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I need some help from Irish Tornsibs please

Tol Eressea

Jan 8 2018, 3:47am

Post #1 of 6 (403 views)
I need some help from Irish Tornsibs please Can't Post

Hello all!

I'm writing a novel about a character who experiences the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852 who subsequently immigrates to America. Book 1 of the 4 part series focuses on her life pre-immigration, with the subsequent 3 books chronicling her new life in America. I've read so much about the Famine that I think I can recite much of it in my sleep by now, and do wish to get at least geographical info correct if possible.

However, there's one bit I can't seem to locate for some reason.

Does anyone know where in the country the Famine was first noticed at harvest in 1845 (and was harvest time for potatoes in September or October? Here in Idaho the potato harvest is typically in September but I also know we're mountainous continental climate, not maritime, and might have a shorter growing season than Ireland. I harvested the potatoes out of my garden in September last year). My character lives just outside of Delgany, off the 11 road (I think it's the 11? My map is not up at the moment) on Blackberry Lane. So her father would have heard news from either Delgany or Bray (whichever had a newspaper at the time, as he would have heard it in town from others). But where the blight starts is quite crucial for this scene, because I need to have an idea of how long it took for the infection to reach their area.

If any Tornsibs who are Irish can help out (or anyone else who is familiar with this point in Irish history) I would be VERY grateful! I have never been overseas, unfortunately, due to funds (or rather, lack thereof. I don't even have a passport because what's the point if I can't afford the travel), but American history and history of the immigrants who helped shape America is fascinating to me. I am incredibly educated in 19th century American history (I've been researching and studying it for probably 20 years now, ever since I first read Little House on the Prairie in school and grew to love history), but European history (and Irish in particular) is a little bit less known to me :(

I do want to be as accurate as possible on time frames and geographical locations, just to maintain a semblance of authenticity within my story (even if it is a fictional novel). As a historical fiction writer, I tend to base my stories around real historical events, and though some elements will be fictionalized for the sake of the story, I at least want the skeleton of the story to be rooted in real historical facts.

Any help you all can provide will be greatly welcomed! Smile

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Jan 8 2018, 6:23pm

Post #2 of 6 (356 views)
Here's a quick clue [In reply to] Can't Post

Sept The blight was reported in Ireland at the beginning of this month.

On the 16th, Dr Lindley stated that the 'potato murrain has unequivocally declared itself in Ireland'. He asked 'where will Ireland be in the event of a universal potato rot?'

Oct Around 50% of the crop was estimated destroyed. Robert Peel privately acknowledged that Ireland was on the brink of disaster, and that a report by the Scientific Commissioners was 'very alarming'. However, he also said that 'there is a such a tendency to exaggeration and inaccuracy in Irish reports that delay in acting upon them is always desirable.'

From Irishhistorian.com site's Timeline for 1845

Although I suspect there are even more detailed timelines giving details of which districts reported the blight when, my impression is that the blight, being an airborne fungus that had blown across all of Europe throughout the growing season, was not something that "started" at the harvest time in a single place, and then spread and "reached" other places in the manner of an epidemic or plague. Harvesters across Ireland dug down for their potatoes when it seemed time to do so, and as often as not found blackened gooey messes instead of tubers: the disease had been working on the crop for weeks, under the soil.

Not sure if I'm completely right, but that's my impression from what I've read. Good luck with the story in any case!

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Jan 8 2018, 6:57pm

Post #3 of 6 (360 views)
Ideas [In reply to] Can't Post

It sounds like an interesting book! From what I remember from school it was during the 1845 September harvest when all across Ireland the leaves on the potato plants turned black, then the following harvest brought disaster as it had been thought that the new harvest would have been ok. It wasn’t as we know and the famine took hold with a vengeance. I’m not sure where it was first noticed but I remember one of the worst places to begin with was in Co.Cork in Skibbereen, the West was also hit badly at first too, that was the inspiration for the song Fields of Athenry based in Co. Galway - Trevelyan‘s corn, the corn distributed/sold but nowhere nearly enough to prevent deaths from famine and which introduced scurvy as well to the suffering people as unlike the potato it was low in vitamins (also known as Peel’s brimstone) being stolen by Michael who was then sentenced to deportation to Australia -mind you, the famine spread fairly rapidly after that. Hope that helps you!

(It’s now thought that the particular blight that caused the famine in Ireland began in South America, spread to America, Europe and then Ireland, it appeared in England as well I think that was in 1846).

(This post was edited by Ciars on Jan 8 2018, 7:01pm)

Grey Havens

Jan 8 2018, 10:46pm

Post #4 of 6 (321 views)
OT ideas [In reply to] Can't Post

My late husband's forebear, Patrick Ivory, was a famine immigrant in 1846. He sailed from Cork and we found his name on a passenger list from a contemporary record. We verified his arrival in northwest Ohio by reading a (microfilm) notice in a local paper of letters waiting at general delivery.
When looking for the marriage record to his fiancee I couldn't locate it in what seemed the appropriate parish and county; it turned out that Patrick lived near the county line and crossed it in order to go to an Irish parish rather than a German one.

"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."

Tol Eressea

Jan 9 2018, 2:48pm

Post #5 of 6 (294 views)
Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

I had planned on my character's father's farm to have been largely lucky the first year, but each subsequent year more and more of it was affected until they had no choice but to emigrate.

That helps immensely! Smile

And to all others who replied, thank you as well!!!! Sometimes when the interwebs fail to sift it down for you, 'tis best to ask those who are nearer to the information you need Smile

My Middle-earth fan fictions:


My author website:



Jan 9 2018, 11:28pm

Post #6 of 6 (277 views)
I'm surprised [In reply to] Can't Post

I've never heard this detailed story as my Mom's family came over by boat from County Cork Ireland at the time of the famine. There's still family living there in the thatch-roof cottage.

Thank you for this :D

ps And yes... I LOVE taters!


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