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In Ireland, the Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852. It is also known, mostly outside Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine. In the Irish language it is called an Gorta Mór, meaning "the Great Hunger" or an Drochshaol ( meaning "the bad life").

During the famine approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island's population to fall by between 20% and 25%. The proximate cause of famine was a potato disease commonly known as potato blight Although blight ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s, the impact and human cost in Ireland – where one-third of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food – was exacerbated by a host of political, social and economic factors which remain the subject of historical debate.

The famine was a watershed in the history of Ireland. Its effects permanently changed the island's demographic, political and cultural landscape. For both the native Irish and those in the resulting diaspora, the famine entered folk memory and became a rallying point for various nationalist movements as the whole island was then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Modern historians regard it as a dividing line in the Irish historical narrative, referring to the preceding period of Irish history as "pre-Famine".

This image is of a sculpture entitled ‘Famine’ by Roman Gilespie, unveiled by her Excellency President Mary Robinson, commissioned and donated to the people of Ireland by Norma Smurfit on the 27 May 1997. It is located on Custom House Quay in Dublin, close to the Custom House, a place of embarkation for many of the millions who emigrated throughout that tragic period, many of whom died on the overcrowded ‘coffin ships’, never to return to the land of their birth.

In June 2007, a series of statues by Gillespie was unveiled by President Mary McAleese on the quayside in Toronto's Ireland Park. The work commemorates the arrival of refugees from the Great Famine. The Hamilton Spectator described the work as follows:

"The early immigrants are now honored at the Toronto waterfront park by five haunting bronze statues created by Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie. One figure depicts a man lying on the ground, emaciated; another shows a pregnant woman clutching her bulging stomach, while behind her a meek child stands wide-eyed. One frail figure is bent over with hands clasped in prayer, contrasted by a man whose arms are extended to the sky in salvation."

Most people who stand amid these works for the first time are moved to tears, I certainly was.

Weary men, what reap ye? Golden corn for the stranger.
What sow ye? Human corpses that wait for the avenger.
Fainting forms, Hunger-stricken, what see you in the offing
Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger's scoffing.
There's a proud array of soldiers—what do they round your door?
They guard our master's granaries from the thin hands of the poor.
Pale mothers, wherefore weeping? 'Would to God that we were dead—
Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread.
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Comments on this photo:

Nov 15 2012 12:25 GMT happysnaper
Nice image Peter.
Nov 15 2012 13:12 GMT hallo
Now I know why so many Irish left this beautiful country to live abroad. Thanks for sharing this information Peter, though it's very sad!
Nov 15 2012 14:23 GMT Annamaria
The statues are a good tribute to that awfull period, peter! Heartbreaking story! So sad.... thank you for the information....
Nov 15 2012 14:51 GMT 25barb
You have certianly given so much history of the Great Famine. I find that your words and poetry so sensitive and so touching. And your photo so wonderfully captured.
I know, I too would have been brought to tears and the vision would be concretely imbedded into my memory forever. The Irish are a proud and strong people. They have met the challenge of the past and have succeeded.
Nov 15 2012 15:17 GMT wijnie58
I agree with Annamaria, Peter....Beautiful picture..:-))
Nov 15 2012 15:59 GMT mcdonegal1 PRO
Superb choice Peter for landmarkfriday2.
Nov 15 2012 18:06 GMT Foggydew
beautifully portrayed!
Nov 15 2012 19:20 GMT rob22stan
What a wonderful description, image and above all piece of sculpture. Wonderful entry excellently photographed.
Nov 15 2012 21:39 GMT jomoud PRO
A terrific landmark contribution Peter.
Although I was familiar with the Irish famine history, your extensive information highlighted it further for me.
I have seen the statues in Toronto:)
Your photo is a great addition to this week's theme.
Have a wonderful happy weekend.
Nov 15 2012 23:05 GMT ForestSpirit PRO
This is the most powerful sculpture I've ever seen. It fully brings home the sheer horror of the Great Famine, and just looking at your photo brings tears to my eyes.
Nov 16 2012 07:29 GMT saffi9
must have been terrible great capture of wonderful sculptures
Nov 16 2012 09:06 GMT MargNZ
A very emotional and thought provoking image Peter . Wonderful landmark entry .
Nov 16 2012 18:28 GMT sini
Interesting entry!:)
Nov 17 2012 11:19 GMT sheasoru68
Well done Peter,...it is never nice to be reminded, but it is important never to forget.
We are here because some of our ancestors survived this awful period, for that I am grateful for the luxuries that I am afforded today.
The real sadness is that famine, starvation, and greed still remain in the world today, on a massive, and disgraceful scale.
Nov 17 2012 12:48 GMT abojovna PRO
As Joe says!
Nov 17 2012 13:06 GMT Pea2007
Nov 17 2012 14:32 GMT elsje323
interesting entry
Nov 18 2012 15:14 GMT Cronos1
Strong and very impressive photo !
Nov 18 2012 18:19 GMT julie13
Powerful work, really informative and so sad.
Nov 28 2012 15:51 GMT GeoffReeves
Interesting narrative...