Severe consequences of miserable weather
On a mild grey and wet day this month in Dublin in 1845 the potato blight arrived.Following this, Ireland was crippled for a century and, although no one realized at the time, the weather was responsible.
The fungus, Phytophthora infestans, probably came to Europe in 1844 and reached Ireland in August 1845.Germination was easy for the fungus spores as there was plenty of moisture around; splashing rain and gentle winds aided the spread to surrounding plants. By October, millions of ripe tubers had turned black and a nauseous stench pervaded the country.In the wettest regions, 40 per cent of the crop was ruined.The famine began in spring 1846 when every last scrap of edible potato had been consumed.In August, amid torrential rain and wild thunderstorms, the blight drifted with the prevailing winds across the country again and the potato crop was annihilated.
An Ghorta Mor, ‘The Great Hunger’ continued until 1849.At least a million died.Another million emigrated on the ‘coffinships’ to the New World.
This famine affected the Irish deeply.Although the Irish might still joke about the weather, they never joke about the potato.