In 1845, an airborne fungus swept through Ireland and infected the leaves of the potato plants, turning them black and causing them to rot. Due to the moist climate the spores multiplied and spread quickly, and soon all of the crops across the country had failed. Crops continued to fail for the next several years, thrusting Ireland into the worst disastor in its history and cutting its population in half. Many starved to death at home, others emigrated to Great Britian and thousands of truly unfortunate souls were shipped off by greedy landlords on “coffin ships” to North America. At least one in five died of fever or malnutrition en route, according to some accounts.
This bronze coffin ship, located in County Mayo, stands in memorial of those who died on the horrific journey over the Atlantic Ocean in the 1840’s. The History Place gives a complete account of the Famine, and I recommend it as a resource for those who are interested in learning more about that tragic period of Irish history.