• Bridget Walsh

The Famine Years in North West Donegal


A friend gave me a copy of this lovely book about the Irish Famine.

The author, Patrick Campbell, writes about his family who lived in that part of Ireland. He has researched the Great Hunger, and shown the impact of it on the people of North West Donegal, including his own forebears. He shows how these five years of deaths by starvation and disease, followed by mass emigration, led to civil unrest and eventually rebellion in the twentieth century. He links these years of intense 'distress' to the continued exodus of millions of Irish people over the next century and a half, and 'casts a cold eye' on the successive British governments of the time who let their Irish subjects suffer for so long.


What I learnt from reading this book.

This non-fiction book helped me to understand why this Great Hunger was not mentioned for such a long time afterwards:

  • Those people who survived, may have just wanted to forget about all the suffering and loss of their loved ones.

  • They may also have felt shame at what they endured at the time, the loss of their culture and their self-respect.

  • They may not have wanted to burden their surviving children with terrible recounting of that time.

  • They may have felt 'survivor guilt.' Why did they survive when so many others didn't?


My Writing. The third novel in the trilogy.

My fictional character,Jane Keating, has come back to Ireland in 1847, when Ireland was still at the height of the Great Hunger. Thousands of poor cottiers had been evicted, for non-payment of rent or just to clear the land, disease was rampant, and emigration was picking up and would increase from then on into the latter part of the nineteenth century and beyond.

Jane had hoped the situation was improving but she soon found out otherwise. Her story will mirror the lives of many in Patrick Campbell's non-fiction book.

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