An Gorta Mor - 150 years later
May 10, 2009 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Today marks the first National Famine Memorial Day in Skibbereen, Co. Cork. Actually the first day in a week of activities (.pdf), Skibbereen was one of many areas in western Ireland hard-hit by the famine (or Great Hunger).

Wikipedia does an excellent job explaining the many complexities - it was caused not just by a fungus, but by political will on the part of an oppressive government (as are most modern famines).
Many physical memorials have been erected, including the haunting Coffin Ship in Westport, Co. Mayo, and a simple plaque honoring the dead on the Famine Road near Doo Lough, erected in 1994. The main inscription reads: "To commemorate the hungry poor who walked here in 1849 and walk the third world today.", inscribed on the north side is a quote from Mahatma Ghandi: "How can men feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings?", and on the west: "In 1991 we walked AFRI's great famine walk at Doolough and soon afterwards we walked the road to freedom in South Africa" by Desmond Tutu.
The always-excellent RTE1 program, Sunday Miscellany featured writing about Skibbereen in its May 10th show - not sure when the podcast will show up.
posted by dbmcd (3 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by pyramid termite at 7:57 PM on May 10, 2009

The famine memorial in Boston is just awful - it's this completely literal pair of statue sets (one of starving Irish, one of well fed Irish-Americans striding into the future). Maybe that'd be ok, but the woman in the immigrant set is standing and has her head turned so that it looks to me like the just yelled "Good luck, assholes!"
posted by moxiedoll at 8:50 PM on May 10, 2009

Nice. I live in Westport and often pass the famine ship (in Murrisk rather than Westport, just in case anyone's going looking for it), and it's like advance warning before reaching Doolough (flickr self-link), which is massively melancholy and haunting and precisely the kind of landscape one can imagine dying of starvation. Rather belatedly, I began to understand why people travel to visit Ireland, in a landscape sense.
posted by carbide at 4:09 AM on May 11, 2009

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