An Gorta Mor


"On reaching the spot I was surprised to find the wretched hamlet apparently deserted. I entered some of the hovels to ascertain the cause, and the scenes which presented themselves were such as no tongue or pen can convey the slightest idea of. In the first, six famished and ghastly skeletons, to all appearances dead, were huddled in a corner on some filthy straw, their sole covering which seemed a ragged horsecloth. I approached with horror, and found by a low moaning they were alive - they were in fever, for impossible to go through the detail. Suffice it to say that in a few minutes I was surrounded by at least 200 such phantoms, such frightful specters as no words can describe, either from famine or fever."

Skibbereen, County Cork, Christmas Eve 1846, eyewitness account by Nicholas Cummins, British magistrate.

The Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor)

Between 1845 and 1851 one of the most tragic events in human history befell the Irish people. While it is commonly referred to as the famine, this is not entirely accurate as a famine refers to a general inability to obtain or distribute food as a result of drought, war or some other calamity. In Ireland, only one of several food sources became unavailable. Due to a mysterious blight, the potato crop failed. The blight affected no other crop or agricultural process. Vegetables, cereal grains, dairy products, meat and seafood were in abundant supply, but were earmarked for distribution in England and throughout the British Empire. The potato crop was not only a staple food source for the Irish, but also a means by which they paid rent. No longer able to make rent payments to their English landlords, evicted Irish tenants became homeless refugees in their own land, depending upon what scant charity might be found in work houses, where in addition to their labor, they might be expected to convert to the Anglican church in exchange for food.

During the period of the Great Hunger it is estimated that over one million died of starvation and a million and a half emigrated to other countries. The overall effect reduced the population from eight million in 1845 to less than four million by the beginning of the twentieth century. Economic, social, cultural and political repercussions of the Great Hunger played out in Ireland for nearly a hundred years and some historians and social psychologists claim that its effects are still felt to the present day.

In 2008 the Irish government set up a The National Famine Commemoration Committee to coordinate events and establish dates for commemoration of the Great Hunger throughout the Irish Diaspora. This year's commemoration has been set for the weekend of May 20th.

Please join the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 1 and the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians on Saturday, May 21st for a memorial Mass at Holy Family church followed by a remembrance of the Great Hunger at Tara Hall. AOH State Historian J. Michael Finn will provide us with a lecture on the Great Hunger and we will be showing a documentary film on the big screen TV. Other activities may be included as planning is ongoing at this time.

Michael Coleman
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America
Franklin County, Ohio Div. #1