Sad Jesus by the holy well at the Deserted Village on Achill Island in Ireland. The Deserted Village consists of some 80 to 100 ruined stone cottages located along a mile long stretch of road on the southern slopes of the Slievemore mountain. Its atmosphere is unique: a feeling of almost intruding on those who lived there and the overall air of mystery of why did they leave? The answer is that the village was gradually abandoned during the mid-19th century because of the many evictions for non-payment of rent to the local landlord, the Great Hunger and the emigration throughout the successive years.
The Great Hunger was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1852. It is sometimes referred to, mostly outside Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine, because about two-fifths of the population was solely reliant on this cheap crop that, when infected with blight, turned into slime within a single day. During the famine, approximately one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island’s population to fall by between 20% and 25%.
Potato blight ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s. However, its impact on Ireland was disproportionate, as one third of the population was dependent on the potato for various reasons, such as land acquisition, absentee landlords, and the Corn Laws, which all contributed to the disaster to varying degrees and remain the subject of intense historical debate.
The famine was a watershed in the history of Ireland, which was then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Its effects permanently changed the island’s demographic, political, and cultural landscape. For both the native Irish and those in the resulting diaspora, the Great Hunger entered folk memory and became a rallying point for Irish nationalist movements.