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Famine Diary Hardcover – December 8, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0716526551 ISBN-10: 0716526557

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

During 1995-1997, the Irish Times commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Irish potato famine by publishing a weekly column called "Famine Diary." In this chilling compilation, we learn that the potato blight traveled from the European continent, where responsible government action kept the death tolls in check. In the Netherlands and Belgium, for example, there were only 108,000 "excess" deaths out of a combined population of 7.3 million. In Ireland, depending on the source, one million to two million people died and another two million emigrated. For in Ireland, writes O Cathaoir, the British government was obsessed "with preventing a dependency mentality emerging" and, instead of relief, offered only "the constant injunction to self-help to the starving." By the autumn of 1845, we learn, "Potatoes are inedible in Wexford, while an 'intolerable stench' is encountered during digging in Mayo." As a toast is drunk to Queen Victoria, a priest declares: "we must depend upon ourselves alone?shin fane" and the slogan of a national movement is born. Evictions are referred to as "extermination[s]" and insurrections are mounted in Limerick to stem the eviction frenzy. O Cathaoir, a journalist at the Irish Times, reminds us of the good works of the Quakers, the dread of the "coffin" ships, scenes of ravenous dogs eating corpses and the "ghastly skeletons" of Black '47, the worst year of the famine. While reading this horrendous history, it is still possible to hear the Gaelic dirge of the poor through the centuries: Ta sinn ocrach?"we are hungry."
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

An unfocused, repetitive account of the horrific Irish Famine (184550) told through newspaper articles, letters, and official documents. In the worst peacetime tragedy of 19th-century Europe, Ireland lost three million people to death and exile. The Great Irish Famine was more than a natural disaster triggered by a blight on the potato cropit constitutes a shocking case study on the failure of British colonialism. The author exhaustively details the devastating impact of the Famine on the everyday lives of Irish families. It's a predictably woeful tale of evictions, hunger, the poorhouse, sickness, exile, and death. Ireland's newspapers, clergymen, and prominent citizens demanded drastic action . The British government, viewing Ireland as a colonial backwater, met the crisis with almost criminal neglect. Britain's official adherence to doctrines of laissez-faire economics worsened the Famine, as did laws preventing Ireland from importing lower-priced foreign grain. The infamous Charles Trevelyan, secretary of the British treasury, summed up Westminster's ``hands off'' attitude: ``It forms no part of the functions of government to provide supplies of food.'' British legislation designed to help the destitute actually encouraged landlords to evict their Irish tenants. The viceroy of Ireland, Lord Clarendon, viewed these evictions and the resulting flood of emigration as a healthy restructuring of the Irish economy: ``Priests and patriots howl over the Exodus,'' wrote Clarendon, ``but the departure of thousands of papist Celts must be a blessing.'' 'Cathaoir, an Irish Times journalist, bases the book on his popular series of weekly newspaper articles. While the diary entries work well individually, the book as a whole is disjointed, shapeless, and repetitive. What's lacking is a consistent narrative focus or larger historical analysis to connect the scores of diary entries into a structural whole. A flawed compilation of individual episodes lacking an authorial point of view or a cohesive narrative focus, it's bound to disappoint the general reader. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Irish Academic Press (December 8, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716526557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716526551
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,666,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Connemara on July 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
A truly heart rending story of a great injustice.

The book is based on a diary kept owned by Gerard Keegan, a schoolteacher and his young wife. Originally from County Sligo, they boarded one of the infamous coffin ships bound for Canada. Keegan was one of the few educated immigrants leaving Ireland and his description of daily life is almost to hard to bear reading about. Filthy unsanitary living conditions, vivid descriptions of the cause of death to those onboard and their burial, little to no decent food, fights aboard ship and other hardships. For those lucky enough to reach Canada, they were still unable to set foot on land for some time, if at all due to illness.

Those who have read about Ireland and the "great troubles" will want to add this book to your collection. For those who are interested in true historical facts in the form of personal diary's but are not familiar with the Irish potato famine, please read this book! You will begin to understand that the Irish suffered from a subtle and sometimes not so subtle form of genocide by England.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nikki on December 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
A MUST Read Even if you don't think you care about the "great potato famine" this book is brutal, stunning, heart-wrenching and real. Thousands of people experienced this horror. The only way to truly learn about history is to read true accounts by people who lived it. I learned more from this one book than in an entire college Semester when I was taught about the "great potato famine" and the so-called "lazy Irish" who starved to death by choice. British Genocide? Read this book and your whole outlook will change.
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Format: Paperback
The wording is very British. Made it a little harder to understand some sentences. All in all is was a good read. I learned a lot from it , Never knew how much my Irish ancestors struggled till now.
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