It was too terrible to take in.

You looked in horror at the leaves. How could they have turned black overnight? With a deft hand you pulled up the plant, shaking off the soil, revealing blackened potatoes, rotten on the stem. 

There had been warnings against relying on one source of food. When the blight swept into the European mainland, the poor at least had other crops to rely on. But in Ireland what choice did you have? With your tiny plots of land, only potatoes yielded enough to feed your people; harvests had been good and your numbers had risen rapidly, reaching eight million. 

It was 1845 when the blight arrived. You would watch it devastate Ireland. 

For six seasons the potato harvest would fail. Your people had no money to buy the other crops Ireland produced. You would watch grain and cattle being loaded onto ships bound for England while you Irish starved. The British government would hesitate, send in bad grain, then stop aid altogether, not wanting to make you dependent, thinking it better to let matters run their course. 

The potato blight killed more than a million people. Another million boarded ships for better lives, dying in their thousands on the way. 

Irish Potato Famine

Alex Harvie

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