The only thing that kept many Irish peasants from starving to death was a thing called a "Murphy"... a spud roasted on an open fire.
Great overview Kbot!
I guess that much of the potato crop was a failure for a few years' running, and that, due to the poverty of the country to begin with, the only type of potato crop the people could afford to grow for their own sustenence, was also the absolute worst in terms of taste.
Last night I was reading the chapter concerning typhus and how many people - whole villages in fact, succombed to typhus which was carried by lice. Because people lost their homes for failure to pay rent - which they couldn't because of the massive crop failure, whole families were forced to live outdoors. After their homes were destroyed, they "were allowed" to take some wood and the thatch from the roof. With this, they made lean-tos on the side of hills, or would dig into the earth for try and form some shelter.
People didn't know at the time how typhys was transmitted and because they huddled together to keep warm since they had lost so much weight and whatever fireplace and hearth they had in their former homes), the disease was rapidly transmitted from one family member to another. Many time doctors and priests visiting families to help them inadvertently acquired the disease because it would become airborne.
With typhus being airborne, which was unknown at the time, in a number of instances what also occured was that people were being brought into courts because they were behind on their rents. The magistates came from a completely different segment of society - usually upper class Protestants living in fine homes vs lower-class Catholics trying to survive in virtual hovels. So, with typhus being airborne, as the defendants were in court, and the windows open or the door opening and closing, the particulates were moved around the room, and inhaled.
This set-up a case where in Catholic families, people were getting infected by lice bites, where the bacillus infection was transmited by the bite. Then whole families were being effected, and in some cases, wiped out. In Protestant families, maybe a single individual would get infected because the transmission was airborne. And, since modes of transmission weren't truly understood back then, it was a complete mystery why in some cases whole families were struck, while in others only the head of the household was struck.
Then there was dysentery, which was also a result of starvation and also highly contagious. Bloody, mucous evacuations were common which would cover the dirt floors of the "homes", and this was highly infectious/ contagious. Hospitals were overwhlemed with typhoid and dystentery patients together. Doctors and nurses died in high numbers due to the infection.
In both events, people eventually recognized that the only sure means of preventing the spread of both diseases was to quarrantine the families. Extended family and friends would bring what food they had to share in buckets and using the poles, send the food thorugh open windows. Those inside would send an extra bucket back to be filled later. When the family outside received no response from those inside, either vocal or by no tugging on the pole, they knew that the occupants inside had died, and then the remaining family members set the home on fire. Many homes were also lost this way.
The thing is, it didn't have to be this way. But the wheels of capitalism needed to be greased, so.......