This special issue of Breac examines “The Great Irish Famine: Global Contexts.” It brings together leading experts in the field with support from the International Network of Irish Famine Studies. The network was established in 2014 with funding from the Dutch research council NWO (project number 236-69-007). The special issue builds on recent studies such as Marguérite Corporaal and Jason King’s Irish Global Migration and Memory: Transnational Perspectives of Ireland’s Famine Exodus…
- Children's Literature
- Contemporary Drama
- Digital Humanities
- Gender, Sexuality, and Intersectionality
- Ireland in Psychoanalysis
- Migration and Diaspora
- Roger Casement
- The Great Irish Famine: Global Contexts
The series of events that played out near Queenston, Niagara, in the spring and summer of 1848 read like a Stephen King novel. On May 18, while playing along the banks of the Niagara River, a group of boys discovered the body of a man who had been bludgeoned to death. The local constabulary later identified the deceased man as Patrick O’Connor, a recent immigrant from Ireland, who, with his wife and son, had gone missing from the Queenston area almost two weeks before. Ten days after the discovery of O’Connor’s corpse, locals discovered the badly decomposed remains of a woman, not far from where the first body had been found. Witnesses described the body as “destitute of clothing” and in “an advanced state of decomposition,” but upon closer investigation the local authorities identified the unfortunate victim as Mary O’Connor, wife of the aforementioned Patrick. Based on the testimony of local Irish settlers and the discovery of a badly injured John O’Connor, six-year-old son of the deceased, Toronto police arrested Thomas Brennan, another Irish immigrant who hailed from the same estate from which the O’Connors had ventured.…
They are crying out at Natal, at the Cape, and at Port Philip for the labour which is useless, redundant and lethargic at Ballina and Glenties. It would be a long delayed mercy to Ireland and the colonies to let them have it.
The Cape Colony, now modern South Africa, did not attract large numbers of emigrants from Ireland during the Famine years, perhaps as few as five thousand people.…
Between 1788 and 1868, one hundred and sixty-one thousand men and women were transported to the Australian colonies; thirty-five percent of them were Irish and more than thirty thousand arrived in New South Wales. At least a third of the Irish convicts left wives and families behind, most with no means of support. A scheme to provide free passages to families of well-behaved transported men brought these abandoned families to the colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land (modern Tasmania), many during the Famine and its aftermath. While these Irish convicts and their families actively negotiated favorable outcomes which fitted into the British and colonial government’s objectives for the developing free settlements, other emigration schemes also brought free passengers to Australia. One assisted immigration scheme particularly relevant to the Famine brought 4,114 single teenage women from workhouses in every county during 1848 to 1850. For Irish people, these emigration schemes were one way that some Famine survivors were able to flee their devastated homeland. This paper examines some of the processes involved in emigration to Australia in the 1840s and the immediate post-Famine years, and provides a few examples of the personal experiences of these people in Australia and Ireland. It also looks at how Ireland and Australia have remembered the Famine and its Pacific exodus well into the twenty-first century.…
“There is a lingering spark of the old feudalism yet left in the people. Try and kindle it up once more into the old healthful glow of love to the landlord.” These lines, written by Mary Martin to her uncle, a notorious absentee landlord, urge Captain Martin to come back to his estate, as the tenants are severely stricken by fever and famine. While set around 1830, Charles Lever’s novel The Martins of Cro’ Martin…
Dear old Killynoogan, thee,
Once so full of life and glee,
Lifeless, desolate, I see!
But, beloved and sacred spot,
Nought of thee shall be forgot,
Till what I am now—is not.
—John Reade, “Killynoogan”
In his poem “Killynoogan,” the Irish-Canadian poet John Reade invokes the idea that memories of life in Ireland are embodied within the people who inhabited the space of Ireland. While this allows for the continuing evocation of his Irish past in his new Canadian homeland, there is also a realization that when Reade dies, his unique and specific memories of Killynoogan, County Derry, will die with him. Like other Irish-Canadian poets of the second half of the nineteenth century, Reade’s fear is that while the space of Ireland will endure into the future, the distinctive culture that existed within that space will begin to fade with the disappearing of bodies from the landscape (especially during and after the Famine). Each Irish individual contains a memory bank of distinctive experiences of Ireland, of its people, and of its society and culture. The death or disappearance of those individuals from the space of Ireland is accompanied by an erasing of a store of memories, unvoiced and unrecorded. It is no surprise, then, that people thrown into great social and political upheaval in the aftermath of the Great Famine would turn to the past for a sense of continuity and cultural pride that would help them face the future with a greater degree of self-worth. The seismic demographic change that occurred in Ireland in the aftermath of the Famine is starkly evident in the census numbers. The census of 1841 put the population of Ireland at 8.1 million. By 1911 the population of Ireland was just 4.2 million; an extraordinary decline at a time when the other nations of the United Kingdom, and indeed other parts of the British Empire, would see a population increase. For the emigrants who found themselves scattered across the globe, the cultural memory of this seismic demographic movement would become central to the creation of a diasporic ethnic identity. In response to such rapid and profound change there was an attempt by many Irish diaspora writers to uncover what was most stable and enduring about Irish identity. Often this search for a sense of endurance across time and space was based on personal memory, such as memory of the Irish countryside, or memory of an Irish childhood. At other times it was based on the collective memory of Irish history or the collective religious desire for a spiritual state unburdened of the temporal experience of pain and hunger.
This article examines theatrical representations of the Great Hunger and Irish Famine migration that were performed during the era of the Celtic Tiger and its collapse. More specifically, I will argue that the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger can be traced through shifting patterns of remembrance and thematic preoccupations in contemporary Irish theater productions about the Great Famine. I want to suggest that characters in these works serve as palimpsestic “figures of memory”…
Perhaps it is an emigrant lament, but in the accumulation of years since I left Ireland, I’ve felt a growing obligation to better understand what it is to be Irish, given that we are remembered in the historical record as victims, as a people of terrible genocide or famine. So, in the summer of 2016, belatedly coming to the tumultuous history of our collective past, I began a month-long, marathon-a-day awareness run retracing the land passage of the roughly one-hundred-thousand immigrants who arrived in Canada during 1847’s sailing season and trekked more than five-hundred miles from Grosse Île to Toronto along the Saint Lawrence River.…
Medbh McGuckian. Blaris Moor. Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest University Press, 2016, 112 pp.
Emma Donoghue. The Wonder. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016, 291 pp.