On leaving The War of Independence Museum, you are now heading into The Irish Famine Museum. Needless to say, this is now retrospectively accepted as being one of the most horrific periods in the entire history of this country. While referred to as the Famine, the reality is that more people died from disease than from starvation during this unforgettable period. While we will never know the truth of the actual number that was lost through disease, starvation, and emigration during this period, it is generally accepted that up to 2.5 million men, women, and children is a reasonably accurate number. Even if it was only a fifth of that number, it was still far too many. We have attempted to create an as true-to-life picture as possible of what the conditions were like for those misfortunate suffering people during the time related to in this particular museum.
The Famine Workhouses, one of the methods used for the attempted alleviation of the suffering, were in many cases the literal house of horrors. From the fact that entry was on the basis that you owned less than half an acre of land, if owning more you were supposed to sign it over from your possession, to the fact that men women, and children were totally segregated, and that the food and general conditions inside were very often awful, you might ask why go inside in the first place? It was in reality a case of damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Suffice to say that not very far off of a third of a million people died inside these workhouses, and many then suffered the ignominy of burial in mass graves on unconsecrated grounds. Cashel Famine Graveyard bears testimony to this, wherein lies the bodies of over 1,000 men, women, and children whose bodies were burnt in quicklime on unconsecrated grounds.
Originating in Mexico but ultimately travelling by seed exportation and airborne through many other countries throughout the world, the blight was originally credited with being the root cause of the Famine. The reality for Ireland was that Britain’s colonial policy in Ireland and the knock effects of the far-reaching penal laws, and in particular the mass exportation of grain , livestock, and other foodstuffs out of this country, were the primary cause of the devastation suffered by such huge numbers . Charles Trevelyan in particular has a huge amount to answer for in relation to the policies pursued at the time, and one could say that he was largely aided and abetted by the attitude/compliance of British Prime Minister Lord John Russell. One feels compelled to wonder if a similar situation happened in England how different their response would have been.