The Irish Famine


In the early 1800's, the people of Ireland relied mainly on the potato as a source of food and income. But in 1845, a fungus known as blight destroyed the crop and covered farmlands with black rot. This resulted in an enormous ripple effect of hunger, sickness and death of close to a million people.

Hundreds of thousands of Irish fled to America to escape the horrific conditions; many did not survive the trip. The combination of emigration and disease severely impacted Ireland's population. The 1841 census reported a population of 8.2 million. In 1851, it was only 6.5 million.

The Famine lasted from 1846-1850.

How the Famine affected Irish music

As with any significant disaster, the Irish Famine shaped many aspects of the Irish culture. Music has always been a major part of Ireland's history. During and after the Famine, Irish people poured their emotions into song.
Lyrics to a popular Irish Famine Song


Oh father dear, I oft-times hear you speak of Erin's isle
Her lofty hills, her valleys green, her mountains rude and wild
They say she is a lovely land wherein a saint might dwell
So why did you abandon her, the reason to me tell.
Oh son, I loved my native land with energy and pride
Till a blight came o'er the praties; my sheep, my cattle died
My rent and taxes went unpaid, I could not them redeem
And that's the cruel reason why I left old Skibbereen.

Oh well do I remember that bleak December day
The landlord and the sheriff came to take us all away
They set my roof on fire with their cursed English spleen
I heaved a sigh and bade goodbye to dear old Skibbereen.

Your mother too, God rest her soul, fell on the stony ground
She fainted in her anguish seeing desolation 'round
She never rose but passed away from life to immortal dream
She found a quiet grave, me boy, in dear old Skibbereen.

And you were only two years old and feeble was your frame
I could not leave you with my friends for you bore your father's name
I wrapped you in my cóta mór in the dead of night unseen
I heaved a sigh and bade goodbye to dear old Skibbereen.

Oh father dear, the day will come when in answer to the call
All Irish men of freedom stern will rally one and all
I'll be the man to lead the band beneath the flag of green
And loud and clear we'll raise the cheer, Revenge for Skibbereen!
Listen to the music of Skibbereen

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