The Sunday Magazine

The Great Hunger

As a back-drop to next week's program about the 1916 Easter Rising, historian Mary Daly explains the devastating toll of the Irish potato famine in the 1840s.
Memorial in Dublin to the victims of the Great Potato Famine. (Chris Wodskou)
Hundreds of years of British colonial rule led to Irish independence movements, failed rebellions and bitter resentment of the British. But one historical episode that forms part of the backdrop to the Easter Rising is very much connected to Canada. Millions of Irish Catholics - already impoverished and suffering discrimination under British domination -  faced starvation when the potato crop failed in the 1840s. Many of them came to Canada.
A full-scale replica of the Jeanie Johnston, that was one of many so-called "coffin ships", carrying starving, desperate people from Ireland to North America. (Chris Wodskou)

As a set-up for next week's program about the 1916 Easter Rising, historian Mary Daly explains the devastating toll and far-reaching consequences of the Irish potato famine. At the time of the famine, the population of Ireland was about 8.5 million. Over about 2 years, a million died and a million fled. Michael talks to Professor Daly on board the Jeanie Johnston, a replica of one of the "coffin ships" that brought tens of thousands of starving Irish people to Canada.



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