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Famine Death March Remembered

famine walk 2013Last Saturday the people of Co. Mayo in the west of Ireland retraced the dreadful ‘journey of horror’ of March 30th/31st 1849 during the 'Great Potato Famine".

The people of the village of Louisburgh had been told that Colonel Hogrove and Captain Primrose, would arrive in Louisburgh and certify as paupers the people who would gather to meet them, thus entitling them to a small ration of meal each. Several hundred people assembled in Louisburgh but the commissioners failed to appear, having decided to see the people in Delphi Lodge - 1830 home of the Marquis of Sligo - instead. The people set out on their 11 mile walk along the mountain road in the bitter cold. When they finally managed to meet the commissioners they were refused either food or tickets of admission to the workhouse and so they began their weary, dispirited return journey. Many – some say hundreds – died along the way, many of whom were buried where they fell.

On Saturday last, people again assembled in Louisburgh and walked  to Delphi Lodge carrying with them the names of those definitely known to have died on the same route in 1849 and remembering all those who have died in modern famines throughout the world. This time the gates of Delphi Lodge were open in welcome and  symbols of life, a tree and potatoes, were planted.

Michael Wade, Manager of Delphi Lodge Hotel today, said “By opening our gates to the Famine Walk, Delphi Lodge is acknowledging our part in what happened in 1849."

Delphi Lodge
Dephi Lodge Hotel today.


The 'Hungry Forties' fascinate me as much for the way they're memorialised as anything else. Ireland remembers, Scotland remembers but England has written the events out of its history.

Why is this?

Kent and Sussex, two very wealthy counties now and in one of which, the former, I was born and in which I now again live, were in those days, deeply impoverished rural backwaters. Records exist of agricultural workers being found dead by the roadside with nothing but grass in their stomachs or turning up at the workhouses dying of starvation. The Speenhamland system of Poor Relief (the very same as in Ireland) was introduced with the intent of starving the poor into due submission and is the one Dickens damns outright in 'Oliver Twist'. The last armed insurrection in England, the battle of Bossenden Wood, took place during the period. It was fought by desperate, illiterate, starving agricultural workers led by a lunatic.

But look for the history, if you are not a suspicious minded professional historian like my goodself and you will find nothing.

My sect, the Quakers, did their best in both Ireland and England, but it was an almost impossible task to feed such a famished multitude.

Someone somewhere needs to write a complete comparative history of the Hungry Forties filling in the all too many gaps.
What a gift with words you have, God bless you. And also such a grasp of history. I am always amazed by it.

We are not inclined to think of some of the English counties as having had their own times of hardship. I am always taken by the beautiful little clean villages we see on TV.
What a beautiful tribute to a horrible incident.

That doesn't sound right, but I can't think of the exact words and I don't want to forgo commenting at all.
Thank you. Horrible it certainly was. It reduced the population from 8,000,000 to 4,000,000.