Potato Blight - Found Poem
Updated: Apr 17
The Great Famine 1845-1849, resulted in the deaths of one million people and a further one million people emigrated from Ireland.
This article was published in The Freeman’s Journal in November 1845, just a few months after the first total failure of the potato crop in Ireland. Note: only the potato crop was affected. This was the main food for the rural labourer and his family. Dinner consisted of a pot of boiled potatoes for the family, served with a small amount of butter or just on its own with salt.
The rest of the arable crops e.g. oats, and milk and butter from pastoral farming were exported to London and used to feed the British Army in the Empire. The reporter at the time noted in his eyewitness report the amount of exported barrels of oats arriving in London while at the same time ‘sad signs of distress’ were evident as people began to starve. The reporter questioned the lack of support for the starving Irish; were they to be taught a lesson?
Conacre is a form of renting a small patch of land without a contract and the hirer or cottier can be evicted without notice.
Original text - The Potato Rot – Further Intelligence,
from the Freeman’s Journal 22/11/1845. British Library
Found Poem - The Potato Blight
Grain from Ireland (Tralee and Wicklow)
22,064 barrels of oats arrived on a fleet of Irish vessels into London on 17th November 1845.
Adragool, County Mayo, 19th November 1845.
Sad signs of distress and despondency
have manifested themselves more and more.
For all that I have been an eyewitness here,
in the vicinity of Newport and on to
Westport, there are sure grounds for alarm.
Mullioden, County Tyrone, 20th November 1845
Cottiers or those living by conacre potatoes
are rapidly advancing to the point of starvation.
Nine-tenths of the crop is already destroyed.
They flattered themselves that government
would afford them timely relief. But alas!
They see in the cold reply
from the minister that nothing is to be done.
Government will not relieve starving millions
by taking the tax off human food.
Landlords must be sustained.
Why do not the gentry
in every part of Ireland call on the representatives
of the people to secure the lives of
Her Majesty’s subjects from famine?
(Are her subjects ungrateful and deserving of a lesson?)
Infectious disease, if not hunger,
may yet find its way into the stately mansions
of the rich as well as into the lonely
cottages of the poor.