Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Irish Potato Famine

By Susan G Mathis

Ireland’s Great Hunger began in 1845 when a fungus spread throughout Ireland’s massive potato crop, ruining half the nation’s crop that year and almost three-quarters of the crop during the next seven years. The Irish poor, primarily Catholics and tenant farmers, relied on potatoes as their main source of food since the British landlords forced them to grow other crops such as peas and beans and raise livestock including fish and rabbits to export instead of consuming it themselves. 

Losing their primary food source meant that by 1852 about a million people starved to death and another million were forced to immigrate as refugees, most in what was dubbed “famine ships.” These cargo ships, roughly retrofitted to hold as many people as possible in terrible, squalid conditions, were also called “coffin ships” because so many died on the voyage. 

Can you imagine immigrating on a famine ship with six young children ages nine months to thirteen years? It must have been terrifying to say the least. And how did they feel leaving their homeland and moving to the New World? In my debut novel, The Fabric of Hope, I explore those experiences through my character’s eyes—from their decision to leave Ireland, through their voyage on a famine ship, until they settle on the Canadian island of Wolfe Island.  

When Irish immigrants came to the U.S. and Canada, they weren’t looking for a handout. They were looking for hope and a future for them and their children, a topic I cover in depth in my story.

Whether you have an Irish heritage or not, you do have a heritage—traditions, beliefs, and achievements that are a part of your history. Your heritage has laid a foundation for you, whether you are conscious of it or not. Exploring that heritage will enrich your life, if you take the time to do so. It sure did for me.

So Happy St. Patrick’s Day—a little early. If you haven’t had the chance to check out my story, I hope you’ll make it a St. Patrick’s Day gift to yourself. 
What more would you like to know about the Irish Hunger? 

Leave your answer or comments on the post below and join me on March 19th for my next post. 

Check out The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy
The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy is based on my family story—my great great grandmother, Margaret, and loosely based on my personal story as well. It’s a parallel story line so you who enjoy historical fiction and you who enjoy contemporary fiction will enjoy this novel.

An 1850s Irish immigrant and a 21st-century single mother are connected by faith, family, and a quilt. Will they both find hope for the future? After struggling to accept the changes forced upon her, Margaret Hawkins and her family take a perilous journey on an 1851 immigrant ship to the New World, bringing with her an Irish family quilt she is making. A hundred and sixty years later, her great granddaughter, Maggie, searches for the family quilt after her ex pawns it. But on their way to creating a family legacy, will these women find peace with the past and embrace hope for the future, or will they be imprisoned by fear and faithlessness?

About Susan: 
Susan G Mathis is a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Katelyn’s Choice, the first in The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, is available now, and book two, Devyn’s Dilemma, releases in April, 2020. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family LegacyChristmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are available now. Visit for more.

Susan is also a published author of two premarital books with her husband, Dale, two children's picture books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs, enjoys traveling globally with her wonderful husband, Dale. 

Lighthouse Publishing:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your post. I've always been drawn to stories of the Irish, I'm not sure why they fascinate me so. Maeve Binchy was one of my favorite authors. Your book sounds like it would be right up my alley!