Illuminated on the interior tunnel and exterior walls of the Irish Hunger Memorial in Manhattan are a multitude of quotes and excerpts pertaining to the Great Famine which haunted Ireland between 1845 and 1852. During this famine, approximately one million people died and another million emigrated from Ireland, thus reducing the country’s population by 20 – 25%. The quotes and excerpts portray the grief and horror that Irish suffered during this sweeping famine, and are glimpse into the suffering that millions of people presently endure for want of food. (If you want to read an amazing novel on the Irish Famine, I would highly recommend Famine, by Liam O’Flaherty.)
Here are some of the quotes, mostly written by Irishmen, who comprise a disproportionately high number of incredible writers:
In a country that is called civilized, under the protection of the mightiest monarchy upon the Earth, and almost within a day’s communication of the capital of the greatest empire in the world, thousands of our fellow creatures are each day dying of starvation, and the wasted corpses of many left unburied in their miserable hovels, to be devoured by the hungry swine, or to escape this profanation, only to diffuse among the living the malaria of pestilence and death.
-Isaac Butt, The Famine in the Land, Dublin University Magazine, 1847
Fever and dysentery and dropsy have already recommended the work of death, and the solemn and sober conviction on my on my mind is that unless prompt and adequate means are adopted to arrest this terrible calamity not hundreds, not thousands, but the great population will be swept, as with the besom of destruction, off the face of this land.
-Samuel Stock, Rector of Kilcommon, To Prime Minister John Russel, 1847
Eviction notice and evictions [1846 – 1854]: 188,346 families, approximately 974,930 persons.
-Tim O’Neil, Famine Evictions, 2000
In some cases, it is well known, when all other members of a family have perished, the last survivor has earthed up the door of his miserable cabin to prevent the ingress of pigs and dogs, and then laid himself down to die in this fearful family vault.
-James Hack Tuke, A Visit to the Connaught in the Autumn of 1847
A brooding stillness, too, lay over all nature. Cheefulness had disappeared, even the groves and hedges were silent, for the very birds had ceased to sing, and the earth seemed as if it mourned for the approaching calamity, as well as for that which had been already felt.
-William Carleton, The Black Prophet, 1847
The habit of pilfering potatoes and cabbage, and even plucking wool from the backs of the sheep in the fields, is common, but it is induced by destitution; a constant struggle is proceeding between humanity on one side and hunger and nakedness on the other.
-Father Lyons, Parish Priest, Kimore Eris, Co. Mayo 1835
God shares with the person who is generous.
The land in Ireland is infinitely more peopled than in England; and to give full effect to the national resources of the country, a great part of the population should be swept from the soil.
-Thomas Malthus, An Essay of the Principle of Population, 1798
Here I found a company of would-be intelligent Irish and English aristocrats who were professed enemies of the poor Irish, calling them a company of low, vulgar, lazy wretches who prefer beggary to work, and filth to cleanliness…it is an established law of our nature to hate those we oppress.
Asenath Nicholson, Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger, 1847
1996: More than 25% of the world population lives in poverty. 1.3 Billion live on less than $1 per day. 160 million children are moderately or severely malnourished.
-UNDP Report, 1997
The Irish Famine, a litany of death, suffering and emigration, left an indelible mark on our psychological landscape. It resonates profoundly in Ireland and the throughout the global Irish family. Famine has long ceased to haunt Irish homes, but for millions of our fellow human beings, its deadly march continues. In commentating victims of the Irish Famine, we must renew our pledge to feed the hungry and to end the scourge of famine and poverty worldwide. We all live in each other’s shadows.
-Mary McAleese, President of Ireland
*I did not transcribe the quotes on the exterior walls, but will send Divided Core’s brightest and most peripatetic contributor back to NYC for this purpose next March.