Friday, September 5, 2014

Famine

Celia Griffin Memorial Park
Galway, Ireland
Having some extra time in Galway has allowed me to explore the city at a little different level. Galway is bright and vibrant and full of beauty. It also has a darker side in its history. While walking the Prom yesterday, I came to this memorial to Celia Griffin, a six year old child who died of starvation during the Great Famine. The Irish potato famine (1845-1852) was a tragic and complicated chapter in Irish history. Whatever its causes, it is thought that over 1 million people died as a result of it, and a sharp increase in emigration ensued. In one year alone over 250,000 people emigrated with a large percentage of those coming from western Ireland.

If you zoom in on the monument, you will see that it is a newspaper re-print of the official inquest report of Celia Griffin's death. She and her family had come into Galway seeking charitable relief from their starving condition. While Celia and her sister did receive one hot meal a day, it was not enough to improve her already extreme condition and she died. The park was established to honor all the Irish children who succumbed during this tragic time.

As you walk closer to the bay, there is another memorial which commemorates the ships which took the Irish away from their homeland. Sailing out of Galway Bay, many came to America. Settling in Boston, New York and Philadelphia the Irish emigrants hoped to find a life free from starvation. The potato blight, governmental inefficiency and a general lack of concern about the Irish plight changed the landscape of Galway and the rest of Ireland for generations to come.

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