The blight of Famine

Summer seems to have forgotten to arrive in Ireland this year. Listening to the weather forecast on the radio in Dublin recently, there was a blight warning for potato growers. Spores develop on the leaves, spreading through the crop when temperatures are above 10 °C (50 °F) and humidity is over 75%-80% for 2 days or more. Rain can wash spores into the soil where they infect young tubers. Spores can also travel long distances on the wind. 29th June seems to be considered the time to begin digging the new crop of potatoes.  Well, it was back in the day we grew and eat seasonally.

Any mention of blight reminds me that it was a major culprit in the Great Famine of 1845 in Ireland.

Famine ~  Bronze
Sculptor ~ Row
an Gillespie

On 29th May 1997, this really imposing Famine Monument sculpture was installed at Custom House Quay, on the North banks of The Liffey.

It consists of seven men and women and a dog.  All are obviously marked by starvation. One is carrying another man. The statues are evocative of the wiry artwork of  the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti.

They appear all the more striking placed in front of a whole new Dublin background. The people in this work just slowly move forward, more dead than alive, more ghost than human. At the same level as people passing by, the figures seem to it engender a mood of being far away in a different time and dimension.

Rowan Gillespie has featured in my sculpture series in the past.  He was born in Dublin to Irish parents, but spent his formative years in Cyprus.

His singular and often exhausting modus operandi involves taking the work through from conception to creation, entirely unassisted in his purpose-built bronze casting foundry at Clonlea, in Blackrock. This is one of the things that makes him unique among the bronze casting fraternity ~ Wikipedia

For more of his work check this link.

Alice once asked about the lack of people or traffic in the photos I took, so to prove that I don’t frighten everyone away, here is a photo of the sculpture with people about:

18 thoughts on “The blight of Famine

  1. Delirious

    Almost every time I eat a potato, I think of the man who gave his family the flesh of the potatoes to eat, and he just ate the skins. He didn’t know that there was more nourishment in the skin, than in the flesh. His family died, and he alone survived. A very sad time! My heart goes out to them.

  2. Grannymar Post author

    BWT – Yes, there are far too many people with empty tummies and plates in our world. Thankfully I didn’t scare you off…. I was on my best behaviour that week!

    Tinman – I have only been close to them once, I imagine each time you study them, that you find something new. I found all those embedded plaques scattered throughout the work with family names on, quite moving.

    Delores – 1845 is not all that long ago. It was the year my paternal grandfather was born. Ireland was not alone in Europe to suffer potato famine, but the effect was greater. 1million Irish people died and another million emigrated – mainly to the US. It is no wonder that every second person on your side of the pond, claims to be of Irish decent.

  3. Rummuser

    There are desperately poor people here but unless nature plays truant, there is no famine otherwise. There are a lot of initiatives to remove that utter hopelessness but it is painfully slow to show results.

    These sculptures are poignant/

  4. The Old Fossil

    We are like Tilly over here across the pond. Well, I mean you could tell use apart. But I think my Irish ancestry shows the migration to America due to the potato famine. Famine is a horrific thing!

  5. Grannymar Post author

    Ramana – There are several famine sculptures dotted around the coast of Ireland. The people in this group are so heart wrenching, you can almost feel the drag of feet and the ache of starvation in the pit of their bellies. I still find it difficult when I see people pile up their plates, only to leave half of the food behind them.

    Fos – Those who managed to reach the shores of America, faced difficult years before their lives settled down.

  6. Alice

    I’m glad you’re able to get them without real people about. I remember the fluke of our finding Molly Malone without people closeby. Getting up and about and posting early does increase the odds…I’ll remember that next time I’m on a photographing jaunt.

  7. Grannymar Post author

    Alice – I have never been to see Molly Malone without a audience sitting beside or touching her. You were fortunate indeed. Early morning, especially on a Sunday, is my favourite time with the camera. Posting at 6am on the dot usually means I have scheduled the post, in this case it was four days earlier!

  8. shackman

    Interesting – I never considered the famine as the reason my Irish ancestors ended up in New Mexico. That certainly bears investigation. Great scupltures – memories of a time that should not be forgotten. You have a great eye for this stuff GM.

  9. Grannymar Post author

    shackman – Maybe we are cousins! Don’t tell Conrad or he will be jealous. 😉

  10. Grannymar Post author

    Fos – Does that mean you are good for a loan so? This poor ould widda woman has a hole in her hat! 😉

  11. shackman

    Now FOS I’m sure you hit me up when I was a wee lad in Pueblo – and with compound interest and all these years I can probably retire!

  12. The Old Fossil

    GM, you can get your money from what shackman owes me. And, shackman, I can put the lie to your claim immediately. You were a lad, sure – but you’ve never been wee!

  13. Grannymar Post author

    Now listen up cuzzins… roll those sleeves down and no fighting on my patch! 😉


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