Why did over a million people die of starvation and disease, and more than two million leave during roughly six years in mid-1800s Ireland? The label “potato famine” does not begin to explain a crisis that was hundreds of years in the making, and one that happened in the midst of plenty.
This 49-minute documentary film, narrated by actor Gabriel Byrne, explores not just the potato failure that led to mass starvation, death, and emigration in Ireland from 1845 to 1852, but also examines the historical, social, and political circumstances that made the great famine almost inevitable. The film views the history of An Gorta Mór – the great hunger — through the eyes of descendants of those who survived it, and descendants of those who fled Ireland through the Canadian quarantine station at Grosse Ile, Quebec in 1847. Also included are those whose maternal ancestors emigrated to Australia under the Earl Grey scheme, 1848–52, along with the voices of several leading scholars of Irish history.
Dr. Christine Kinealy, widely published author and authority on Irish history, and filmmaker, Prof. Rebecca Abbott, will be present to introduce the film, and to lead discussion and answer questions afterwards. Copies of the film will be available for sale after the presentation.
REBECCA ABBOTT is Professor of Communications at Quinnipiac University and an Emmy-award winning independent filmmaker. Abbott’s documentary subjects have included excellence in public education; the history of jazz music in New Haven; the impact of war on veterans and the role of arts in healing; the life of humanitarian Albert Schweitzer; and aeromedical rescue in the US Air Force. Ireland’s Great Hunger and The Irish Diaspora is her latest work. CHRISTINE KINEALY is the founding director of the Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. She is an authority on Irish history and is author of 20 books and numerous scholarly articles on Irish and Irish American history. In 2011 Kinealy was named “one of the most influential Irish Americans” by Irish America magazine, and “Woman of the Year” in 2014 by the Irish America Heritage and Culture Committee of the New York Department of Education. Her most recent works are “The Bad Times. An Drochshaol, A graphic novel,” written with illustrator John Walsh (Connecticut: Quinnipiac University Press, 2015).