“A woman and two children were found dead and half-eaten by dogs; in a neighboring cottage five more corpses which had been dead for several days; a man still living, was lying in bed with a dead wife and two dead children, while a starving cat was eating another dead infant.”
Do I have your attention?
The preceding eye witness account was written by Father O’Sullivan describing the Irish Famine when he visited a farm in County Cork, Ireland in 1847.
For all the sweet green fields, floods of unending tourists, the excitement of the Wild Atlantic Way , increase in jobs, industry and less we forget the Celtic Tiger, the history of these incredible people cannot be forgotten..
The Irish Famine happened!!!
What if the government decided whether your family lived or died based on whether you were a surplus or productive people?
A troubling thought, isn’t it?
What if you owned nothing, were homeless, sick, perhaps injured, dependent on the charity of that same government? What if your only hope was to get word out to sympathetic neighbors (the rest of the world) but they were thousands of miles away and………..there were NO telephones, NO computers, NOT even radio to alert them of your plight?
How would anyone know–that you, your family, and nearly everyone around you were starving or worse? How much time would you have tl tell them before it was too late?
You would have not choice!
Time was running out!
The government must help.
From the revised version of 100 Things You Didn’t Know About Ireland
Twenty Things You Didn’t Know About the Irish Famine
- Oats and Whiskey In 1846 alone, while 400,000 Irish were dying of famine or famine-related diseases, the British government allowed 17 million pounds sterling worth of grain, cattle, pigs, flour, eggs, and poultry to be shipped to England—enough food to feed nearly 16 million people. An abundant crop of Oats was sufficient to feed the tenant Irish for one year, said Daniel O’Connell. He demanded that it be kept in the country for that reason. He was ignored and oats along with wheat and other crops were shipped out of the country, the oats needed to distill whiskey while the native Irish starved.
- The London Times printed some of the most arrogant inhumane editorials during 1847. When the poorest and weakest of Ireland’s citizens were being evicted from their homes or dying of famine induced diseases the Times had this to say. They have tasted of public money, and they find it pleasanter to live on alms than on labor. Deep, indeed, has the canker eaten. Not into the core of a precarious and suspected root—but into the very hearts of the people, corrupting them with a fatal lethargy, and debasing them with a fatuous dependence! … Thus the plow rusts, the spade lays idle, and the fields fallow.
Taking the example left from the Times, the English magazine, Punch published cartoons portraying Irishmen as a lazy lot who spent what money they had to buy weapons to assassinate the British.
- Monsieur Soyer’s Gourmet Soup Quackery! On February 26th 1847 a new Irish Relief Act was formed dealing with soup kitchens. People no longer would be required to enter a workhouse to receive food. The workhouse had long been bursting at the seams with people anxiously waiting outdoors, which happened as people died inside the workhouse. Now, actual soup kitchens were set up with one huge cauldron. The soup was watered down, inferior, and very little meat was included, certainly not enough sustenance to keep a man or woman alive. Also cost was always in the minds of the government. As the cost of dispensing food to the starving Irish came up for debate in Parliament, the government turned to their favorite chef, Monsieur Soyer of the Reform Club of London, to devise a recipe both nutritious and tasty but with the least cost possible. Monsieur Soyer was appointed head cook, despite the fact his expertise was in creating gourmet food for the elite British. Soyer’s soup recipe was “tested” first by the Reform Club and deemed “excellent,” a full day’s nutrition for a grown man to sustain himself despite the fact the actual meal served to his patrons consisted of far more food than just soup. One hundred gallons of this soup cost only one pound sterling, an added advantage that gave Soyer, the British government’s seal of approval. Another chef of Johnson’s Tavern in Clare Court named Monsieur Jaquet, expressed doubts as to the value of the soup; in fact he expressed this in the London Times. There was simply no way any soup at such a low price could be nutritious. Especially without sufficient meat! He challenged Soyer to prove his claims. Soyer saw this as an opportunity to not only prove Jaquet wrong but to gain recognition and fame. He opened a model kitchen in Dublin beside Phoenix Park and started to cook. Eighteen inch wide tables were set up outside his kitchen and people lined up outside, (the starving Irish) waiting to be served. As a bell rang, the first one hundred people entered and were served the soup. Metal spoons were attached the tables by a chain. After the first one hundred people ate, they left and the next group took their places. On April 5th 1847 a special event commenced. People who could pay five shillings each, came to “see the paupers feed!” There were earls and countesses, clergymen and doctors, and the Lord Lieutenant was reported in attendance by the Dublin Evening Packet as if this were the “who’s who” of an all important gala. An Irish reporter said bitterly, “all the parade I could have borne, but indefensible was the exhibition of some hundreds of Irish beggars to demonstrate what ravening hunger will make the image of God submit to.” About this time The Lancet, England’s famous medical journal proclaimed after scientific investigation, the soup “useless.” All this while Soyer claimed, “a bellyful of his soup once a day with a single biscuit could maintain the strength of a strong healthy man!”
- Finally, Queen Victoria’s own physician, Sir Henry Marshal, while not mentioning Soyer by name, denounced the soup-diet while explaining soup passes too quickly from the stomach and man cannot sustain himself without meat– that food must have bulk, and not rapidly digest in order to sustain life. Monsieur Soyer was embarrassed. After receiving dinner and a snuff box from the Dublin gentry, who had watched the great feeding gala, he boarded a ship, tale between his knees, vowing to never return to the country. Before he left, he published a cook-book and said “it requires more science to produce a good dish at trifling expense than a superior one with unlimited means.” He returned to his beloved Reformed Club where he continued to delight wealthy patrons with superior dishes made with unlimited means.
- A great source about the famine or what some call the Great Hunger read Paddy’s Lament by Tomas Gallagher
- Notice I did not mention Absentee Landlords. I wanted to teach you something that perhaps did not already know.
- Celticthoughts is all about Irish history and travel. To receive new posts by email and updates of new books published go here.
- 50 More Things You Didn’t Know about Irish History coming soon. with 20 new facts about the Irish famine.
- For more facts about Ireland and Irish History read 100 Things You Didn’t Know About Ireland.
- Frequent Freebies available when you join my email list.