The Great Famine of the 1840s has cast a long and dark shadow over Ireland. The immediate impact was the death of over one million people and the emigration of an even higher number. In the longer-term, the Famine changed the cultural, linguistic and psychological development of those who survived, epigenetics suggesting that the trauma was transgenerational and continued for up to five generations. Tragically, much of the suffering and loss was avoidable had the British government and other elite groups responded differently.
This presentation will examine the role played by those who came to the assistance of the Irish poor without reward or recognition and often at great risk to themselves. What was the impact of their actions and what motivated them to become involved? The man who master-minded bringing relief from North America to Ireland after 1846 was Dutch, had no Irish connections, and is largely forgotten today. When asked by a Quaker in Dublin why he was helping people whom he did not know, he responded that it was ‘a labour of love’. His and stories of other forgotten heroes will be explored by Professor Kinealy.
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