Irish Studies 2010

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Skibbereen

June 4th, 2010 · No Comments · Skibbereen Famine Cemetery

Today we got up and got on the road. It was a really travel-intensive day as we set out to Killarney. We left Cork early in the morning with a full itinerary for the day. While we had spoken to a great degree about the atrocities of the Famine, nothing prepared us for what we would see in Skibbereen.

We made a short stop in town in town and then set out for our drive to the cemetery. Had the driver not been so keen, we could have completely missed the inconspicuous monument. It was a small cemetery built into the side of a hill. The monuments were small in stature and nothing compared to even the memorial in New York City.  Upon entering the graveyard, we could all feel a chill from the cold steel gates that separated it from the street.

We were greeted by small plaques that commemorated the loss of the victims of the Famine. The first and largest of these plaques had a poem inscribed on it that read

“Oh son, I loved my native land, with energy and pride till a blight came over all my crops and my sheep and cattle died. My rent and taxes were to pay, I could not them redeem, and that’s the cruel reason why I left my old Skibbereen.”

Initially, it appears as though the people treat this subject with a lighthearted approach. As we continued to the mass grave, we noticed that it was nothing. A plot of grass marked the space where 9,000 bodies were crudely thrown. This simple poem explains how droves of people came to this small town in hopes of finding relief, yet overcrowding and sickness demolished hope and killed many.

It was interesting to note how man could be so inhuman in times of need. Bodies crudely stacked without a marker and raw iron crosses marked graves. This small plot of grass was in direct contrast to what we had all expected. In America, these would have been a grandiose monument dedicated to these victims of hunger, yet here it was just one section of a still active cemetery.  Amazing.

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