The Great Potato Famine by Michael and Elisee

At the start of the 19th century the population of Ireland was steadily increasing. Most Irish had a house cow and they made the milk into buttermilk – potatoes and buttermilk became the stable diet. Any other crops or livestock had been sold every year to landlords.

The potato blight was caused by fungus which spreads in the wet weather. Irish families were looking desperately for any potatoes left. Much of the fungus destroyed crops leaving the Irish with a bad supply of food. A lot of Irish people died and winter was a terrible time as fevers and diseases were spreading.

Fresh potatoes by Rasbak [Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0]

Fresh potatoes by Rasbak [Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0]

The potato crop in Ireland was a fail and Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. The London Government’s response was to provide work for the Irishmen. It was meant to give Irish families money to buy food but it was a failure. The men working got paid little and there was not a lot of food left. Families were suffering. The government still failed to provide assistance.

After the disaster in Ireland there was a lot of emigration. A lot of Irish went to Scotland and England to get a new life. Irish men and women had money, food, heating and jobs – life was easier, better and safer in Scotland and England as there were more jobs than Ireland had after the disaster.

History Learning Site,, accessed 6th December 2014

Catastrophes and disasters by Roger Smith (Chambers, 1992)


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