Tomorrow, Tuesday 30th March, is a date which is likely not in your diary for anything special. But it probably should be.
Particularly if you are a Tim who identifies with an Irish heritage, whether Catholic or Protestant or none. The type of Irish heritage often celebrated and commemorated by both a large section of fans of our club and even some of the PLC brigade.
Namely, I’m talking about the Irish heritage which relates to the Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor) and, in particular, one of its blackest days in 1849 – the Doo Lough tragedy.
Walking for Want – Dying to Live
Social commentator and respected political blogger Daniel Margrain sums up the tragedy of Doo Lough well. He captures the darkness, the senselessness and the sheer inhumanity of it all when he writes,
“They (starving Irish) were met at the shelter by the local poor law guardians whose role was to ‘inspect’ them as certification of their ‘official pauper’ status. This would supposedly entitle them to a ration of food to be eaten the following morning at a fishing establishment called Delphi Lodge…ten miles away. Many didn’t arrive at their destination having died of exposure to the harsh elements or through starvation. The few that did make it were refused the relief…and they died on their homeward journey with the bodies remaining where they fell”
This took place by the Doo Lough lake region of Co. Mayo and was overseen and arguably caused by a Colonel Hogrove and Captain Primrose. Suited and booted fully paid up members of the British imperial state in Ireland. It was these two who decided, unusually so, to arrive at Delphi Lodge rather than the poor shelter in Louisburgh as was typical custom, thus forcing the starved and emaciated Gaels to begin their death march.
The event is commemorated every year by the Doo Lough Famine Walk. Because of them the world is waking up to this very avoidable tragedy. They have researched the event much deeper than most and tell us that up to 20 starving and wretched souls would eventually perish in the most futile of ways. A people whose only crime was to be made utterly dependent upon a sole crop due to the slave-like conditions their British and Irish capitalist master class enforced upon them.
As I write about events such as this I get angry. Then I get sad. And then I get angry again. Given the readership of this blog, I’m likely not alone in the experience of such feelings.
These were some of the very same feelings which the founders of the Doo Lough Famine Walk society were presumably overcome with and, eventually, no doubt led to the founding of their movement. It is more than a ramble of legacy or lament however, particularly when viewed through the lens of imperialism where the dynamics of power are easy to spot. As campaign group for global resistance against all forms of inequality Action From Ireland (Afri) have previously stated (2009),
‘This famine walk is a walk
of remembrance and resistance. It remembers
those who died as a result of famine in
Ireland in the 1840s…It remembers
Frederick Douglass (African American slave and Abolitionist) and the countless
numbers of his brothers and sisters who
suffered the obscenity and inhumanity of
slavery. It remembers the Choctaw, their
trail of tears and the genocide of indige-
nous peoples who have been decimated
in the name of ‘progress’…Power concedes nothing without
demand – it never did and it never will’.
Hunger: Past and Present
When I first heard of the Famine Walk it did get me thinking. Of all the areas associated with the diaspora of the Irish, particularly because of the hunger period, Glasgow is the worst offender for not commemorating the event suitably. Sure, we are about to unveil an An Gorta Mor memorial, but this has been due to grass roots pressure and private fundraising: not by the powers of the state – Glasgow City Council.
We have a state which likes to indulge in collective denial and selective grief in relation to its past whenever exploitation of the Irish poor is concerned – but, as well read Tims, you know this already of course.
It really is great that Celtic FC unanimously get behind the commemoration of An Gorta Mor and the unique impact it had on the Irish in Glasgow. Everything from commemorating National Famine Memorial Day with the logo on the kit, gratuitous donations made in Celtic’s name and legitimising commemorative folk songs such as the Fields of Athenrye st the stadia.
Celtic do well in keeping the history relevant and alive in the present. Even individual acts of commemoration, such as John Kennedy donating 100% of his testimonial kitty raised as a result of the Man Utd game in 2011 to east African causes of hunger. It really is all very impressive.
Imagine if the average Joseph (or Tim) from the streets of Glasgow did their own bit too? This would create serious change in relation to the way the Hunger would be remembered presently. It could also create much needed financial aid for global Hunger issues in the present.
For context, global Hunger accounts for just under 6 million premature deaths per year due to starvation, malnutrition and related issues according to Matt Kennard (‘The Racket’) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Size wise, this is the equivalent of a Nazi style Holocaust PER YEAR with most of it occuring in the children of the subcontinent which has been the most colonised piece of Earth over the last 400 years.
Walk On – The Glasgow Famine Walk?
As Douglass was quoted earlier on by Afri, power concedes nothing without demand – perhaps the Tim community of Glasgow and beyond ought to demand more to be done in relation to local An Gorta Mor commemoration and wider Hunger awareness in order to bring to the attention of the hundreds of thousands of unawares in and around the West Coast of Scotland just how significant a tumult Hunger was and continues to be.
Picture the scene: Catholics, Protestants and any other denomination all welcome to help commemorate the Glasgow Irish community who owe their very existence in the present, to the survivors of a hunger and havoc stricken past. All participating in a ten mile round walk from Broomielaw to Govan via the Gorbals, the Calton, Parkhead, the Garngad, Springburn and Anderston. Symbolic stations on both sides of the Clyde and east and west of the city centre.
Flags, banners, music, literature and ending with learned public speakers. Organised by CSCs, volunteers and any other invested soul. The Glasgow Famine Walk which raises money for a choice charity in relation to global hunger as well as raising awareness of An Gorta Mor simultaneously.
I’m sure the Council would get behind it, after all, they’re a fine one for licensing walks of other Irish and British symbolism!