The Great Famine

In today's history lesson, we learnt about a really difficult period in Irish history and an event that transformed Ireland.

It is also one of the reasons why the new President of America, Joe Biden, says he is Irish.

The great Famine or Gorta Mór is the name given to the Famine in Ireland between 1845 and 1852.

The Famine was caused by "the potato blight", a fungus-like organism which quickly destroyed the potatoes in Ireland, and throughout Europe.

Over one million people died and another million left the country as refugees in attempt to find a better life.

These people were escaping Ireland to find safety in countries such as Great Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States. This journey was very dangerous and many died on the journey, which is why some of the ships became known as Coffin Ships.

You can download the activity sheet here!

Agus as Gaeilge ANSEO!

There are many ways to remember the great Famine and one of the most powerful ways is through art. Múinteoir Clíona showed us how to make a beautiful tribute to the ships that brought Irish people to their new lives away from Ireland.

What you will need: Blank paper, colouring materials such as paint, markers or crayons. A black piece of card or paper, some glue and a scissors.

Step One
Take a blank page and divided it in half by drawing a line down the middle. On the top half, paint or colour in a lovely sunrise or sunset. On the bottom half, create the sea. If you using paint, let it dry.

Step Two
Cut out the shape of a ship and a face from the black card.It doesn't have to be black, you can colour in a blank piece of paper with any colour you like but a dark colour like black works best!

Step Three

After you cut out your shapes, glue them to the paper. Make sure it is dry if using paint. You can add your own shapes if you like, what about some nice birds in the sky?

Now it is time to write the words from the song, Trasna na Ttonnta, around the border.

Trasna na Ttonnta

Irish version

Trasna na dtonnta, dul siar, dul siar,
Slán leis an uaigneas 'is slán leis an gcian;
Geal é mo chroí, agus geal í an ghrian,
Geal bheith ag filleadh go hÉirinn!

Chonaic mo dhóthain de Thíortha i gcéin,
Ór agus airgead, saibhreas an tsaoil,
Éiríonn an croí ‘nam le breacadh gach lae
‘S mé druidim le dúthaigh mo mhuintir!

Ar mo thriall siar ó éirigh mo chroí
An aimsir go hálainn is tonnta deas réidh
Stiúradh go díreach go dúthaigh mo chliabh
‘S bheidh mé in Éirinn amárach!

Muintir an Iarthair ‘siad cairde mo chroí,
Fáilte ‘is féile bheidh romham ar gach taobh.
Ar fhágaint an tsaoil seo, sé ghuidhim ar an Rí
Gur leosan a shinfear i gcill mé.

English version

Over the waves, going west, going west!
Good-bye to loneliness and to the distant remoteness;
Bright is my heart and bright is the sun,
Happy to be returning to Ireland!

I saw my fill of countries abroad,
Gold and silver, the wealth of the world,
My heart rises in me with the break of each day,
As I draw closer to the land of my people!

On my journey - oh! my heart rises!
The weather is beautiful and the waves are settled
Steering directly to land of my bosom
And I'll be in Ireland tomorrow!

People of the West, they're the friends of my heart,
Welcome and celebration awaits me on every side.
Leaving this life I pray to the Lord
That it's with them I'll be stretched in the graveyard!

The lasting impact of the great Famine

Did you know the new President of America has relatives from Co Mayo?

One of those who left Ireland during the great Famine was Edward Blewitt from Ballina, Co Mayo. He left Ireland in 1850 to take the perilous voyage across the Atlantic sea to America.

And do you know who Edward Blewitt's great-great-great grandson is? The new President of America, Joe Biden!

So even though the great Famine happened 170 years ago, it is something we should never forget and we can still see the effect of it today.

Laurita Blewitt, a cousin of US Presidential candidate Joe Biden, poses with a giant painting of him erected in his ancestral home of Ballina, Co Mayo in October 2020.