“During the 1840’s a new disease was found in the Irish potato crop… By May 1846 the price of potatoes in Carlow had risen to fifteen shillings per barrel. This was about three times the normal rate. The situation continued to worsen rapidly. At the end of 1846 the crop had completely failed and no potatoes were available in the County” – The Famine in Carlow
IT Carlow chaplain, Fr Martin Smith spoke about the profound significance of this famine graveyard, situated in the grounds of the college. He stressed the need to be silent in this sacred place, to become aware of those buried there and to embrace the reality that these were real people, as real as the students who are now attending the college, largely unaware of the extraordinary history associated with the ground on which they tread. Church of Ireland Minister, Reverend Williams lives close to the graveyard and referred to the strong presence that can be felt there. Three to four thousand Famine victims lie buried together in Carlow Town, many of them children. The veil is thin in such places.
“The Poor Relief Extension Act 1847 empowered Guardians to grant relief at their own discretion to the aged and infirm and to widows with two or more dependent children. The Guardians were also empowered to grant food aid to able-bodied persons for limited periods… In Carlow the guardians were firmly against such measures. This attitude gave rise to the overcrowded conditions in Carlow Workhouse from late 1846” – The Famine in Carlow
When the potato blight hit Ireland, only the lumper variety was affected. Over one million men, women and children died because they had been forced to depend on a single crop, the lumper potato, though enough food was being exported out of Ireland to have sustained them. If ignored, such epic human trauma stays trapped within a nation’s soul.
Last February, we gathered again in Carlow Town. Afri partnered with the Carlow Institute of Technology and with Carlow County Council. A pilgrimage was made from the Institute to the cemetery, where a strong spirit was felt and a Famine memorial unveiled. Such healing acts of remembrance let us see more clearly how essential biodiversity is for human survival, that there is still enough to eat in the world and that access to food and water are basic human rights which in solidarity, we must all work to ensure.
Report by Gary White Deer
“Community Pays Tribute to Famine Victims During Walk” in the Carlow People