Medium: Bog Oak
Dimensions (cm) 53 x 21 x 94
Weight (kg) 11
In this bog oak sculpture I am aligning myself to the very core of this frightful period in Irish History. It represents and evokes a deep emotional tie and bond with my ancestors who had to endure extreme hardship, starvation and scarcity of food.
My work in bog oak sculptures is about a walk into the past but also into myself as an artist.
In this bog oak sculpture I feel a profound urge to liberate this evocative, harrowing figure in order to highlight and remind us that famine still exists in this affluent world of ours.
The Great Famine In Ireland.
The Great Famine, also known as the great hunger, or the Irish Potato Famine, was a period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland from 1845 to 1852. Over a million people died as a result in these few years. A fungus called Phytophthora Infestans spread rapidly though the potato crop. The infestation ruined half of the crop in the first year, and about three- quarters of the crop in the following years. The people of Ireland relied heavily on the potato as the principal source of food and consequently this disease had a catastrophic impact on its people and the population. Before it ended in 1852, the potato famine resulted in the death of roughly 1 million Irish from starvation and related causes, with at least another million forced to leave their homeland as refuges, or took the famine ships to U. S. or Britain.
The exact role of the British Government in the Potato Famine and its aftermath , weather it ignored the plight of Irelands poor out of malice, or if their collective inaction and inadequate response could be attributed to incompetence is still being debated.
However, the significance of the Potato Famine [ an Gorta Mor ] in Irish history, and its contribution to the Irish Diaspora of the 19th and 20th centuries is beyond doubt.
Jane Francesca Elgee [1821 –1896 ] was Oscar Wilde s mother. She became Lady Wilde in 1864 when her husband, Dr. William was knighted for his involvement with recording births and deaths in Ireland. Jane was a talented, gifted linguist and she published several translations of French and German works. In 1840 s during the Great Famine, she wrote poetry for the Nation [ the mouth piece of Young Ireland movement] newspaper using the pseudonym Speranza [ Hope in Italian].She was an early advocate for women s rights and their better education. Jane most famous poem appeared in the Nation in 1847 entitled the Stricken Land but subsequently renamed The Famine Year.
The Famine by Jane Wilde.
Weary men, what reap ye ?
Golden corn for the stranger.
What sow ye ? human corpses that wait for the avenger.
Fainting forms, hunger — stricken,
what see you in the offing ?
Stately ships to bear the stranger s scoffing.
There s a proud array of solders —
what do they round your door ?
They guard our masters granaries from the thin hands of the poor.
Pale mothers, wherefore weeping – would to God that were dead;
Our children swoon before us and we cannot give them bread.
Little children, tears are strange upon your infant faces,
God meant you but to smile
within your mother s soft embraces.
Oh ! we know not what is smiling,
and we know not what is dying ;
We are hungry, very hungry, and we
cannot stop our crying.
And some some of us grow cold and white
we know not what it means;
But, as they lie beside us,
we tremble in our dreams.
There s a gaunt crowd on the highway
— are ye come to pray to man,
With hollow eyes that cannot weep,
and for words your faces wan ?
No; the blood is dead within our veins
we care not for life ;
Let us hid in the ditches,
far from children and from wife;
We cannot stay and listen to their raving, famished cries
Bread ! Bread ! Bread ! and none to still their agonies.
We left our infants playing with their dead mother s hand ;
We left our maidens maddened by the fever s scorching brand ;
Better, maiden, thou were strangled in thy own dark — twisted tresses
Better, infant, thou wert smothered in thy mother s first caresses.
One by one they are falling round us, their pale faces to the sky ;
We have no strength left to dig them graves — there let them lie.
The wild bird, if he is stricken, is mourned by the others,
But we — we die in a Christian land — we die amid our brothers,
In the land which God has given, like a wild beast in his cave,
Without a tear, a prayer, a shroud, a coffin or grave.