Teige O'Driscoll and the Féar Gortha

Teige O'Driscoll was an honest man who lived in Bantry Bay at the foot of Hungry Hill.  He had a small farm which he rented at a high rent and he kept a small potato patch to feed his family of seven.  He would go out fishing to supplement his diet.  Most of the produce would be sold to pay for his rent or else the wrecking crews would come along and evict them all and smash the house after them.  Times were hard and they were to get harder still.  At harvest time he went to his small patch of potatoes that usually kept his family fed the whole winter long until spring returned with her bounty and they could plant anew.

When he dug up the earth instead of the crop of potatoes he expected there was nothing but a black slimy mess.  There was nothing -  not a thing for the winter.  He had sold all his other crops to pay off the rent.  It was the same for his neighbours and all were in for a bleak winter.  He sold off everything they owned as the weeks wore on and himself and his son Daniel went looking for work.  There was only 'relief work' available which was what the government had concocted to help the peasants who were beginning to starve.  This was the labour of building roads to nowhere and walls enclosing barren and unusable land except for mountain goats and sheep,  and walls which went right up to the summit of the hills.  These employments paid very little.  It was either that or the workhouse for poor Teige and his son and so they set to work building the road.  They worked all day and they were exhausted by the end of it.

As they walked wearily along they came near Hungry Hill and had to cross over a small patch of grass in order to continue their journey but as soon as their feet struck the grass they were struck by agonizing pangs of hunger and they cried out for assistance but none heard them.  With that they were so overcome that they lay down on the grass and shortly after that they died.

Teige's wife and his six other children were left waiting at home for the bread-winners to return but they had been struck by the fevers brought on by lack of food.  In a matter of days the whole family perished and their remaining neighbours buried them in a communal pit.

It was later on that Teige and Daniel were found on Hungry Hill frozen to the ground with a look of helpless resignation on their faces.


Note:  This story is based on the events of the Great Famine of 1848 in Ireland when the potato crop failed for the second time (it had failed in 1947 also) which was the main source of food for the peasant classes.  They did grow other crops but these were sold to pay for the very high rents they were subjected to by their landlords.  Even during the famine if a tenant did not pay his rent he was evicted; not only was he thrown out onto the roads literally but the house he had occupied was demolished so that he could not remain there.  Whole families were treated to this inhumanity.

  Ireland exported tons of rye, barley, wheat, oats during the Famine.

 Many millions of Irish peasants died and the rest left to go to America and also Australia and other parts of the world. In two years the total population of Ireland had gone from nearly nine million to barely four million. The British Government were slow to react and the "aid" they gave was pitiful.

 Is it any wonder that one of the chief crimes of Ancient Celtic Society was considered to be a lack of generosity, a lack of sharing the bounty of the earth with our fellow creatures.


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