In Ireland the potato was a main staple dish. in some of the poorer parts of the country they relied entirely on the potato for food. Because the potato was so abundant and could feed so many people, it allowed the population of Ireland to grow very quickly.
People in Ireland were very poor and ate potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With diet of mainly just potatoes a man could eat 4 kilos of potatoes a day. The poor often sold the best potatoes and ate only the small watery kind called ‘lumpers’.
In 1845 many potatoes were found to have gone black and rotten and their leaves had withered. The disease became known as ‘potato blight’. The blight was the fungus Phytophthora infestans which turns potatoes into a soggy and inedible mess that smells badly.
This blight caused a famine in Ireland. This was because everyone was dependent on the potato. Many historians suggest the death-toll was in the region of 700,000 to 800,000.
One million Irish emigrated, mostly for America and Canada plus Australia and NZ. Many died on the boats because they were travelling in because the conditions were so crowded and dirty.
Once the Irish they were amazed that america had little poverty and disease. The people living in the New World wrote letters back to home encouraging others to come and join them