The Irish Famines of ’40s

I don’t know what to make of it.

I see numbers. I notice things.
That makes me look for more things.
That show more patterns, with numbers.
Then I see more things to notice. And wonder…

So I noticed that there were TWO Irish Famines of note, each with a date ending near xx4x and so I went looking for other times there was an “issue” in the xx40s. What I found makes me wonder if our current turn to the cold side might be lining up Ireland for “The Famine of 2040”?

It has nothing behind it other then numerology and the present predicted very cold spike due to start about 2018 and continue through abut 2060 with the deepest part in 2030-2040 (per a couple of folks with different methods).

So, with that said, the pointers to some bits of history for folks to contemplate. And a suggestion that folks living in Ireland seriously consider finding ways to prepare or leave in the 2040s (or at least keep an eye open for ‘issues’ starting to brew…)

Update: Beginnings up to 1340s – 1540s

No sooner did I hit “post” and I had the thought I ought to look a bit further back “just to be sure”… and discovered yet more. Not, strictly, a famine, but The Plague. Not what I’d call an improvement… In the “mid 1300s” it got to Ireland:

Black Death / Plague in Europe

Black Death / Plague in Europe

The Black Death arrived in Ireland in 1348. Because most of the English and Norman inhabitants of Ireland lived in towns and villages, the plague hit them far harder than it did the native Irish, who lived in more dispersed rural settlements. After it had passed, Gaelic Irish language and customs came to dominate the country again. The English-controlled territory shrank to a fortified area around Dublin (the Pale), and had little real authority outside (beyond the Pale).

But, as if that wasn’t enough, it looks like the pattern may have held even way further back:

The Vikings were expert sailors, who travelled in longships, and by the early 840s, had begun to establish settlements along the Irish coasts and to spend the winter months there. Vikings founded settlements in several places; most famously in Dublin. Written accounts from this time (early to mid 840s) show that the Vikings were moving further inland to attack (often using rivers) and then retreating to their coastal headquarters.

That looks to have not been a fully ‘done deal’ as a few hundred years later the Vikings in their Norman form take a whack at Ireland in an xx40x period:

Norman Control
Ireland was stormed by the Normans in 1149, led by the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, otherwise known as Strongbow.

History from many of the early years is a bit sketchy, so who knows if other ’40s years were good, or just not recorded. The wiki does not call out any dates in the 1400s at all other than a couple of mentions of what sounds like opression in 1487 and 1494; so while I doubt things were better in the 1440s, the wiki is mute.’_Law

Poynings’ Law or Poynings’ Act, 1495[1] (10 Hen.7 c.22) is an Act of the Parliament of Ireland. It was initiated by Sir Edward Poynings in the Irish Parliament at Drogheda in 1494. In his position as Lord Deputy of Ireland, as appointed by King Henry VII of England, Poynings called together an assembly of the parliament. Coming in the aftermath of the divisive Wars of the Roses, Poynings’ intention was to make Ireland once again obedient to the English monarchy.

Assembling the Parliament on 1 December 1494, he declared that the Parliament of Ireland was thereafter to be placed under the authority of the Parliament of England.

Which kind of implies there was some kind of revolt in years prior to that. So there’s a bit of a ‘dig here’ for the 1440s history…

But by the 1500s things were still looking grim on the invasion and takeover side:

Having put down this rebellion, Henry resolved to bring Ireland under English government control so the island would not become a base for future rebellions or foreign invasions of England. In 1541 he upgraded Ireland from a lordship to a full Kingdom. Henry was proclaimed King of Ireland at a meeting of the Irish Parliament that year.


This phase of the war was by far the most costly in terms of civilian loss of life. The combination of warfare, famine and plague caused a huge mortality among the Irish population. William Petty estimated (in the Down Survey) that the death toll of the wars in Ireland since 1641 was over 618,000 people, or about 40% of the country’s pre-war population. Of these, he estimated that over 400,000 were Catholics, 167,000 killed directly by war or famine and the remainder by war-related disease

The Great Irish Frost / Famine

The Great Irish Frost of 1740, Longest Period of Extreme Cold in Modern European History

An extraordinary climatic shock—the Great Frost—struck Ireland and the rest of Europe between December 1739 and September 1741, after a decade of relatively mild winters. Its cause remains unknown. Charting its course sharply illuminates the connectivity between climate change and famine, epidemic disease, economies, energy sources, and politics. David Dickson, author of Arctic Ireland (1997) provides keen insights into each of these areas, which may have application to human behaviors during similar future climatic shocks. The crisis of 1740-1741 should not be confused with the equally devastating Great Potato Famine in Ireland of the 1840s.

Though no barometric or temperature readings for Ireland (population in 1740 of 2.4 million people) survive from the Great Frost, Englishmen were using the mercury thermometer invented 25 years earlier by the Dutch pioneer Fahrenheit. Indoor values during January 1740 were as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The one outdoor reading that has survived was 32 degrees Fahrenheit, not including the wind chill factor, which was severe. This kind of weather was “quite outside British or Irish experience,” notes Dickson.

During the ramp up to the crisis in January 1740, the winds and terrible cold intensified, yet barely any snow fell. Ireland was locked into a stable and vast high-pressure system which affected most of Europe, from Scandinavia and Russia to northern Italy, in a broadly similar way, says Dickson.
Rivers, lakes, and waterfalls froze and fish died in these first weeks of the Great Frost. People tried to avoid hypothermia without using up winter fuel reserves in a matter of days. People who lived in the country were probably better off than city dwellers, because the former lived in cabins that lay against turf stacks, while the latter, especially the poor, dwelled in freezing basements and garret dwellings.

Coal dealers and shippers during normal times ferried coal from Cumbria and south Wales to east and south-coast ports in Ireland, but the ice-bound quays and frozen coal yards temporarily froze trade. When in late January 1740 the traffic across the Irish Sea resumed, retail prices for coal soared. Desperate people then “stripped bare hedges, fine trees, and nurseries around Dublin” to obtain substitute fuel. Also affected by the Frost were the pre-industrial town mill-wheels, which froze. “Water powered the machinery which ground wheat for the bakers, tucked cloth for the weavers, pulped rags for the printers.” As a result, the abrupt weather change disrupted craft employment and food processing. The intense cold even snuffed out the oil lamps lighting the streets of Dublin, plunging her into darkness.

There’s also a wiki for it:–1741)

The Potato Famine

Irish Potato Famine
Primary Contributor: Joel Mokyr

Irish Potato Famine, also called Great Potato Famine, Great Irish Famine, or Famine of 1845–49, famine that
occurred in Ireland in 1845–49 when the potato crop failed in successive years. The crop failures were caused by late blight, a disease that destroys both the leaves and the edible roots, or tubers, of the potato plant. The causative agent of late blight is the water mold Phytophthora infestans. The Irish Potato Famine was the worst famine to occur in Europe in the 19th century.

By the early 1840s, almost one-half of the Irish population—but primarily the rural poor—had come to depend almost exclusively on the potato for their diet, and the rest of the population also consumed it in large quantities. A heavy reliance on just one or two high-yielding varieties of potato greatly reduced the genetic variety that ordinarily prevents the decimation of an entire crop by disease, and thus the Irish became vulnerable to famine. In 1845 Phytophthora arrived accidentally from North America, and that same year Ireland had unusually cool, moist weather, in which the blight thrived. Much of that year’s potato crop rotted in the fields. This partial crop failure was followed by more devastating failures in 1846–49, as each year’s potato crop was almost completely ruined by the blight.

Which also has a wiki. ( I thought it appropriate to use a Britannica entry as the British caused so much harm in how they handed the Potato Famine…)

World War II

Listed as 1939 to 1945.

What can I say? My mother tells of hard times during the war years (though she was in England). It can not have been much better in Ireland, even if they were officially neutral.

At the outbreak of the war Ireland was isolated as never before. Shipping had been neglected since independence. Foreign ships, on which Ireland had hitherto depended, were less available. Neutral American ships would not enter the “war zone”. There were a mere 56 Irish ships when the war started; 15 more were purchased or leased during the conflict; 20 were lost. In his Saint Patrick’s Day address in 1940, Taoiseach Éamon de Valera, lamented:“ No country had ever been more effectively blockaded because of the activities of belligerents and our lack of ships, most of which had been sunk, which virtually cut all links with our normal sources of supply. ”

The diminutive Irish Mercantile Marine continued essential overseas trading. This period was referred to as The Long Watch by Irish Mariners. They sailed unarmed and usually alone, flying the Irish tricolour. They identified themselves as neutrals with bright lights and by painting the tricolour and EIRE in large letters on their sides and decks, yet twenty percent of seamen perished as victims of a war in which they were non-participants. Allied convoys, often, could not stop to pick up survivors. Irish ships always answered SOS calls; they always stopped to rescue. Irish mariners rescued seafarers from both sides, but they were attacked by both, predominately by the Axis powers. Vital imports arrived. Exports, mainly food supplies for Great Britain, were delivered. 521 lives were saved.

Many British ships were repaired in Irish shipyards.

Back To The Future

Which leads me back to now, and looking at 2040, and wondering…

Subscribe to feed


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Irish Famines of ’40s

  1. E.M.Smith says:

    While it’s not a ’40s as a start date, it definitely ran into the ’40s…

    The wiki ‘timeline of Irish history’ says:

    536 AD A seemingly global climate event (possibly a volcanic winter) causes crop failures and famine in Ireland.

    The start of The Dark Ages…

    Don’t know what it is about Ireland and the ’40s but they seem to have a lot of bad things happen then. Not that I’m superstitious about any of that kind of stuff… No, not me, not at all…

  2. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: The only explanation which comes to my mind about your extraordinary versatility is that you really have a direct connection with the “Akhashic” records, with the “collective unconscious”, or with the human genoma´s memory, whatever they are. In any case there must be some “suffering” involved, as it is a sort of many contents unceasingly pouring into your brain from the “topos uranus”. Remarkable!

  3. adolfogiurfa says:

    Anyway, nowadays you must be experiencing the certain conviction that we are living in “interesting times”, only comparable to some that happened long ago in history, perhaps as the ones which motivated the old ones to built Stonehenge in order to make clear for themselves what was really happening. And at the same time, experiencing that fear is what blurs memory…

  4. omanuel says:

    I agree, E.M. Smith is richly blessed.

    In fact, I suspect we all are, if we awaken to Reality !

    I was especially slow see the Reality just added as an abstract to my research profile:

    Fear and the instinct of survival
    persuaded world leaders to hide the
    energy that vaporized Hiroshima
    in 1945: They thus became rulers
    rather than servants of the public.
    The 2009 result: Climategate !

    This conclusion was also posted as a comment:

    Climategate is coming to a close. May we have the wisdom to work together to undo the damage society suffered and not get sidetracked trying to punish those who led society to its current demise out of fear of the “nuclear fires” over Hiroshima !

  5. R. Shearer says:

    Can it be said, “everyone lives in interesting times?”

  6. omanuel says:

    Perhaps, “everyone awake lives in interesting times,” but the majority sleep their lives away!

  7. R. de Haan says:

    Short response.
    Some times in history, Ireland (and Scotland for that matter) is not the place to be.
    This is the reason why more Irish people today live and prosper abroad than Irish living in Ireland.

    I often think about the Scotch sending out an expedition to Panama to found a farming community to grow food for their starving population before they surrendered to the Brits.

    Although fossil fuels allowed us to sustain quite comfortable life styles from Siberia to Alaska, from Greenland to the high mountains, hell will break loose if any stagnation in food and fuel distribution should occur.

    Without fuel these communities are dead.

  8. R. de Haan says:

    Love to hear about the Irish role during the war saving so many lives.
    St. Patrick’s Day isn’t celebrated in abundance for nothing.
    They’re a proud and honorable people.

  9. tckev says:

    There is the slave period of the Irish – the original white slaves.
    King James II and Charles I led a continued effort to enslave the Irish. Britain’s famed Oliver Cromwell furthered this practice of dehumanizing one’s next door neighbor.
    They were dispatched to many British colonies including the plantations in the US. Generally they were treated worse than black slaves as they were cheaper; black slaves were often 10 to 20 times more expensive than an Irish slave doing the same job.
    There is more here –

  10. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Tkev: King James II and Charles I led a continued effort to enslave the Irish Hope it does not repeat with another as clever “Charles”.

  11. Paul, Somerset says:

    To some extent Ireland brought its problems on itself in the 1940s. Bear in mind that the Battle of the Atlantic, with its attacks by German submarines on Allied merchant shipping, was the closest the Nazis came to winning the War in Western Europe.

    From Part 1, Chapter 3 of Len Deighton’s wonderful book ‘Blood, Tears and Folly’ (1993), a treasure trove of facts and background on the origins and early years of World War 2:

    ‘The [UK] Admiralty had always assumed that in the event of war it would enjoy port facilities in Ireland. From fuelling bases at Queenstown and Bereshaven and the naval base at Lough Swilly on the west coast, anti-submarine flotillas would have ranged far out into the Atlantic.Without them every escort vessel would add 400 miles to its patrol. The use of the bases in wartime had been confirmed in a conversation between the Irish patriot Michael Collins, Admiral Beatty and Winston Churchill as long ago as 1922, when Churchill, as colonial and dominions secretary, was concerned with the Irish Settlement.

    ‘The story behind this change has still to be told to everyone’s satisfaction. In April 1938 the [UK] Chamberlain government renounced the right to use the ports which it had been granted under the 1922 Irish treaty. Churchill was appalled and said that it would be hard to imagine a more feckless act at such a time. […] But when war came, the Irish Republic remained neutral and Churchill’s warnings proved exactly true. Ireland’s government resisted Britain’s requests to use the ports,although some of the material brought in the convoys was destined for neutral Ireland.

    ‘The convoys, channelled into the narrow waters around Ireland, provided rich pickings for bold U-Boat captains.’

  12. Pascvaks says:

    There be indeed something eerie about the 40’s! Especially your late 40’s. Aye! The curse of the Irish! No wonder so many of us poor old beggars drink so much.

    Another Wiki item – Maybe this be a Druid Curse?
    “Most available details of his life are from later hagiographies from the seventh century onwards, and these are now not accepted without detailed criticism. Uncritical acceptance of the Annals of Ulster would imply that he lived from 340 to 440, and ministered in what is modern-day Northern Ireland from 428 AD onwards. The dates of Patrick’s life cannot be fixed with certainty but, on a widespread interpretation, he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the 5th century.[8]”

    Then there’s also this a little further down the same page –
    “Murchiú’s life of Saint Patrick contains a supposed prophecy by the druids which gives an impression of how Patrick and other Christian missionaries were seen by those hostile to them:
    Across the sea will come Adze-head,[32] crazed in the head,
    his cloak with hole for the head, his stick bent in the head.”
    He will chant impieties from a table in the front of his house;
    all his people will answer: “so be it, so be it.”[33

    Now I’ll be a’bettin that the Druids put a curse on Patrick and all who would follow him and that about the century mark of his death XX40 that these people will all pay the price of following the Roman with “the bent stick”. Make sense? Seems to! Maybe we’ve found the root of it all! (Unless the Druids showed up in the XXX40 BCE timeframe, and someone else put a curse on them too. Hummm… ;-)

Comments are closed.