John Kelly The Graves are Walking

ISBN 13: 9780571284429

The Graves are Walking

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9780571284429: The Graves are Walking

It started in 1845 and lasted six years. Before it was over, more than one million men, women, and children starved to death and another million fled the country. Measured in terms of mortality, the Great Irish Potato Famine was one of the worst disasters in the nineteenth century-it claimed twice as many lives as the American Civil War. A perfect storm of bacterial infection, political greed, and religious intolerance sparked this catastrophe. But even more extraordinary than its scope were its political underpinnings, and The Graves Are Walking provides fresh material and analysis on the role that nineteenth-century evangelical Protestantism played in shaping British policies and on Britain's attempt to use the famine to reshape Irish society and character.Perhaps most important, this is ultimately a story of triumph over perceived destiny: for fifty million Americans of Irish heritage, the saga of a broken people fleeing crushing starvation and remaking themselves in a new land is an inspiring story of exoneration.Based on extensive research and written with novelistic flair, The Graves Are Walking draws a portrait that is both intimate and panoramic, that captures the drama of individual lives caught up in an unimaginable tragedy, while imparting a new understanding of the famine's causes and consequences.

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About the Author:

John Kelly is an independent scholar and the author or coauthor of several books, including The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, For Better or for Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, and Three on the Edge: The Stories of Ordinary American Families in Search of a Medical Miracle.

Gerard Doyle records everything from adult, young adult, and children's books to literary fiction, mysteries, humor, adventure, and fantasy. He has won countless AudioFile Earphones Awards and was named a Best Voice in Young Adult Fiction in 2008.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER ONE

The Savage Shore: Three Englishmen in Ireland

Late on a September afternoon in 1845, when the sky was low and the wind close, a horseman with a rooster’s plume of red hair and an indefinable air of Englishness about him stood on a road in Donegal, surveying the empty landscape. Near Lough Derg, the rider had passed two dirty peasant children selling “rudely carved wooden crucifixes” and a peeling window poster proclaiming “the Sacred beauty of Jesus,” and near Ballyshannon, a knot of half clad, shoeless peasant women lifting panniers of turf onto the back of an ancient ass. Then, the wind died, the ubiquitous castle ruins—palimpsests of conquest and loss—vanished from the landscape and the rider passed from human to geological time. Savage rock and cold mountain surrounded him now, and the only sound to be heard in the perfect stillness of the afternoon was the gravel crunching under the weight of his horse.

Out over the Atlantic, silos of angry black storm clouds were billowing skyward over a white-capped sea. By the time the rider arrived in Gweedore, it would be raining again. Even for Ireland, the weather had been unusually mutinous of late. “Heat, rain, cold and sunshine succeed each other at a confusing rate,” the Dublin Evening Post had complained the other day. “Monday last was extremely wet, Tuesday was beautifully dry; yesterday ... both wet and dry, and to-day again is equally variable.” During harvest season, the weather was always a major preoccupation in Ireland, but this season the news from Europe had made the preoccupation all-consuming. In June, a mysterious potato disease had appeared in Flanders; by the end of July, scarcely a sound potato was left between Silesia and Normandy; then, in early August, the Channel Islands and England were infected. Now there were rumors that the disease had appeared here.

In a country where two thirds of the population lived by the aphorism

Potatoes in the morning

Potatoes at night

And if I got up at midnight

It would still be potatoes.

the appearance of the new disease could be catastrophic. The rider was unworried, though. In Dungloe, he had passed fields “heavy” with healthy-looking potatoes, and last week, in County Fermanagh, the “luxuriant” potato fields had stretched all the way to the horizon. The Irish were an excitable people. The news from Europe, and the weather, had them on edge.

• • •

Mr. Thomas Campbell Foster’s journey to Ireland had begun with a summons. Earlier in the year, he had been called to Printing House Square, home of his former employer, The Times of London, and offered a challenging assignment. In the forty-four years since the formation of the Anglo-Irish Union, Britain had grown steadily wealthier and mightier, while her partner, Ireland, had grown steadily poorer and more disorderly. The editors of The Times wanted Mr. Thomas Campbell Foster to cross the Irish Sea and answer a question that had eluded the best efforts of one hundred and fourteen government commissions, sixty-one special committees, and fifty years of study by almost every leading political economist of the age:

Why was Ireland collapsing?

It was now several months later, and as Mr. Foster made his way northwest to Donegal, he found himself thinking what a sad, poor country Ireland was. Every road crowded with paupers entombed in rags and filth; every field crowded with slatternly little farms, undrained bogs, roofless barns, broken fences, and mud cabins that defied every architectural principle Mr. Foster was aware of: smoke poured out through a hole in the front of the cabin where the door ought to be, rain poured in through the roof, and wind whistled through cracks in the mud walls. In front of almost every dwelling sat a pig in a puddle and a pile of dung, and behind many dwellings, a line of somber, untreed hills. The Irish hill was one of the most forlorn things Mr. Foster had ever seen.

• • •

In the 1830s and early 1840s, Ireland occupied the same place in the western mind that Haiti, the Congo, and Somalia occupy today. The very long parade of Irish experts that Mr. Foster joined the morning he accepted the Times assignment included not only government commissioners, members of Parliament, and political economists, but also some of the most famously enlightened personalities of the Victorian age, among them Alexis de Tocqueville, Sir Walter Scott, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, Thomas Carlyle, and the well-known German travel writer Johann Kohl. On visits to Ireland, the celebrity experts would poke and probe every facet of the Irish economy, the Irish mind, the Irish family, the Irish work ethic, the Irish agricultural system, the Irish procreation rate, then return home in despair and write a book explaining why Ireland was the worst place in the world. “I used to pity the poor Letts of Livonia,” declared the German Kohl. “Well, pardon my ignorance, now, I have seen Ireland.” The Scot Carlyle came back to London proclaiming that he had seen hell: “The earth disowns it. Heaven is against it. Ireland should be burnt into a black unpeopled field rather than this should last.”

Most contemporary analysis of Irish poverty began with Irish demography. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, population growth accelerated everywhere in Europe but nowhere so sharply as in Ireland. Between about 1745 and 1800, the population doubled, from two and a half million to five million; then, between 1800 and 1845, it almost doubled again, from five million to nearly 8.2 million. During the French Wars—1793 to 1815—British demand for Irish foodstuffs and manufactures provided enough revenue to support the expanding population. In the early 1800s, the better sort of Irish farmer often lived nearly as well as his English counterpart. There was a sturdy two-story stone house, a wife and daughters dressed in imported clothes, and a cupboard full of tea, tobacco, and other luxury items. For a few decades, the smooth glide of history even made the life of the eternally poor Irish peasant more tolerable. With the country awash in British money, the peasant could afford to supplement his traditional bowl of potatoes with “extras” like buttermilk, meat, and herring. The official who called Napoleon the best friend the Irish farmer ever had exaggerated—but not greatly.

Waterloo brought an end to the happy time. In the postwar years, British demand for Irish goods weakened, agricultural prices fell, and the domestic economy contracted. In the 1820s, when tariffs between the Union partners were lifted, the contraction intensified. An influx of cheap machine-made goods from the mills of Lancaster devastated the Irish textile industry outside Ulster. Thousands were thrown out of work, and, in the pockets of southern Ireland where the industry survived, wages fell precipitously. In 1800, at the height of the wartime boom, a weaver in Drogheda, a town north of Dublin, earned between 14 shillings and 21 shillings (£1.1) per week. A generation later, a Drogheda weaver earned a quarter to a half of what his father had: 4 shillings per week for plain goods and 8 shillings for fancy goods. In Limerick, John Geary, a physician, told a visiting English commission about his recent encounter with a former textile worker; the man was lying in bed next to his wife, who had typhus. “I begged him to get up,” said Geary, “and I shall never forget so long as I live his answer to me, ‘Ah sir, if I get up and breathe the air and walk about I will get an appetite ... and I have nothing to eat and not a penny to buy anything.’”

Between 1821 and 1841, shipbuilding, glass making, and other domestic industries followed textile manufacture into oblivion, and the portion of the Irish workforce employed in manufacturing plummeted from 43 percent to 28 percent. At a trade show in Dublin in the early 1850s, almost all the machinery on exhibit was British. “A net for confining sheep on pasture” was one of the few examples of Irish technology.

The industrial collapse pushed people onto the already crowded land. In the 1820s and 1830s, Irish agriculture went where Irish agriculture had never gone before—up mountainsides, down to the thin sandy soils of the seashore, out onto wild, windswept cliffs. For a time, Irish rents also went where Irish rents had never gone before, and although they stablilized in the years before 1845, the Irish farmer was slow to feel the stabilization. “People are forced from want to promise any rent,” a land agent in Galway observed. “I know a man named Laughlin, who outbid his own brother and took a farm for more than it ever was or ever will be worth.”

The intense land hunger produced a granular subdivision of the Irish countryside. Unable to make the rent, the four-acre farmer would sublet two acres to another farmer, who would rent half an acre of potato ground to an agricultural laborer. By 1841, 45 percent of the agricultural holdings in Ireland were under five acres, and as subsistence farming grew, living standards fell. Milk disappeared from the peasant diet or became bull’s milk—unsifted oats fermented in water. Meat, eggs, butter, herring also vanished. And the cow that had formerly attended the peasant’s cabin was replaced by the pig, less expensive and easier to convert into rent money. Asked why he allowed his pig to sleep in the family cabin, one peasant replied, “It’s him that pays the rent, ain’t it.”

Peasant dress also grew meaner; clothing was mended, remended, then mended a third, fourth, and fifth time. The kaleidoscope of patched elbows, knees, and bottoms in peasant Ireland astonished the German traveler Kohl. The Irish look like a nation of “broken down dance masters,” he declared. As living standards fell, the potato became an even more irresistible economic proposition for the small subsistence farmer and for the agricultural laborer, who was often unemployed half the year.

A single acre of potato ground produced up to six tons of food, enough to feed a family of six for up to a year, and the potato’s high nutritional content ensured that every member of the family enjoyed rude good health.

The robust appearance of the Irish peasantry gave much of the contemporary writing about prefamine Ireland a slightly schizophrenic quality. In one sentence the author would be decrying the wretched state of Irish dress, in the next, praising the athleticism of the men and the beauty of the women. Adam Smith, of all people, was among the first to notice this Irish paradox and he was quick to credit the potato for it. In London, noted the economist, the strongest men and most beautiful women were largely drawn from the “lowest rank of people in Ireland, who are fed on this root.” The Halls, an English couple, who visited Ireland in the early 1840s went even further than Smith, crediting the potato with producing the hardiest peasantry in the world. And, indeed, on metrics of physical well-being like height and strength, the early-nineteenth-century Irishman was a wonder. Half an inch taller than the Englishman and an inch taller than the Belgian, the Irishman was stronger than both. On a Victorian contraption called a dynamometer, the average physical strength of the Irishman was 432 lb. compared to 403 lb. for the Englishman and 339 lb. for the Belgian.

Nonetheless, the fact remained, the profound nature of Irish poverty made the Irish peasant acutely vulnerable to the potato’s failure, and, in the years following the French Wars, the potato had become almost reliably unreliable. In the 1830s, scarcely a year passed without a regional crop failure somewhere in Ireland. A general failure would deprive as many as five million people of their dietary mainstay, and, too poor to purchase an alternate food, most of them would immediately plunge into starvation. Thomas Malthus’s work on poverty, rapid population growth, and demographic disaster suggested what would happen next. There would be death, and death not in the thousands or tens of thousands, but in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions.

In 1841, when new census data indicated a slowing in the growth of the Irish birth rate, the Malthusian threat seemed to recede, but the data were misleading. The subsistence farmers and landless agricultural laborers, who accounted for 70 percent of the population of rural Ireland, were still having six or seven children, and those children were growing up to become laborers and subsistence farmers who led lives at least as brutal and desperate as their parents’. In 1837, when residents of Tullaghobegly, Donegal, submitted a memorial—a petition for assistance—to the lord lieutenant, the chief British official in Ireland, the introductory page included a description of life in Tullaghobegly by the local teacher, Patrick M’Kye:

I have traveled a part of England and Scotland, together with part of British America...., I have likewise perambulated 2,253 miles in seven United States and never witnessed [a] tenth of such hunger, hardships and nakedness [as here].... More than one half of both men and women cannot afford shoes to their feet, nor can many of them afford a second bed,... whole families of sons and daughters of mature age [lie] indiscriminately together with their parents in the bare buff.... None of the women can afford more than one shift ... [and the] children are crying and fainting with hunger.

Donegal was one of the poorest counties in the poorest region of Ireland. When British officials had nightmares about all the things that could go wrong in Ireland, the nightmares were usually set in the west, in Donegal, Kerry, Mayo, and Galway. The region had the highest rate of population growth and the largest number of subsistence farms; 64 percent of the agricultural holdings in the west were under five acres (the national average was 45 percent). However, by 1845, immiseration, the deepest form of poverty, had spread to parts of the (relatively) prosperous east and north. At the end of the national cattle show in Dublin, the Scottish writer Henry Inglis was astonished to see paupers slip into the exhibition ring and fill their pockets with the half-eaten turnips discarded by the animal contestants. In Londonderry, an Ulster “boomtown” of six thousand, “people regularly [pawned] their Sunday clothes on Monday morning and release[d] them on ... Saturday night,” after Friday payday. In County Wicklow, another “prosperous” region, a traveler saw a young mother pick up a gooseberry seed spat out by a passerby, lick it clean with her tongue, and feed it to her baby. Asenath Nicholson, an American visitor, described the Irish pauper as “a hunger-armed assassin.”

• • •

Visiting Cavan, an Ulster market town, Mr. Foster encountered another aspect of Irish life that troubled British officials as much as the poverty. In high summer, Cavan usually bustled with traders and tinkers and broad-shouldered countrymen in from the surrounding farms, but the day Mr. Foster passed through on his way to Donegal, Cavan had the look of an armed camp. Thick metal locks hung from the doors of the public houses and municipal buildings, and notices covered the walls near the town square. Some offered rewards “for private information relative to the secret society commonly called ... [the] Molly Maguires”; others ordered the arrest “of all vagrants and suspicious persons.” Except for a contingent of red-jacketed Royal Dragoons and a handful of Irish Constabulary officers, almost as glamorous looking in olive-green coatees and white duck trousers, the streets were empty. Upon inquiry, Mr. Foster learned that Cavan had been “proclaimed”—put under martial law—in late June, after the assassination of a local magistrate, a Mr. Bell-Booth,...

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John Kelly
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Descripción FABER FABER, United Kingdom, 2013. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Main. Language: English . Brand New Book. The Irish famine that began in 1845 was one of the nineteenth century s greatest disasters. By its end, the island s population of eight million had shrunk by a third through starvation, disease and emigration. This is a brilliant, compassionate retelling of that awful story for a new generation - the first account for the general reader for many years and a triumphant example of narrative non-fiction at its best.The immediate cause of the famine was a bacterial infection of the potato crop on which too many the Irish poor depended. What turned a natural disaster into a human disaster was the determination of senior British officials to use relief policy as an instrument of nation-building in their oldest and most recalcitrant colony. Well-meaning civil servants were eager to modernise Irish agriculture and to improve the Irish moral character, which was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new age of triumphant capitalism. The result was a relief programme more concerned with fostering change than of saving lives.This is history that resonates powerfully with our own times. Nº de ref. de la librería AA99780571284429

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Descripción FABER FABER, United Kingdom, 2013. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Main. Language: English . Brand New Book. The Irish famine that began in 1845 was one of the nineteenth century s greatest disasters. By its end, the island s population of eight million had shrunk by a third through starvation, disease and emigration. This is a brilliant, compassionate retelling of that awful story for a new generation - the first account for the general reader for many years and a triumphant example of narrative non-fiction at its best.The immediate cause of the famine was a bacterial infection of the potato crop on which too many the Irish poor depended. What turned a natural disaster into a human disaster was the determination of senior British officials to use relief policy as an instrument of nation-building in their oldest and most recalcitrant colony. Well-meaning civil servants were eager to modernise Irish agriculture and to improve the Irish moral character, which was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new age of triumphant capitalism. The result was a relief programme more concerned with fostering change than of saving lives.This is history that resonates powerfully with our own times. Nº de ref. de la librería AA99780571284429

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Descripción Faber and Faber, 2013. Estado de conservación: New. 2013. Main. Paperback. The Irish famine that began in 1845 was one of the nineteenth century's greatest disasters. By its end, the island's population of eight million had shrunk by a third through starvation, disease and emigration. This title presents a compassionate retelling of that awful story for a new generation. Num Pages: 416 pages. BIC Classification: 1DBR; 3JH; HBJD1; HBLL. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 200 x 148 x 26. Weight in Grams: 324. . . . . . . Nº de ref. de la librería V9780571284429

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Descripción Faber and Faber. Estado de conservación: New. 2013. Main. Paperback. The Irish famine that began in 1845 was one of the nineteenth century's greatest disasters. By its end, the island's population of eight million had shrunk by a third through starvation, disease and emigration. This title presents a compassionate retelling of that awful story for a new generation. Num Pages: 416 pages. BIC Classification: 1DBR; 3JH; HBJD1; HBLL. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 200 x 148 x 26. Weight in Grams: 324. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Nº de ref. de la librería V9780571284429

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Descripción Faber & Faber. Paperback. Estado de conservación: new. BRAND NEW, The Graves are Walking (Main), John Kelly, The Irish famine that began in 1845 was one of the nineteenth century's greatest disasters. By its end, the island's population of eight million had shrunk by a third through starvation, disease and emigration. This is a brilliant, compassionate retelling of that awful story for a new generation - the first account for the general reader for many years and a triumphant example of narrative non-fiction at its best. The immediate cause of the famine was a bacterial infection of the potato crop on which too many the Irish poor depended. What turned a natural disaster into a human disaster was the determination of senior British officials to use relief policy as an instrument of nation-building in their oldest and most recalcitrant colony. Well-meaning civil servants were eager to modernise Irish agriculture and to improve the Irish moral character, which was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new age of triumphant capitalism. The result was a relief programme more concerned with fostering change than of saving lives. This is history that resonates powerfully with our own times. Nº de ref. de la librería B9780571284429

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