhood) of the Irish language is only for 200 thousand people living in the west of the island. But in recent years, the number of Irish has been consciously studying their native language in adulthood: it is believed that about 20% of the country's population now speaks it to one degree or another. Also in Ireland, the British prohibited the wearing of a national costume.

Queen Elizabeth I of the land of the northeastern counties of Ireland and completely declared the property of the British crown and sold it to the Anglo-Scottish colonists. As a result, over time, in six of the nine counties of Ulster (northern part of the country), the number of descendants of Anglo-Scottish settlers was higher than the number of Irish. And when Ireland gained independence (in 1921), most of Ulster remained part of the United Kingdom.

Ulster on a map of Ireland, 3 of Irish counties are highlighted in green, the remaining 6 are in the UK

In general, if you need to characterize the centuries-old relations between the British and the Irish, this can be done using only one word: “hatred”. Over time, even the Irish prayer, “Lord, save us from the fury of the Normans,” changed its content: “Lord, save us from the greed of the Anglo-Saxons.”

Historian William Edward Burkhardt Dubois of the United States wrote in 1983 that "the economic situation of a peasant in Ireland was worse than that of an American slave in an era of emancipation." This view is all the more curious because Dubois himself is an African American.

In the "enlightened" XIX century, Alfred Tennyson, Queen Victoria's favorite poet (she gave him the title of baron and peer), wrote:
“The Celts are all finished boobies. They live on a terrible island and they don’t have a story worth mentioning. Why can no one blow this rotten island with dynamite and sweep its pieces in different directions? ”

John Everett Millet. Portrait of Alfred Tennyson. 1881 year

Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoigne-Cecil Salisbury, three times the British Prime Minister in the second half and at the end of the 19th century, said that the Irish were not capable of self-government or self-survival.

And in the 20th century, English screenwriter and actor Ted Whitehead said:
“In an English court, a defendant is presumed innocent until proved to be Irish.”

Therefore, one should not be surprised at the indifference shown to the tragedy of the Irish people by the government of the Empire and ordinary Britons.

The race of lords and the race of servants in the view of the British of the XIX century

English Lords on Irish Land

But what happened in Ireland in those terrible years?

It all started back in XII, when the first English lords appeared on the territory of Ireland. The situation worsened under Henry VIII, who announced the separation of the English Church from the Roman Catholic, while the Irish remained Catholics. The country's lords were now not only descendants of strangers, but also Anglican Protestants, and the hostility between the ruling elite and the common people not only did not fade, but even increased. In accordance with the so-called “punitive laws”, Catholic Catholics were forbidden to own land or lease it, vote and hold elected posts (these “repressive” laws were partially repealed only in the 1829 year). The Anglo-Scottish colonization of Ireland was strongly encouraged - to the detriment of the interests of the indigenous population. As a result, by the beginning of the XIX century. local Catholic peasants (cotters) almost lost their land allotments, and were forced to enter into bonded lease agreements with British landlords.

"Irish Lumper"

Under these conditions, the appearance of potatoes on the island in 1590 literally saved many lives: the conditions for its cultivation were almost perfect, good and, most importantly, stable crops were guaranteed even in areas with the poorest soil. In the mid-19th century, almost a third of the country's arable land was sown with this crop. Gradually, potatoes became the basis of the diet of the vast majority of Irish people, especially in the western counties of Mayo and Galway, where, according to 90,% of the population could not afford other products except potatoes (the rest of the products went for sale: the money was needed to pay for renting the land). Fatal for Ireland was the fact that only one variety of potatoes was grown in it then - the “Irish lumper”. And therefore, when in 1845 the phytophthora fungus hit the island (it is believed that one of the American ships brought it there), a disaster occurred.

Potato affected by late blight

An gorta mor

Cork County in southwestern Ireland was the first to suffer, and from there the disease spread to other fields, and famine came to Ireland. But the next year became even more scary, because already infected seed material was often used for planting.

As if this were not enough for the unfortunate Ireland, landlords, who also suffered losses, increased land rents. Many peasants were unable to make it on time, as a result, only Count Luke in Mayo County for the non-payment of rent in 1847, evicted 2 thousands of people, all of their homes and land plots by 1849 were lost 250 thousand peasants. In Clare County, according to Captain Kennedy, from November 1847 to April 1848, about 1000 houses of devastated peasants were demolished. In total, from 1846 to 1854. About 500 thousand people were evicted.

Eviction of Irish tenants, engraving

All these people, having lost their last source of income and food, rushed into the cities.

In the fall of 1845, 100 000 pounds of corn and Indian corn flour were purchased in the USA, but they arrived in Ireland only in February 1846, and literally became a drop in the ocean: it was impossible to feed them the entire population of the island.

It is curious that the British official in charge of managing the state aid to the starving, quite seriously argued that “the court of God sent disaster in order to teach the Irish a lesson.” To go against the will of the Lord, of course, was unreasonable, pointless and even criminal, so much zeal for his He didn’t show a position.The name of this official was preserved in an Irish folk song telling about the events of those years:
"At the lonely prison wall
I heard the girl calling:
"Michael, they took you
Due to the fact that you stole Travelin’s bread,
So baby could see the morning.
Now the prison ship is waiting in the bay. "
Against hunger and the Crown
I rebelled, they will destroy me.
From now on, you must raise our child with dignity. ”

23 March 1846 years, John Russell, speaking in the House of Lords, said:
"We have turned Ireland into the most backward and most destitute country in the world ... The whole world brand us a disgrace, but we are equally indifferent to our dishonor and to the results of our inept management."

His performance did not make much impression on the “masters” of Great Britain.

Some of the Irish then got to work houses, where they had to work for food and a place under the roof, some were hired by the government to build roads.

Hungry Irish at the gates of a workhouse, engraving

But the number of hungry people who lost everything was too large, and therefore, in 1847, the British Parliament passed a law according to which the peasants whose land plots exceeded the indicated area were denied the right to receive benefits. As a result, some Irish, in order to demonstrate their poverty to government officials, began to dismantle the roof of their homes. Following the famine came his constant companions - scurvy, other vitamin deficiencies, infectious diseases. And people began to die en masse. The mortality rate among children was especially high.

Bridget O'Donnell, who killed two of four children, engraving from the London newspaper 1848 of the year

In the 1849 year, cholera came to Ireland, which claimed about 36 thousand lives. Then the epidemic of typhus began.

Alfred Rethhel. “Death playing the violin in Masquerade during the outbreak of cholera in Paris in 1831”, 1845 year

At the same time, food continued to be exported from starving Ireland.

Christina Kinely, professor at the University of Liverpool, wrote:
“This great catastrophe and monstrous famine was also provoked by the Irish export of cattle (with the exception of pigs), which actually increased precisely during the famine. Products were shipped under the escort of the military through those regions that were most affected by hunger. ”

The British historian Cecil Blanche Wooham-Smith agrees with her, who claimed that
“The history of relations between the two states did not see a greater manifestation of cruelty and hypocrisy towards Ireland on the part of England than in the 1845-1849 years ... A huge number of food products exported to England from Ireland during the Great Famine caused the death of many hundreds of thousands of Irish. "

At the same time, the British government did its best to play down the scale of the disaster that befell Ireland and refused foreign aid. But, as they say, “you can’t hide the sewn in a bag,” and information about the distress on the island went beyond Ireland and Britain. Irish soldiers serving in the East India Company raised £ 1,000 for the starving 14. 2 thousand pounds donated by Pope Pius IX. Religious organization British Relief Association for 1847 year raised about 200 thousand pounds. And even the Choctaw Indians in 1847 sent to 710 dollars they collected in Ireland.

The Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Mejid I tried to donate 10 thousand pounds in 1845 to the starving Irish, but Queen Victoria asked him to reduce this amount to 1000 pounds - because she herself gave only 2 thousand to the starving British. The sultan officially transferred this money, and sent three ships with food for the starving in secret. Despite attempts by British naval sailors to block these vessels, they nevertheless arrived at the port of Droed (county Louth).

Sultan Abdul-Majid I

In the 1847 year, after two years of famine, a good potato crop was finally obtained, the next year, the remaining farmers on the island tripled the area of ​​the potato fields - and almost all the potatoes died again in the fields, for the third time in the 4 of the year.

Reducing duties on food import duties could at least slightly alleviate the situation, but Ireland was part of the UK, and therefore this law, common to the whole empire, inevitably hit the interests of British farmers, and therefore the British agrarian lobby did not allow it to be adopted.

19 May William Hamilton, driven to despair by the 23-year-old unemployed Irishman, attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria, but incorrectly loaded his gun. He was sentenced to the 7 summer hard labor in Australia.

Only in 1850 did the British government, seeing the consequences of their policies, reduce taxes and annul the debts of Irish peasants accumulated during the famine. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged people went overseas.

Ships of Death

Irish emigration to the United States began as early as the beginning of the 18th century, but Ulsterian Protestants, the descendants of Anglo-Scottish immigrants, then prevailed among people traveling overseas. They settled mainly in the "mountainous" states (Mountain West - Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming). They adapted quite easily and quickly in the USA.

U.S. Highlands

US highlands on a map

Now, Irish emigration has acquired an avalanche-like character, and new settlers settled, usually on the coast of the northeastern states. One of the first ships with immigrants sailed from Dublin on the 17 of March (St. Patrick's Day) in the 1846 of the year from the place where the Emigrants. Hunger ”- you saw his photo at the very beginning of the article. This ship arrived in New York two months later - on May 18 1846 of the year.

Memorial to the Great Famine in Ireland in New York, Manhattan. On the upper part of the “slope”, plants of 62 species characteristic of Mayo County are planted. On the slope of the upper part there is 32 stone - one from each county of Ireland.

In total for 6 years (from 1846 to 1851), five thousand ships with Irish arrived in the USA, Canada and Australia. It is believed that over 6 years from Ireland went from one and a half to two million people. These people could not even afford an 3 class cabin on a regular cruise ship, so they carried them in the holds of old ships that had already served their terms, some of which had previously been used to transport slaves from Africa. These ships came to be called “ships of hunger,” “floating coffins,” or “ships of death.” It is estimated that of the 100 thousand people who went on these ships to Canada in the 1847 year, 16 thousand died on the way, or shortly after arrival.

Landing of Irish immigrants on the “ship of hunger” in Liverpool

Departure of ships with emigrants from Liverpool

The National Monument to the Victims of Famine - “Ship of Hunger” (“floating coffin”). Morrisk City, County Mayo, Ireland

As a result, the national composition of cities on the east coast of the United States has changed dramatically: up to a quarter of the population in them now were Irish. In Boston, for example, the number of Irish has grown from 30 thousand to 100 thousand people.

Monument to Irish Migrants, Boston

Irish Memorial, Sculptural composition dedicated to the Great Famine in Ireland, Philadelphia

Irish Memorial, Sculpture dedicated to the Great Famine in Ireland, Philadelphia - right side

The situation in Canadian Toronto was even more serious: 20 38 Irish arrived in the city, whose population was then about 600 thousand people, 1100 of whom died in the first weeks.

Toronto, Irish Park, sculptures dedicated to immigrants from Ireland during the Great Famine

Currently, memorials dedicated to the Great Irish Famine can be seen in 29 cities around the world. But now, at that time, it was absolutely impossible to name the hospitable citizens of the USA and Canada. This was especially noticeable in the cities of the northeast coast of the United States, a significant proportion of the population of which were then anti-Catholic Puritans. The sharp increase in the Irish population caused shock and a pronounced hatred of the "come in large numbers." In the same Boston, everywhere you could see signs with the inscription: "Irish people do not apply for work." And emaciated Irish women were not taken “to work” even in brothels, since they did not meet the generally accepted standards of that time: women with a “magnificent” figure were valued. Cartoonists and feuilleton authors portrayed Irish immigrants as demented drunks, incorrigible thieves and pathological idlers.

Irish family, American caricature

"St. Patrick's Day: rum and blood", 1867 caricature of the year

Consequences of the Great Famine

Currently, the number of the Irish diaspora is many times greater than the number of Irish living in their homeland. In addition to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Irish also reached South Africa, Mexico, Argentina, Chile - all 49 countries. Gradually, the Irish were able to adapt to new conditions.

Currently, in the United States alone, there are about 33 million citizens of Irish descent (10,5% of the total population). The largest number of descendants of Irish immigrants now live in the states of Massachusetts (22,5% of the total population) and New Hampshire (20,5%). The direct descendants of the emigrants who arrived on the "ships of hunger" are John F. Kennedy and Henry Ford. And even Barack Obama's grandmother (maternal) was also Irish.

But Ireland itself has not recovered from the consequences of this famine and is now one of the most sparsely populated countries in Western Europe. If in the Netherlands the population density is 404 people per sq. km, in Great Britain - 255, in Germany after two world wars - 230, in Italy - 193, then in Ireland - 66. Only a little more than in the desert United Arab Emirates (where the population density is 60 people per sq. Km).
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