I just posted a new instrumental piece, "If These Walls Could Talk (Famine Walls)" on my Music Page, under the heading 'Celtic Notebook.' I wrote this piece in memory of the victims of the Great Irish Hunger.
The Great Hunger (also known as the Irish Potato Famine) occurred while Ireland was under British control in the years 1845-49.
The British overlords did not believe in freely giving charity to the starving Irish peasantry. Rather, they demanded work in exchange for food. Hence, Ireland is crisscrossed with what are commonly known as 'Famine Walls.'
What is a Famine Wall? It's a wall of piled stones, about as high as a man, frequently built to no purpose other than to make work. For a long day of hard labor carrying and piling rocks, a worker might be given a bowl of soup or a penny.
While I was in Ireland, I saw plenty of Famine Walls. Some of them were built on stark, bare rock inclines--evidence of the utter uselessness of the walls other than to force starving people to labor.
While I was in Ireland, I also passed many former sites of English Manor Houses. I say former because many of them were burned to the ground when the Irish succeeded in finally getting their independence from the British.
Looking at the Famine Walls, I understand the rage that fueled those fires.
In Ireland, by the way, most people refuse to call the Potato Famine a 'famine.' Instead, they call it the 'Great Hunger,' emphasizing that the starvation and death of millions was caused not as much by the natural disaster of the potato blight as by the genocidal policies of the British.
The following was written by W.E. Forster, 1847, County Mayo:
' ….a strange and fearful sight, like what we read of in beleaguered cities, the streets crowded with gaunt wanderers…..walking skeletons, the men stamped with the livid mark of hunger, the children crying in pain, the women in some cabins too weak to stand."