The cause of the Irish famine of 1845-1852 is still a hotly debated issue. In Gaelic it is called ‘an Gorta Mór’, translated as the Great Hunger. Its also referred to as the Irish Potato Famine because the failure of the potato crop in 1945 due to a new strain of blight, precipitated this calamity. As usual its not as simple as this.
This disease of the potato plant originated in Mexico, spread to the USA in the early 1840’s and then on to Europe. In all areas the crop was wiped out and although it caused hardship it did not cause famine anywhere except in Ireland. 1 million people starved to death and one million emigrated. At that time Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland – near enough to be conquered by Britain but too far away to be governed properly. A example of catastrophic mismanagement. As thousands of tons of livestock and grain were exported from the country, the population starved.
Its not that the government were unaware of the impending disaster. One historian calculated that between 1801 and 1845, there had been 114 commissions and 61 special committees enquiring into the state of Ireland and that “without exception their findings prophesied disaster” (The great hunger, p. 31, Cecil Woodham-Smith, 1991). In fact the whole world was aware of this state of affairs as seen in 1847 when a group of Native American Choctaws organised a collection to send to Ireland to help relieve the famine. These people had recently experienced their ‘Trail of Tears‘ and understood starvation.
So the scene above is of one of many such abandoned cottages of that time. Its common for descendants of the lucky ones who were able to emigrate to return to find the exact cottage from where their family originated.
This is another example of my experiments with Alkyd fast drying oil colours. I’m enjoying the flexibility afforded by these paints. In a way its like painting over several weeks of painting sessions, each layer drying, compressed into 2 hours.
As usual I will post the video in a few days. See you then.