Ireland in Schools

English & Irish history for primary schools

Birmingham Pilot Scheme Version 1, 17 November 2008

History & citizenship

How should we respond to Famine: Ireland in the 1840s?

Contents About this unit/lesson plans Lessons, 1. 2. 3. 4. Notes 1. 2. 3. 4. sources & worksheets What questions arise from looking at a picture of an eviction during the Irish Famine? How can we explain what was happening in this picture? How far was eviction the main experience of the Famine? What can we do about famine?

Famine in Ireland Evictions during the Famine Commentaries on some sources Every Child Matters

Watermark: ‘The Spectre’, 1851 Far West a grim shadow was seen, as ‘tis said, Like a Spectre from Famine and Pestilence bred; His gaunt giant-form, with pale Poverty wed. The fell Spectre advanc’d - who the horrors shall tell Oh his galloping stride, as he sounded the knell Of thousands on thousands who ‘neath his eye fell?

Available online at: http://iisresource.org//Documents/KS2_Dealing_With_Famine.pdf Also a PowerPoint of the images used: http://iisresource.org//Documents/KS2_Dealing_With_Famine.ppt For a PowerPoint overview of the Famine, with songs and music - suitable for use in primary as well as secondary schools: http://cid-1c89246df096624a.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/Famine|_Secondary.ppt?wa=wsignin1.0

University of Birmingham

BASS

Key Stage 2 University of Northampton

About the study unit
This study unit is intended as a depth study within the Key Stage 2 History curriculum when studying Victorian Britain. The key question asks: ‘How should we respond to Famine: Ireland in the 1840s?’ Using a variety of stimulus material, the unit encourages children to explore the past by examining sources relating to the Irish Famine and the context in which they arose. The key question leads children to consider the a. ways in which the Famine affected people, b. how they responded to the crisis, and c. how famine is treated today. The key question also leads to a better understanding of the complexities of the impact of, and responses to, famine and makes explicit links to Citizenship. The unit also offers scope for work in Literacy and Music. National Curriculum Historical objectives - Key Stage 2
2. Knowledge and understanding of events, people and changes in the past a. characteristic features of the periods and societies studied b. the social, cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of the societies studied in Britain and the wider world c. identify and describe reasons for, and results of, historical events, situations, and changes in the periods studied. 4. Historical enquiry a. find out about events, people and changes ... from an appropriate range of sources of information, including ICT-based sources b. ask and answer questions, and to select and record information, relevant to the focus of the enquiry. Organisation and communication a. recall, select and organise historical information c. communicate their knowledge and understanding of history in a variety of ways.

Prior knowledge It would be helpful if the children had a. prior knowledge of other aspects of Victorian Britain, such as urban and rural conditions, b. some understanding of the use of sources.

5.

Every Child Matters
The unit fully embraces the Every Child Matters strategy - see Note 4.

Other Ireland in Schools study units & resources on the Famine
http://iisresource.org/resources_ph.aspx Lesson plans on following page.

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 2

Lesson plans
Lesson
1

Key question
What questions arise from looking at a picture of an eviction during the Irish Famine?

Activities
1. Starter. Show eviction, source 1A (See Note 2). a. Teacher introduction: Briefly explain the context of the picture.* b. Ask children what is going on in the picture and who are the people in it. 2. a. Generate words on a wordwall - nouns, adjectives or verbs - to show observations, feeling and impressions from the picture. b. Children match the cards to the picture. 3. Working in groups. Look at the picture. You have to become the main people in the picture. a. Freeze frame. b. Judge everyone’s freeze-frame. Give it a mark from 1 (not like the picture) - 5 (exactly like the picture). c. Optional extension activity: make a 3 second movie with soundscape to suggest what happened next in the picture. 4. Plenary. Asking questions (Role on the wall.)** Pin two characters on board - bailiff and tenant (or tenant’s wife) - and children generate questions on post-it notes and stick on characters. 1. Starter. Divide class into groups. Using source 1A and the questions from the plenary in lesson 1, groups decide on two questions to ask the bailiff and two questions to ask the tenant (or his wife). 2. Hotseat teacher as bailiff and tenant (or tenant’s wife), using character cards, and the children’s chosen questions in the starter. 3. Look at written sources 2A-F. How far do they explain the picture and/or the children’s questions to the hotseat? 4. Add to wordwall, using a different colour from that used in lesson 1. 5. Plenary. Pair-share the question ‘If you were a landlord why might you have evicted your tenants?’ 1. Starter. How far do the following sources, 3A-3D, show that being evicted from your home was not the only source of suffering during the Famine? 2. Divide class into groups and hand out sources 3E-R in dribs and drabs. Groups decide how far the sources show that there were more responses to the famine than eviction, using the grid provided. (Some sources might fall into more than one category.) 3. Add to wordwall, using a different colour from those used in lessons 1 & 2. 4. Plenary. How far does the eviction illustration represent what happened during the famine? Justify your decision. 1. Starter. How do we respond to crises, such as famine and war, today? 2. Divide class into groups to discuss the question ‘How do you think you would have responded to the potato Famine?’ 3. Using sugar paper, marker pens, ideas from the wordwall and any other material from the preceding 3 lessons, produce a visual aid (poster, badge, sticker, logo, ect.) and letter to persuade people to support your response. 4. Present your campaign to the class and ask them to vote on it. 5. Plenary. How far has your work on the Irish Famine helped you to understand why famines occur today and how people respond to them? Option: Could run a campaign to raise awareness and support for people experiencing famine today.

History NC
2a 4a, b* 5c

2

How can we explain what was happening in this picture?

2a*, b 4a, b*

3

How far was eviction the main experience of the Famine?

2a*, b, c 4a, b*

4

What can we do about famine?

2d* 5a, c Citizenship 2a,* e, h, k, j 4a 5d, g

*

In the 1840s, Ireland faced a serious famine caused by the failure of the potato crop, Ireland’s staple food. It meant that people were short of food to eat and money to pay their rents. This led to some landlords to evict tenants as shown in source 1A. ** Questions could include why is the family being evicted; why are the characters in the picture behaving as they are (such as the bailiff - why is he evicting this family; the soldiers - why are they there); why is the roof being ripped off; what happened to the family; what will happen to the land; did all people go without food; why was there a famine?

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 3

Lesson 1
Key question What questions arise from looking at a picture of an eviction during the Irish Famine? Activities 1. Starter. Show eviction, source 1A (See Note 2). a. Teacher introduction: Briefly explain the context of the picture.* b. Ask children what is going on in the picture and who are the people in it. 2. a. Generate words on a wordwall - nouns, adjectives or verbs - to show observations, feeling and impressions from the picture. b. Children match the cards to the picture. 3. Working in groups. Look at the picture. You have to become the main people in the picture. a. Freeze frame. b. Judging everyone’s freeze-frame. Give it a mark from 1 (not like the picture) - 5 (exactly like the picture). c. Optional extension activity: make a 3 second movie with soundscape to suggest what happened next in the picture. 4. Plenary. Asking questions (Role on the wall.)** Pin two characters on board - bailiff and tenant (or tenant’s wife) - and children generate questions on post-it notes and stick on characters.
* In the 1840s, Ireland faced a serious famine caused by the failure of the potato crop, Ireland’s staple food. It meant that people were short of food to eat and money to pay their rents. This led to some landlords to evict tenants as shown in source 1A. ** Questions could include why is the family being evicted; why are the characters in the picture behaving as they are (such as the bailiff - why is he evicting this family; the soldiers - why are they there); why is the roof being ripped off; what happened to the family; what will happen to the land; did all people go without food; why was there a famine. Additional teaching aids
1. A PowerPoint overview of the Famine, with songs and music - suitable for primary as well as secondary schools: http://cid-1c89246df096624a.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/Famine|_Secondary.ppt?wa=wsignin1.0 2. Flash presentation using mouseover to identify main figures and action in ‘The Ejectment’ (source 1A): http://iisresource.org/Documents/Ejectment_Figures_Flash.html 3. The Illustrated London News The most fruitful contemporary source for images of the Famine is The Illustrated London News, the world’s first illustrated newspaper. Its first issue was published on Saturday, 14 May 1842. Thereafter it appeared weekly, with a mission ‘to keep continually before the eye of the world a living and moving panorama of all its activities and influences’. During the early years, all its illustrations were engravings. Its first picture on the theme of the Great Famine appeared in 1846 and depicted the government’s sale of Indian meal in Cork (source 3N ). Between then and 1849, 41 illustrations accompanied various articles on the Famine and the Poor Law. Value How far do the pictures published in The Illustrated London News in the 1840s provide an accurate contemporary record of the Famine crisis? It goes without saying that they were not intended to be a statistical record of the events, but did they succeed in capturing the atmosphere of despair and hopelessness? The value of the illustrations from this perspective varies considerably. Those pictures emphasising scenic beauty ignore the suffering endured during the crisis. By contrast, other illustrations which can be matched to written evidence do evince the air of desolation that enveloped the country. Many of the sketches were done ‘on location’, a point very carefully noted by the paper, and the personal experience that the artists had of the suffering population gave a realism to many of their sketches. In one issue of the paper, the artist assured the readership that ‘the objects of which I send you Sketches are not sought after I do not go out of my way to find them’. The conditions under which one drawing of the starving man, Mullins, breathing his last was done (source 3B), left such a deep impression that the artist described the event in detail. The power of image is most strongly illustrated in two sketches ‘Boy and Girl at Cahera’ (source 2D), and ‘Bridget O’Donnell and her Children’ (source 3C ). The human suffering is given strength through facial expression, ragged clothing and limited detail. On the other hand, in the eviction illustrations (such as source 1A) the skill, detail and intricacy of the artwork detract from the drama and despair of the episodes, and so require more careful study to reveal all the activity and emotion of the scenes. ‘Some pictures have to work hard to convince . . . while others achieve their aims with consummate ease.’ Text more valuable? The fact that most of the ‘Famine’ pictures were accompanied by emotive text conditioned the response of readers to the visual image. Had the illustrations appeared in isolation, their impact on the viewer might have been less. Take, for example, the anatomical sturdiness of the individuals portrayed in many of the pictures. But for the accompanying text, the reader might well gain the impression that the Irish crisis was not severe, but merely a temporary problem with food supply, whereas we know from the written documentation that this was not so. For further details: http://iisresource.org/Documents/0A1_Famine_Images_3_Evaluation.pdf.

History NC 2a 4a, b* 5c

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 4

L1. Starter Source 1A: ‘The Ejectment’, Illustrated London News, 16 December 1848

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 5

6

1

8 2 7 5 3

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 6

4

1. ‘the brutal bailiff’ 2. ‘the pleading tenant’ 3. ‘his weeping wife and children’ 4. ‘the unfeeling onlookers’ 5. ‘stony-faced soldiers’ 6. ‘the roof being stripped’ 7. ‘man carrying off thatch’ 8. ‘driving away livestock’ ‘The Ejectment’, Illustrated London News, 16 December 1848

L1.2b ‘The Ejectment’: cards

‘the brutal bailiff’

‘the pleading tenant’

the tenant’s ‘weeping wife and children’

‘the unfeeling onlookers’

‘stony-faced soldiers’

‘the roof being stripped’

‘man carrying off thatch’

‘driving away livestock’

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 7

Lesson 2
Key question How can we explain what was happening in this picture? Activities 1. Starter. Divide class into groups. Using source 1A and the questions from the plenary in lesson 1, groups decide on two questions to ask the bailiff and two questions to ask the tenant (or his wife). 2. Hotseat teacher as bailiff and tenant (or tenant’s wife), using character cards, answering the children’s chosen questions in the starter. 3. Look at sources 2A-F. How far do they explain the picture and/or the children’s questions to the hotseat? 4. Add to wordwall, using a different colour from that used in lesson 1. 5. Plenary. Pair-share the question ‘If you were a landlord why might you have evicted your tenants?’ History NC 2a*, b 4a, b*

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 8

L2.2 Character cards Bailiff I am an important local person, so I do not have much to do with the tenants. I am employed by the landlord who owns the land the family is occupying. It is my job to make sure that the rent is paid to the landlord. If it is not, I have to evict people from their homes. I know people will be homeless and may even starve because they have lost their land as well as their homes, but I could lose my job if I do not do what the landlord tells me. Some of my landlords are Protestant and some also live in England, but wherever they are, they need money to live on and pay taxes, particularly in these hard times. Tenant I am a Catholic and do not own any land. I rent land from a landlord. It is not a lot of land but it was enough keep us housed and fed with potatoes and pig meat. We managed alright until the failure of the potato crop, which has hit us hard. I had to sell the pig to buy food and even sold our best clothes in order to survive. For the last few weeks, my children have search the fields and woods for food - the odd potato, berries, even nettles. There is no way of earning money and we cannot see our way to pay our rent this year. Now that we have lost our cottage and land, I do not know what we will do. Some of our evicted neighbours have ended up living in ditches, some have gone to the workhouse, others have left Ireland while some have died from disease or starvation. What will become of us?

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 9

L2.3 Sources
Upon an average, a man, his wife, and four children, will eat thirty-seven pounds of potatoes a day. The family live upon potatoes and buttermilk six days a week; the Sabbath is generally celebrated by bacon and greens... An Englishman, seeing a number of fine florid children in a cabin, said to the father: How do your countrymen manage to have so many fine children?’ It is the potato, sir,’ said he. Source 2A. The importance of the potato in the Irish diet, County Wicklow, 1806

* See note 3

As to the potatoes, they are gone, clean gone. If travelling in the dark, you would know when a potato field was near by the smell. The fields present one space of withered stalks. Mine which were safe a few days since are all going - some gone - though I had none of the disease last year.
Source 2B. A Co Galway priest on the potato blight, summer 1846. Blighted potatoes turn really mushy and smell awful.

Year 1844 1845 1846 1847 1848 1849

Acres (1,000s) 2,378 2,516 1,999 284 810 719

‘A famished boy and girl turning up the ground to seek for a potato to appease their hunger’

Source 2C. Potato crop at the time of the Famine.
Oh, Father, dear, I often hear you speak of Erin’s isle Her lofty scenes, her valleys green, her mountains rude and wild They say it is a lovely land, wherein a prince might dwell Oh why did you abandon it, the reason to me tell. My son, I loved my native land with energy and pride Till the blight came over all my crops, my sheep and cattle died My rent and taxes were so high, I could not them redeem That’s the cruel reason I left old Skibbereen.

*Source 2D. Boy and Girl at Cahera, Co. Cork, Illustrated London News, 20 February 1847. Source 2F

Source 2E. First two verses of the ballad ‘Skibbereen’ (later 19th century). Skibbereen was one of the areas worst affected by the famine – and one of the most publicised. To hear Sinead O’Connor’s version, please go to: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=S_5HjHmv1NU

While most of Ireland suffered from the effects of the Famine, the worst hit areas were in the west and south-west.
Tony Allan, The Irish Famine. The Birth of I ris h Am er ic a, He ine ma n n , 0-43106-908-5, p. 18..

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 10

Lesson 3
Key question How far was eviction the main experience of the Famine? Activities 1. Starter. How far do the following sources, 3A-3D, show that being evicted from your home was not the only source of suffering during the Famine? 2. Divide class into groups and hand out sources 3E-R in dribs and drabs. Groups decide how far the sources show that there were more responses to the famine than eviction, using the grid provided. (Some sources might fall into more than one category.) 3. Add to wordwall, using a different colour from those used in lessons 1 & 2. 4. Plenary. How far does the eviction illustration represent what happened during the famine? Justify your decision.

* See note 3

History NC 2a*, b, c 4a, b*

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 11

L3.1 Sources for starter
We entered a cabin. Stretched in one dark corner, scarcely visible from the smoke and rags that covered them, were three children, huddled together, eyes sunk, voice gone, and evidently in the last stages of actual starvation.
Source 3A. A visitor to the west of Ireland during the winter of 1846-47. As in most famines, children were particularly badly affected, since they need more nutrition than other people.

In the Irish Famine, as in other famines, most people did not die of hunger but of hunger-related fevers and diseases. The most important of these are typhus, relapsing fever, dysentery, and cholera. Without modern medicines, these diseases, especially typhus, are often fatal.
*Source 3B. The local vicar visiting the dying Mullins in his hut, Scull, Co. Cork, , Illustrated London News, 20 February, 1847 Mullins was dying of fever; his children were huddled around embers of the turf fire; the vicar himself also died of fever shortly afterwards.

The picture tells a story from the famine. This woman is Bridget O’Donnell. Her husband had seven acres of land and the rent was £7.25 a year. The family was evicted when they could not pay and men came to knock down their home. Bridget was pregnant and had a fever. Her husband went off to find work. Neighbours took in Bridget and her children. The baby was born dead and then they all got fever. Her 13 year old son died of hunger while the rest were sick.

*Source 3C. Illustrated London News, 22 December 1849

1841 1851

8,175,124 6,552,385

Source 3D. Decline of Irish population as a result of the Famine. Death by disease or starvation accounted for half the decrease. People leaving Ireland to live abroad, emigrating, accounted for the other half
IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 12

L3.2 Sources

Source 3E. A farming family defending their home against eviction, Pictorial Times, 2 January 1847

*Source 3F. A government official’s daughter, Miss Kennedy, 7years old, distributing clothing, Kilrush, Co. Clare, Illustrated London News, 22 December 1849

Grain and other foods, such as livestock cattle, sheep and pigs - continued to be exported from Ireland. The sight of ships leaving Irish ports loaded with food sometimes provoked riots. However, the government refused to ban the export of food.
Source 3G. Exporting food from Ireland during the Famine

Too much has been done for the people. Under such treatment the people have grown worse instead of better, and we must try what independent exertion will do.

Source 3H. Sir Charles Trevelyan, a senior British civil servant, on why , in 1847, the government did not want to bring food into Ireland or keep open public works, preferring to use the workhouse.

Many landlords acted kindly towards their tenants, as one man from Co. Cork recalled: ‘My grandfather, God rest his soul, went to pay part of his rent to his landlord ... "Feed your family first, then give me what you can afford when times get better," he told him.’
Source 3I. An Irishman recalling his family’s experience with their landlord during the Famine.

Other landlords continued to evict any tenants who could not pay their rents. ‘Fifty families were evicted from this district of Kileaskin by a local landlord. The thatch of the roofs was torn off even before the people had time to leave.’
Source 3J. An Irishman recalling what happened in his family’s village in Co. Kildare during the Famine. Evictions soared from 1847.

Union is Strength John Bull to Irish farmer: ‘Here are a few things to go on with, Brother, and I’ll soon put you in a way to earn your own living.’

*Source 3K. Punch, 17 October 1846, an English satirical magazine, with John Bull, England, offering the farmer a basket of bread in one and a spade in the other.

*Source 3L. Soup kitchen, run by the Quakers, providing free soup (6,800 litres a day), Illustrated London News, 16 January 1847.

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 13

The priest ‘made a promise to Dan to take care of the “old woman” [wife], until the five pounds came to his “Reverence” to send her over to America’. *Source 3M. Leaving Ireland - the priest’s blessing, Illustrated London News, 10 May 1851. Some 1m people left Ireland as a result of the Famine.

‘The crowds of poor persons who gathered round the corn depots were so turbulently inclined as to require the interference of the police, who remained there throughout the day.’ *Source 3N. Sale of Indian corn, imported by the British government, Cork, Illustrated London News, 4 April 1846. Able-bodied adults Breakfast: 8 ounces of oatmeal and Indian meal in stirabout and 1 pint of buttermilk or molasses. Dinner: 12 ounces of bread or biscuits and 1 quart of pea soup for 4 days a week; 10 ounces of rice and Indian meal stirabout for remaining 3. Children under 15 Breakfast: 4 ounces of Indian meal and rice and ½ pint of buttermilk or molasses. Dinner: 6 ounces of bread and 1 pint of pea soup for 4 days a week; 5 ounces of rice and Indian meal, and ½ pint of buttermilk or molasses for the remaining 3 days. Supper: ¼ lb of bread or biscuits and ¼ pint of sweet-milk or molasses. *Source 3P. Part of the diet in the Ballina workhouse, Co. Mayo, 18 March 1848. Denis McKennedy died on October 24 while working on a public works road in Co. Cork. He had not been paid since October 10. The postmortem revealed death to be the result of starvation: no food in the stomach or in the small intestines, but in the large intestine was a ‘portion of undigested raw cabbage, mixed with excrement’. The verdict at the coroner’s inquest was that McKennedy ‘died of starvation caused by the gross neglect of the Board of Works’. *Source 3R. The death of Denis McKennedy, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, 24 October 1846

‘The body of a young man is laid on a cart; a second man whips the horse into action; a third stands by with a spade; onlookers gossip and argue ... death stripped of all dignity.’ *Source 3O. Funeral at Skibbereen, Co. Cork, one of the worst hit areas during the Famine, Illustrated London News, 30 January 1847.

Food traders, clever enough to see that prices would rise, made ‘a whacking profit at the expense of the poor’. They bought when prices were relatively low and sold when demand rose, like the Cork merchant who bought maize at £10.75 a ton and sold it to retailers and relief committees for £16 to £17. Large farmers also did well, selling surplus food at a goodly profit.
Source 3Q. Historian’s account of profiteering during the Famine.

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 14

L3.2 Grid for sources
Organising idea Caring Source number(s) Why we think this

Ignoring

Escape

Fighting back

Making problem worse

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 15

Lesson 4
Key question What can we do about famine? Activities 1. Starter. How do we respond to crises, such as famine and war, today? 2. Divide class into groups to discuss the question ‘How do you think you would have responded to the potato Famine?’ 3. Using sugar paper, marker pens, ideas from the wordwall and any other material from the preceding 3 lessons, produce a visual aid (poster, badge, sticker, logo, etc.) and letter to persuade people to support your response. 4. Present your campaign to the class and ask them to vote on it. 5. Plenary. How far has your work on the Irish Famine helped you to understand why famines occur today and how people respond to them? Option: Could run a campaign to raise awareness and support for people experiencing famine today. 1.1 Some websites
Relief organisations Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/ Oxfam http://www.oxfam.org.uk/?ito=1482 Save the Children http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/ United Nations World Food Programme http://www.wfp.org/english/ Serving Our World http://www.servingourworld.org/ Children in Need http:///www.bbc.co.uk/pudsey/news/

History NC 2d* 5a, c

Citizenship 2a,* e, h, k, j 4a 5d, g

Source 4A. A man infected by cholera, which has killed around 300 people in Zimbabwe, is transported to hospital, The Guardian, 25 November 2008.

Africa - generally http://www.christianaid.org.uk/emergencies/current/food/africa_food_crisis.aspx?gclid=CJzy0J6BiZcCFUsa3go dsiqqDA Congo DR http://www.oxfam.org.uk/oxfam_in_action/where_we_work/drc/rankin_gallery.html http://www.christianaid.org.uk/emergencies/current/congo/index.aspx Ethiopia http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=G73zKQwlFxY http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/ethiopia/2083074/Ethiopia-facing-new-fa mine-with-4.5-million-children-in-danger-of-starvation.html Sudan/Darfur http://darfur.unfpa.org/jon_darfur/?gclid=CNLmhNWFiZcCFQLolAod4VCn-w

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 16

Note 1

Famine in Ireland
The Oxford Companion to Irish History edited by S.J. Connolly, OUP, 1998, 1-19866-240-8, 185, 228-9

Famine in Ireland
Definition Famine has afflicted societies since the beginning of history. It may be defined as a persistent failure in food supplies over a prolonged period. It is something experienced by society, whereas starvation is something that affects individuals. During famines more people are likely to die of famine-related diseases than from starvation. The causes are complex. Adverse weather conditions (drought, excessive rain, intense cold) at crucial times, effects of war (scorched earth policies, the provisioning of armies, disruption of trade), pestilence and disease: all these individually or in combination may be to blame. Famine is generally perceived as the result of a failure of food supplies, typically arising from the Malthusian pressure of population on resources. However some analysts, following the Indian economist Amartya Sen, argue that famine is less commonly caused by an absolute shortage of food than by the lack of ‘entitlements’- that is, the existence of large numbers of persons who do not possess the means either of producing food or of acquiring it through purchase or through transfer payments sanctioned by the state or by custom. Famine thus becomes a product of political and social structures, rather than of neutral economic forces. Irish experience In Ireland over a period of six centuries from 1300 to 1900 there were up to 30 episodes of severe famine. Between 1290 and 1400 there were around a dozen, mostly clustering in the decades before and including the Great European Famine of 1315-17. Another dozen or so occurred between 1500 and 1750. After 1750 there were several periods of acute regional shortages, culminating in the Great Famine of 1845-9. The famines experienced in Ireland over the centuries illustrate their nature both as event and structure. Bad weather in 1294-6 and 1308-10, for example, damaged grain crops, resulting in many deaths. In 1315-17 wet weather produced devastating famine throughout Europe, exacerbated in the Irish case by Edward Bruce’s scorched earth policy. Heavy rains destroyed crops in 1330-1 and the price of wheat and oats rose manyfold. A century later in 1433 a severe famine led to ‘the summer of slight acquaintance’. In 1504-5 continual rain and storms ruined crops, and cattle disease decimated livestock. The 17th century was also heralded by bad weather, famine, and disease. The rising of 1641 ravaged crops and precipitated famine. Two famines in the 18th century, 1728-9 and 1740-1, caused great suffering. The famine of 1740 is noteworthy as the first potato crisis; in terms of mortality rates, it may have been greater than the Great Famine of 1845-9. The latter earns the sobriquet because it was the last and best remembered. But for ‘this great calamity’, it is doubtful that Ireland would be regarded as more famine-prone than other European countries. Great Famine (1845-9) Immediate cause The Great Famine was caused by the failure, in three seasons out of four, of the potato crop. The harvest of 1845 was one-third deficient. In 1846 three-quarters of the crop were lost. Yields were average in 1847, but little had been sown as seed potatoes were scarce. In 1848, yields were only two-thirds of normal. An alternative measure of the crop loss is demonstrated by the fall in potato acreage. Before the Famine it was 1 million acres, falling to around a quarter of a million acres in 1847. A fungal disease, Phytophthora infestans, commonly called potato blight, damaged the crops. Its origins are unclear, though bird droppings imported as fertilizer from South America have been suggested as a likely source. The first region of Europe to be affected by blight was Belgium in June 1845. Transmission to Ireland was swift, the first signs appearing in September 1845. Relief measures To cope with the loss of a large part of the staple diet of one-third of the population, relief measures were implemented by private organizations and by government. The Society of Friends was at the forefront, providing food, clothing, cooking equipment, seeds and money. Their kitchens dispensed soup in towns, cities, and rural districts. Religious houses, churches, and some local gentry were also involved in philanthropic work. Limitations on government’s response Government’s response to the crisis was circumscribed by a range of influences. The prevailing ideology of laissez-faire held that any tampering with market forces would bankrupt landlords and dislocate trade. There was the belief that the collapse of the potato economy provided an opportunity for agricultural reorganization, through the consolidation of smallholdings and the removal of surplus population. (For many, indeed, the Famine, in line with the prevalent evangelical theology of the day, was seen as the workings of divine providence, acting to correct the ills within Irish society.) The government was also concerned to make Irish landlords meet the cost of a crisis widely blamed on their greed and negligence, and to ensure that local taxpayers did not evade their share of the burden of financing relief. As the crisis continued, repetition blunted the response of the British public to reports of Irish misery. Severe economic recession in Great Britain itself during 1847 further limited sympathy for Ireland’s problems, as did the apparent ingratitude for help given displayed in the return of 36 repeal MPs in the general election of 1847 and the Young Ireland rebellion of 1848. Tory & Whig policies In the first year of famine, 1845-6, Sir Robert Peel’s Tory government purchased Indian meal from America for sale from government depots, and inaugurated a programme of public works managed by grand juries and the Board of Works. The Whig government of Lord John Russell, which took office in June 1846, greatly extended the public works schemes, while refusing to
IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 17

interfere either in the internal market in food or in the export of agricultural produce. In February 1847 ideology was at last set aside and kitchens opened throughout the country to supply cooked food directly to the starving without cost or imposition of a ‘work test’. This operation at its peak supplied 3 million meals daily. From September 1847, however, the government wound up the soup kitchens, insisting that further relief should come from the greatly expanded but still wholly inadequate workhouses run under the poor law. Diseases The severity of the Great Famine is indicated by the widespread incidence of disease. The potato-eating population had become accustomed to a diet rich in vitamin C and quickly succumbed to scurvy. Symptoms of marasmus and kwashiorkor, although not identified as such, were described in the medical journals. The lack of vitamin A in the famine-constrained diet was manifest in xerophthalmia - a disease causing blindness - among workhouse children. Typhus and relapsing fever were the most common diseases afflicting the weakened population. Both were transmitted by the body louse and famine conditions provided an ideal environment for spreading the infection as starving masses congregated in urban centres searching for food. Typhus affected the small blood vessels, especially the brain and skin vessels, which explains frequently described symptoms of delirium and stupor and the distinctive spotted rash. Relapsing fever, as the name implies, was characterized by numerous relapses. It usually invaded its victims through the skin. Popular names included ‘gastric fever’ and ‘yellow fever’, as some patients became jaundiced. Typhus and relapsing fever were no respecters of persons, afflicting rich and poor, old and young, though mortality among the rich was particularly high. Deaths In the absence of official figures we will never know precisely how many died. Neither was there systematic enumeration of emigrants. Estimates of excess mortality range from half a million to just over one million; recent research supports the latter figure. The highest levels of mortality occurred in Connacht, and the lowest in Leinster. More died of disease than starvation; the old and the very young were particularly vulnerable. Evictions The pace of evictions increased during the Famine. The ruthlessness of many landlords stemmed from two problems: drastic reduction in rent receipts and rising taxation. Experience varied from district to district. Reliable figures are unavailable before 1849, but in that year the constabulary recorded the eviction of over 90,000 people, increasing to over 100,000 in 1850. Legacies The legacies of the Famine were several. The population declined by one-fifth between 1845 and 1851 and never regained its pre-Famine level. The cottier class was decimated, altering the social structure of Irish society. Many thousands escaped hunger by emigrating to Britain, North America, and Australia, accelerating an outward flow already established. Longer-term causes The immediate cause of the Great Famine was blight, but there were underlying forces that had resulted in 3 million people subsisting on the potato. One view would be that the disasters of 1845-9 represented the culmination of a long-term crisis resulting from rapid population growth against a background of economic decline. More recently some economic historians, pointing to the levelling off in population growth, to the progress of new, agriculturally based manufacturing industries such as brewing, distilling, and flour milling, and to improvements in transport, communications, and banking, have argued that the pre-Famine economy had not in fact ‘ground to a halt’. In this perspective the failure of the potato should be seen as a massive exogenous blow dealt to an economy that had begun to adjust to changing market conditions. These contrasting perceptions are central to the debate on how far the Famine changed the course of Ireland’s development in the 19th century. They also have at least an indirect bearing on the equally disputed question of whether the government of the United Kingdom, notwithstanding prevailing ideology, could have been expected to have done more to alleviate distress in a part of the world’s richest nation.

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 18

Note 2

Evictions during the Famine
Evictions soared from 1847 Waves of clearances increased in the following years, especially in the western counties of Clare and Mayo. National figures were not collected until 1849, but they give some idea of the scale of the campaign. Between 1849 and 1854 nearly 50,000 families (about a quarter of a million people) were permanently evicted from their homes. Landlord strategy Landlord strategy was ruthless. The evicted were usually turned out on to the road by bailiffs supported by the police and army. Cottages were ‘tumbled’ (pulled down) by the landlord’s ‘crowbar brigade’, and sanctions imposed on any neighbouring tenant who sheltered the evicted families. At best, landowners would give the evicted a few pounds compensation for peaceful surrender, or allow them to carry away their thatch. A minority of Irish proprietors, such as George Henry Moore, MP, who refused to carry out evictions on his Galway estate, acted humanely during the Famine. Most, however, either pursued their own self-interest or were powerless to act due to the debts, mortgages and encumbrances on their estates. Wealthy absentees with British resources were often in a better position to help; some, like the duke of Devonshire, spent lavishly, but most were indifferent and left their Irish agents to deal harshly with the crisis. Fate of the evicted The evicted, who were extremely reluctant to enter the disease-ridden workhouses, often sought refuge in temporary shelters erected by the sides of roads (Source 5A), until they were eventually removed by coercion, desperation or death. For many, such as the remnants of the 150 families evicted from the Walsh estate in Erris, Co. Mayo, who arrived as ‘living skeletons’ to beg in Belmullet in late 1847, clearance was a sentence of execution. The records of evictions represent only a portion of those removed from their homes. Very large numbers were made to surrender their holdings ‘voluntarily’ in order to obtain poor-law relief under the terms of the notorious ‘quarter-acre clause’. Many proprietors took advantage of the situation to insist (illegally) that applicants pull down their cabins before receiving relief. Small sums would be given in compensation to those who co-operated. See Note 3 for a note on ‘The Ejectment’.

Source 5A. ‘After the ejectment’, Illustrated London News, 16 December 1848
IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 19

Note 3

Commentaries on some sources
1B. ‘The Ejectment’, Illustrated London News, 16 December 1848 Many of the starving found themselves not only without food, but also without habitation. In the pre-Christmas edition of 1848, The Illustrated London News published a scathing article condemning those Irish landlords who were using the current crisis to unpeople their property. The two illustrations that accompanied the text. The first, ‘The Ejectment’, depicted an ejection scene, and is one of the most exquisite engravings of the entire Famine collection. The picture contains considerable action. We see the tenant remonstrating with the bailiff seated aloft a black steed. Meanwhile, the bailiff’s men are already denuding the roof of thatch, and driving away the tenant’s donkey. Looking on are uniformed officers. Their presence was intended to ensure that the bailiff was not impeded in his duties, and to discourage civil disturbance. A second illustration shows the makeshift shelter along the ditch, into which the evicted tenant retreated. The stance of the major figure in the picture is one of utter despair. The apparent callousness of landlords stemmed from two major problems. On the one hand they suffered a drastic reduction in their incomes as tenants defaulted on rent. On the other hand they were faced with rising taxation. Circumstances varied from district to district. Nevertheless, some landlords were particularly ruthless, justifying their action by the slogan ‘evict . . . debtors or be dispossessed’. 2D. ‘Boy and Girl at Cahera’, Co. Cork, Illustrated London News, 20 February 1847 The children gleaning stray potatoes in the empty fields are shown in rags to indicate their misery, with harrowed expressions, but they are surprisingly well-muscled given that this is the third year of the Famine. ‘Boy and Girl at Cahera’ is, perhaps, the best-known famine illustration. The atmosphere of the picture is of misery and despair as the two children scour a barren field in search of a potato or two that may have evaded blight and escaped the eye of previous scavengers. The expression on the boy’s face is pained and his stance is of one starved of both food and heat. His clothes, and those of the girl, are ragged. The girl’s hair is spiky and scant, a sign of severe starvation. On the other hand, the limbs of both children appear sturdy, contrary to what one would expect in prolonged famine conditions. Source 3B. Mullins Hut at Scull, Illustrated London News, 20 February, 1847 The local vicar is visiting the dying Mullins in his hut, Scull in Co. Cork. Mullins was dying of fever; his children were huddled around embers of the turf fire; the vicar himself also died of fever shortly afterwards. According to the magazine’ reporter, ‘A specimen of the in-door horrors of Scull may be seen in [a] ... sketch... of a poor man named Mullins, who lay dying in a corner upon a heap of straw,... whilst his three wretched children crouched over a few embers of turf, as if to raise the last remaining sparks of life. This poor man ... buried his wife some five days previously, and was in all probability on the eve of joining her, when he was found out by the untiring efforts of the Vicar, who, for a few short days saved him from that which no kindness could ultimately avert.... the dimensions of the hut do not exceed ten feet square ... [I] was compelled to stand up to [my] ankles in the dirt and filth on the floor. I have ... been lengthy in my details in order that you may be as well informed upon the subject as I can enable you to be; and, bearing in mind the horrifying scenes that I have just witnessed, I entreat you to do the best you can for so much suffering humanity; as this visit to the West will, I trust, assist in making this affliction known to the charitable public.’ 3C. ‘Bridget O’Donnell and her Children’, Illustrated London News, 22 December 1849 Another illustration depicting famine victims shows Bridget O’Donnell and her Children, and again most of its poignancy comes from the facial expressions and raggedness of the clothing. The limbs of the mother appear particularly sturdy, although the child on the left has thin legs, one of which has texturing that could represent shadow or an open sore, the latter a common feature among the severely malnourished. This pathetic group is one of the few Famine illustrations showing clear signs of emaciation, and the desperation of the mother’s expression is well rendered. Eyewitness accounts confirm instances of extreme suffering. For example, Bridget O’Donnell and her family, subjects of an illustration already referred to, were enduring not only starvation and sickness, but also homelessness. Prior to the food crisis, her husband was a tenant holding a small parcel of land, but late in 1849 the family was evicted for non-payment of rent. Bridget was left without a home. To add to her misfortunes she was ill with fever, as were her children, and she was expecting another child. The child was born dead, and her thirteen-year-old son died of hunger. Even some hardened administrators were sometimes shocked by the scenes they saw. Captain Arthur Kennedy, a Poor Law inspector, recounted years later how he felt at the time: I can tell you . . . that there were days in that western county [Clare] when I came back from some scene of eviction so maddened by the sights of hunger and misery I had seen in the day’s work that I felt disposed to take the gun from behind my door and shoot the first landlord I met. 3F. Miss Kennedy Distributing Clothing at Kilrush, Co. Clare, Illustrated London News, 22 December 1849 A government official’s daughter, aged seven, Miss Kennedy’s daily occupation was ‘distributing clothing to the wretched children brought around her by their more wretched parents.... one woman crouched like a monkey ... drawing around her the only rag she had left to conceal her nudity.’ ‘So completely did the misery of the poor occupy her thoughts that ... she gave up her time and her own little means to relieve them. She gave away her own clothes ... and then she purchased coarse materials, and made up clothing for children her own age ... and she devoted herself with all the energy and perseverance of a mature and staid matron to the holy office she has undertaken. The Sketch will, I hope, immortalize the beneficent child, who is filling the place of a saint, and performing the duties of a patriot.’ 3K. ‘Union is Strength’, Punch, 17 October 1846 The English satirical journal, Punch, consistently under-estimated the severity of the crisis in Ireland and depicted the famine as a moral issue. It blamed indolence of the Irish for the continuation of the famine and for ‘sponging’ on the British taxpayer. Hard work or industry (symbolised by a shovel) at home or emigration were Punch’s answers to poverty in Ireland. In the main, British press coverage of the Famine was coloured by anti-Irish prejudice and political and practical considerations.
IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 20

The general tenor was that the Irish were a backward race and lived on inferior food - the potato; they were ungrateful and disloyal; Ireland was a drain on British resources; and Britain was being flooded with Irish paupers. Punch, in particular, along with The Times ‘reinforced traditional animosities and alienated the sympathies of the British upper and middle classes’. In ‘Union is Strength’, John Bull (England) presents his Irish ‘brother’ not only with food but also with a spade to help him ‘to earn your own way of living’. Punch assumed that self-help was a priority and came to see Irish indolence for the continuing catastrophe. 3L. The Cork Society of Friend’s Soup House, Illustrated London News, 16 January 1847 Here is a well-organised Quaker soup kitchen with its servers and their elegantly dressed supervisors: but where are the hungry masses? Can the soup house really have been so peaceful and unhurried, with famine at the door? As Famine continued, it gradually became clear that what was needed was free, hot, cooked food. This was provided in Soup Kitchens. These were first set up by the Quakers, but were taken over by the government in the summer of 1847. Since, according to one official recipe, almost two gallons of ‘excellent’ soup (consisting of bones, peas, a carrot, an onion, bruised celery seed, salt and pepper and water) could be made for less than 5p, it was a cheap and effective way of assisting deserving people. As one government official said, The soup system promises to be a great resource ... It will have the double effect of feeding the people at a lower price and economising our meal. In August 1847 three million people were being fed daily in this way. It was an incredible figure considering the red-tape involved, with the issue of ration cards only to clean and unemployed families. The soup prevented starvation in the dire year of 1847. The Vitamin C it contained also probably helped to prevent scurvy, with its ulcers and haemorrhages, among the poor. 3M. ‘Leaving Ireland - the Priests’s Blessing’, Illustrated London News, 10 May 1851 Ireland was a different, more sober, and less crowded, place after the famine. Over a million died. A further million fled from the stricken land. They often left more like refugees than ordinary emigrants to seek a new life in America, Australia, and Britain. ‘None perhaps feel more severely the departure of the peasantry than the Roman Catholic clergy .... Yet none take a more active part in seeing them safely out of the country ... my rev. friend ... had a word of advice to Pat, a caution to Nelly, a suggestion to Mick; and he made a promise to Dan to take care of the ‘old woman’, until the five pounds came to his "Reverence" to send her over to America ... he turned his moistened eyes towards heaven, and asked the blessing of the Almighty upon the wanderers during their long and weary journey.’ 3N. ‘Sale of Indian Corn Cork’, Illustrated London News, 4 April 1846 To ease the food crisis, the government imported Indian corn (maize) from America - enough in the first instance to feed half a million people at a rate of 450 grams of meal a day. The aim was not to feed all the people but to regulate the prince of provisions. When sales began in Cork depots in April 1846, ‘the crowds of poor persons who gathered round them were so turbulently inclined as to require the interference of the police, who remained there throughout the day.’ The maize was not given freely. It was sold at low cost, but, as the Famine continued, prices rose. A family needed a stone of meal a day to survive. By November 1846, a stone of meal cost 15p. The maize needed to be cooked carefully - very slowly - and many people lacked the skill and utensils to do this. Hunger drove some people to eat it raw, which caused health problems. 3O. Funeral at Skibbereen, Illustrated London News, 30 January 1847 The body of a young man is laid on a cart; a second man whips the horse into action; a third stands by with a spade; onlookers gossip and argue: this well-observed scene shows us death stripped of all dignity. The spectre of death was brought very forcefully to the attention of the readership of the Illustrated London News, both by the written text and the illustrations of the realities of the horrifying deaths common in every community. ‘Funeral at Skibbereen’ accompanied an article on ‘Mortality in Skibbereen’, which gave graphic details of disease and high mortality. The illustration was intended to shock Victorian England. The focus of attention was the cadaver of a young man being transported to his grave coffinless. Other, more conventional, funeral scenes also appeared. While many died in the workhouse, many more died along the roadsides and in ditches... more people died from disease than from starvation [but] in some districts deaths from starvation were high. The reporter for the paper noted that: ‘all sympathy between the living and the dead seems completely out of the question; ... I certainly saw from 150 to 180 funerals of victims to the want of food, the whole number attended by not more than 50 persons; and so hardened are the men regularly employed in the removal of the dead from the workhouse, that I saw one of them with four coffins in a car, driving to the churchyard, sitting upon one of the said coffins, and smoking with much apparent enjoyment.’ 3P. Diet in the Ballina workhouse, Co. Mayo, 18 March 1848 From September 1847, the government wound up the soup kitchens, insisting that further relief should come from the greatly expanded but still wholly inadequate - overcrowded and often disease-ridden - workhouses run under the poor law. Normally. food in the workhouse was inferior to that of the poorest labourers for cheapness and to deter people giving up employment and entering the workhouse. However, with the Famine, workhouse fare was far superior to that of some millions of the population and the numbers seeking admission escalated. At the beginning of the Famine, workhouses housed only 38,000, but with the crisis, by 1847, there were over 100,000 inmates. 3R. The death of Denis McKennedy, 24 October 1846 McKennedy’s death illustrated some of the drawbacks on the well-intentioned schemes of public works, building roads and improving farm land introduced by the British government in 1846. The theory was that people could then earn money and so buy food. The trouble was that people were often too weak from hunger or disease to do such heavy work and earn enough to buy food, which was rapidly rising in price. A family needed a stone of meal a day, which by November 1846 cost 15p. A labourer on public works earned at most 4p a day. It was not unknown for labourers to die of hunger while on public works.

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 21

Note 4

Every Child Matters
Every Child Matters Be healthy Physically healthy Mentally and emotionally healthy Sexually healthy Choose not to take illegal drugs. Stay safe Safe from maltreatment, neglect, violence and sexual exploitation Safe from accidental injury and death Safe from bullying and discrimination Safe from crime and anti-social behaviour in and out of school. Have security, stability and cared for. Enjoy and achieve Ready for school Achieve stretching national and educational standards at primary school Achieve personal and social development and enjoy recreation. Evidence in History Developing the ability to appreciate, mentally and emotionally, the situation of others. We do By focussing on the vary experiences in and responses to famine.

Developing a questioning disposition so children do not take things at face value. Challenging stereotypes and exploring the histories of different people and their society or context.

The Unit challenges the image of people suffering from famine as hapless victims.

Providing opportunities to explore and value child’s identity and place in the world. Providing opportunities to enjoy finding out exciting and interesting experiences of different people in the past. Providing opportunities to enjoy and reach their potential through a wide range of teaching and learning experiences (e.g. drama). Providing opportunities to work collaboratively, e.g. in discussion. Providing an appreciation of a child’s place in the wider world by exploring the achievement of other people within their society and other parts of the world.

By providing a Unit that is not Anglo-centric in approach and looks at the ‘wider world’. A range of pedagogic devices are used enabling all children to experience success.

Make a positive contribution Engage in decision-making and support the community and environment Engage in law-abiding and positive behaviour in and out of school Develop positive relationships and choose not to bully and discriminate Develop self-confidence and successfully deal with significant life changes and challenges Develop enterprising behaviour. Achieve economic well-being Engage in further education, employment or training on leaving school Ready for employment. Live in decent homes and sustainable communities Access to transport and material good Live in households free from low income.

Throughout the Unit children work in a variety of grouping and ways. The Unit challenges children to confront real issues in the world..

Providing opportunities to develop literacy and communication skills to explore historical issues. Providing opportunities for problem solving when exploring historical questions. Developing critical abilities when examining sources such as artefacts, pictures etc.

The children communicate their conclusions in a variety of ways in the unit. Problem solving is central to the activities.

The core of the Unit is to challenge popular concepts of famine.

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 22

IiS, KS2: Dealing with Famine, 23

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