Tag Archives: Great Famine

Blogiversary: Six years, and a summer break

July marks the blog’s sixth anniversary.

Before publishing my next post, which will be my 600th, I want to thank my readers for their support. I appreciate those who subscribe to the blog via email, share the posts on social media, or just drop by from time-to-time. Special thanks to Angie Drobnic Holan, my lovely wife, who contributes to the effort as volunteer editor and webmaster.

The Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited project, which dominated my work the first half of this year with over 40 posts, was well received. January through June traffic on the site was 70 percent of the 2017 full-year total.

Over the next two months, I’ll be posting less frequently in order to enjoy the summer and work on several long-term projects. The latter includes:

  • Preparing for a 15 September presentation at the Irish Railroad Workers Museum, in Baltimore, based on my Prologue magazine story, Ireland’s Famine Children ‘Born at Sea’.
  • Additional research and editing of the Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited, project for an e-book version.
  • Planning for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in November, and the following Irish War of Independence centenaries. I will attend the Newspaper & Periodical History Forum of Ireland‘s 10th Anniversary Conference, 9-10 November, in Galway. It will explore the 1918 British elections under the theme “The Press and the Vote”.

I will post a few history stories on the blog over the summer, including a new serialized version of my “Nora’s Sorrow” project, and keep up with contemporary events, such as Brexit and Pope Francis’ August visit to Ireland.

For now, however, thanks again for all of your support since 2012. Keep coming back!

Vintage presses displayed at the National Print Museum in Dublin, February 2018.

Ireland’s Famine Children “Born at Sea”

An 1868 illustration by Henry Doyle.

Anne Kerny wailed and moaned as the Garrick sailed to America during the worst winter of Ireland’s Great Famine. Somewhere in the Atlantic, before the ship reached New York City on January 20, 1848, the cries of the baby she delivered also filled the steerage compartment.

Bridget Kerny was not the only newborn of the 40-day journey from Liverpool. The Garrick was nearly a nursery, with 33 children born at sea among the 478 aboard, according to the Famine Irish Passenger Record Data File held at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Two of the babies died before the ship nudged the dock.

The online database shows 8,075 births at sea among more than 410,000 Irish passengers to arrive in New York from January 1846 through December 1851, the teeth of the Famine years. Of these newborns, 452 died, among 2,883 total reported fatalities. That’s a nearly three-to-one ratio of births-to-deaths, and an extra 7,623 passengers who did not embark from Irish or English ports.

Read the rest of this story, which I just published in Prologue Magazine, the official publication of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

An Irish shrine in the heart of Baltimore

The Irish Railroad Workers Museum and Shrine at 918 Lemon St. in Baltimore.

I visited The Irish Railroad Workers Museum and Shrine at the edge of downtown Baltimore.

The museum is dedicated to the tens of thousands of Irish who began immigrating to the city during the Great Famine and continued to the middle of the 20th century. Many worked at the nearby Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

The museum is contained within two row houses typical of the West Baltimore neighborhood of the period. There is a nice introductory video narrated by Martin O’Malley, former Baltimore mayor (1999-2007) and Maryland governor (2007-2015) in the museum welcome center, which also contains artifacts from the nearby St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church (now a Baptist worship space) and B&O rail yards. The adjoining house is restored as a typical workers’s home of the period.

The Memorial Garden in the rear features the shrine mural by artist Wayne Nield. The image depicts three phases of the Irish experience: the famine of the 1840s (right), the treacherous voyage across the Atlantic (center) and the new life in America (left), where the predominantly rural immigrants remade themselves as city dwellers.

Museum Board Member Barry Larkin and Managing Director Luke McCusker were very friendly and informative during my visit. I hope to return soon.

The shrine mural by Wayne Nield.

Northern Ireland hosts first Famine Commemoration

Today (26 September) the National Famine Commemoration is being held for the first time in Northern Ireland, in Newry, County Down.

In recognition of the fact that the Great Famine affected all parts of the island of Ireland, the location of the annual commemoration has rotated in sequence between the four provinces since 2008. The 2011 event was in Clones, County Monaghan, an Ulster county in the Republic of Ireland.

“The annual Famine Commemoration is a solemn tribute to those who suffered in the most appalling circumstances that prevailed during the Great Famine,” Irish Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys said in a release earlier this year. “While the scale of suffering was greater in some parts of Ireland than in others, all parts of the island suffered great loss of life and the destruction of families and communities through emigration.”

The BBC has a nice package of stories and info-graphs about the commemoration and the impact of the famine in Ulster/Northern Ireland.

Coinciding with this year’s commemoration is the release of the first paperback edition of “Commemorating the Irish Famine: Memory and Monument,” by Emily Mark-Fitzgerald. The 2013 book explores more than 100 monuments around the world that recognize the events of 1845-1852.

Here’s a look at three memorials in Northern Ireland. Here’s one in Philadelphia, which I hope to visit next week during a business trip.