Famine Houses, County Clare
The Great Famine in Ireland lasted from 1845-1852 during which approximately 1 million people died and more than 1 million more emigrated to other countries. Although many factors contributed to the famine and to blame it all on the potato shortage is a bit simplistic, the underlying cause was the potato blight which ravaged one of the main food sources.
The famine walls which we saw as we drove through County Clare were built by the unemployed in order to earn their food. The walls don't actually serve any purpose, they don't separate one owners' land from another, the walls were built solely to provide work to peasants so that they could "earn" their food. Seems misguided, if not a bit sadistic, to require poor starving people to move rocks around for no purpose than to justify them getting a bowl of soup. They did something similar at the Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, having prisoners move rocks from a pile at one end to a pile at the other just to earn their daily rations. I'm not sure if my photo is actually of a famine wall, it was a little difficult taking photos from a moving bus and that's the only one that turned out.
The famine houses are the ruins of homes that remained after the tenants were evicted during the famine, I can't seem to find anything to support it online but I'm pretty sure our guide said that if you bought property with one of these structures on it that you could not demolish it as it's part of Ireland's heritage.
When I see these old deserted villages, ruined churches and houses I start thinking....and dreaming.....
Who were the people who left? Where did they go? Why did they leave? How did they end up? I guess most of the places became deserted during the Great Irish potato famine in the 19th century when a lot of people died or left for a new life in America (or died on the boat to get there). Well maybe not all of them, some people maybe built a new house or church and left the old one behind...
Read Enzo's 'An gorta Mór 1845-1849' Travelogue to find out more about the famine