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hungry july in ireland

July was a very difficult month in Ireland during the 1800s and early 1900s. The food supplies from the previous harvest were usually gone or spoiling by July and the new harvest was not yet ready. If a family was lucky enough to have livestock, they could supplement their diets with milk and meat. But Hungry July was especially bitter for those who did not.

July was especially hungry for the poor

Visitors traveling through Ireland in Hungry July record in their diaries stories of beggars approaching them to ask for help. Imagine enjoying a beautiful, sunny ride in your coach and having destitute locals pleading for relief from a “hard, cruel summer’s day.”

hungry july scattered the irish

Hungry July in Ireland was reality even before the especially dark years of the Great Famine, between 1845 and 1852. The Great Potato Famine was caused by a terrible blight that destroyed potatoes throughout Europe. It is responsible for depopulating Ireland by nearly one quarter (2 – 3 million people) between starvation, disease and emigration. Irish people suffered most grievously as they had been marginalized to the point of subsisting on a diet primarily of the potatoes that they could grow themselves. The other crops grown in Ireland were for export only.

the great hunger left its mark

Hungry July in Ireland is still remembered. The traumatic experience of an entire people has entered the folk memory of the nation and people of Irish ancestry around the globe. Memorials such as the Coffin Ship sculpture overlooking Clew Bay near Westport and exhibits in the Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin are just two powerful reminders. May such tragic suppression not be repeated. May Hungry July challenge our conscience, not our well-being.

A partial lunar eclipse captured in North Carolina 

hungry july is no more

If you are fortunate enough to not know Hungry July by personal experience, give some thought to all that you have as you partake of potatoes this summer. And if you stop in The Celtic Ranch, you can find a variety of potato crisps on the pantry shelves of our Cottage Room. Taytos, Walker’s, Guinness and Keogh’s are among the Irish brands of “tatties” that you can enjoy – and be grateful.

Lori McAlister
Wrangler of Cultural Affairs