Irish famine comedy?

This item was posted by the Irish Medieval History Facebook page – so appalling it’s hard to believe that it could be true.

There was no shortage of food in Ireland in the 1840s and yet 1 million people died and 1 million more were forced to emigrate. The potato crop failed in Scotland at the same time and no one died. The British TV Channel 4 is planning to commission a comedy series set in the middle of that genocide. No doubt they must be considering for their next commission a sitcom set at the time of the holocaust where long forgotten and good old Nazi sense of humour will entertain the masses as millions are put to death all around them.

“A woman with a dead child in her arms was begging in the street yesterday and the Guard of the Mail told me he saw a man and three dead children lying by the roadside…nothing can exceed the deplorable state of this place…On Saturday, notwithstanding all this distress, there was a market plentifully supplied with meat, bread, fish, in short everything.” (Major Parker, Relief Inspector of the Board of Works, December 1846)

“… immense herds of cattle, sheep and hogs … floating off on every tide, out of every one of our thirteen seaports, bound for England; and the landlords were receiving their rents and going to England to spend them; and many hundreds of poor people had laid down and died on the roadsides for want of food.” (John Mitchel)

Disease and death in every quarter – the once hardy population worn away to emaciated skeletons – fever, dropsy, diarrhea, and famine rioting in every filthy hovel, and sweeping away whole families…seventy-five tenants ejected here, and a whole village in the last stage of destitution there…dead bodies of children flung into holes hastily scratched in the earth without shroud or coffin … every field becoming a grave, and the land a wilderness. (The Cork Examiner, December 1846)

The only way to prevent the people from becoming habitually dependent on Government is to bring the food depots to a close. The uncertainty about the new crop only makes it more necessary. (Charles Trevelyan to Sir Randolph Routh, July 1847)

If the people are forced to consume their oats and other grain, where is the rent to come from? (Captain Percival to Charles Trevelyan, Westport, County Mayo, August 1846)

There is no humour in a story of mass starvation other than in the attitudes and clownish actions of the ruling élite. Thus all the laughs will have to be provided by caricatures of Members of the United Kingdom Parliament and their comedic governmental officials. One such clown was Sir Charles Trevelyan who wrote gleefully about God sending the pestilence to aid the final British conquest of Ireland.
The Scottish Highlanders were as equally dependent on potatoes as their Irish counterparts in the 1840s. When the same pestilence hit their staple crop, at the same time as it did in Ireland, the British government managed to feed all the people there and hardly anybody died. Although like in Ireland, 1.7 million people were forced to leave the country. Their actions in Scotland stand in stark contrast to their actions in Ireland which could have been due to their boofinish incompetence which now provides us with great comedy. However, as the evidence and the story of the failure of the staple crop in the Scottish Highlands proves that their motives were indeed sinister and based on the same concept of dehumanisation which led to the holocaust. Even though élitist buffoonery was present in some measure it does not provide mitigation. The élites of that time are indeed worthy of our derision but it can only stoke distress rather than laughter.

The folk at Irish Medieval History thanked Fairlie Gordon from Glasgow for alerting them to the issue and for organising this petition.


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