The ‘Great Famine’ began around 1845 when the potato crop failed. Many people had resorted to growing varieties of potato that were open to blight but produced a high yield so that they could feed their families on increasingly small plots of land. In 1845, the potato was the main source of food for most Irish people.
When a blight caused the crop to fail it led to widespread famine and due to government inaction it took the lives of over a million people and forced another million to emigrate between 1845-49. It could be said that the country has never really recovered from this time. From the end of the famine in 1849 to 1900, 2 million more Irish people emigrated making the Irish exodus the largest of any population in the 19th Century and halving the population from its pre-famine total.
The mud wall house in Lullymore Heritage & Discovery Park was built in the traditional style using mud, straw, heather and animal hair. The cottage would be considered to be the a third class house at the time and was quite luxurious in comparison to many fourth class houses during famine times. Unfortunately, it was the tenantry of dwellings like these who suffered the most during this tragic period.
To highlight the personal impact of emigration, the Park has added new exhibits on two Lullymore natives in the cottage – Michael Rush who departed in 1820 for Australia and Katie Gorey who left in 1908 for New York. Discover their very different reasons for leaving Ireland and how they overcame all challenges to set up a new life abroad