Tales From The Workhouse – Episode 3

Posted in News on 30th October 2018

Irish Famine


In Tales From The Workhouse – Episode 3 we introduce you to the  County Leitrim Singer/Songwriter Mick Blake.  Ireland Deserted - Workhouse

With Ireland’s rich History of Music and Literature, this Episode is simplistic in the sense of delivering a condensed Famine history through Micks song The Rich Mans Feast.

Knowing Your History

At www.birthsdeathsmarriages.ie  we feel a responsibility to share the story of the Irish “Famine” to the International Community of Irish Descent.  Many of whom apply for the documents required for registration on the Foreign Births Register (In a bid for an Irish Passport) … But lack any true insight into our heritage beyond the Shamrock and Céad Míle Fáilte!

Confronting the systematic abuses of the Irish in our own land is a delicate task.  Through Patriotism and embarrassment, many will find it offensive and challenge the facts of a History that even the Irish are sometimes unaware of…. The sterilization of the truth here is definitely well past its sell-by date.  Yet, the old history of brushing the truth under the carpet is still largely alive and well.

Facing the Facts

The objective is not to incite an argument but to express a truth because in truth, there is peace.  As a child, the primary school curriculum fed us the familiar tale (pardon the atrocious pun)  … the Potato crop failed and so the people died.  That never sat well with me because, as an Irishwoman, I know the land.  We did have other crops and other food options growing here.  So, why were people starving for the need of a humble spud?

We’re an intelligent race of people, aren’t we?  The failure of the potato crop created the perfect opportunity for a systematic culling of the population.  A perfect storm, an act of God which the Governing English used as a vehicle to stem the population.  They achieved this aim by removing the life sustaining food and grain from Irish shores under protection of several battalions of the British Army.  The only survival options, which were far from guaranteed, were the Workhouse or the Coffin Ships –   The Great Hunger.  A more apt description than Famine.

Why Did So Many Die?

As Irish food was shipped to the Colonies, the people starved to death or entered the Workhouse (Ironically, the Workhouse inmates dropped off like flies due to malnutrition and disease).  The mass evictions of tenant farmers at the same time ensured that the people had neither food nor shelter.  Brutal weather, infection and disease, lack of any kind of help and absolute disdain at the hands of the ruling classes left people bereft of the will to live, even if they had had the means.

The obvious result was a death tole of EPIC proportions.  The Workhouse was a cruel institution in itself, families were divided and never saw eachother again.  Built in a standard H design, Men were sent to one building, Boys to another, Women to the Womens building and little Girls went to their building.  They would never again know what happened to eachother.  They were usually only ever reunited when dumped into the mass famine grave attached to the Workhouse, where they would lie largely forgotten.

Meet Mick Blake

Mick Blake is a school teacher and musician from County Leitrim.  Having always been involved with music, it’s only in recent years that he has taken pen to paper.   Mick has confronted some of the Major social issues of our time through a series of Songs tackling everything from Fracking to the “Famine”.  Written with eloquence and a heavy lean on the facts rather than fiction, Mick has a special way of condensing our stories down into musical essays, plucking the heartstrings and stirring our sense of right and wrong.  A modern day folk singer and a truly unique Storyteller.

Micks offering on the topic of The Great Hunger (The Rich Mans Feast) is not taken from the storybooks, it is a solid and respectful tribute to a time in which, as a nation, we were a broken people.  Great wrongs were done, mans inhumanity to man never more obvious.

When I asked Mick what his driving force was, he replied simply “I felt neo-liberalism and the Laissez-Faire policies of the past were once again putting the markets before the people, people should not have to suffer under austerity“.  He takes his time to research a topic, so he does not churn out information which is misleading or inaccurate.  As a truth seeker, we can be assured that what we hear from Mick is a fair assessment of a situation.  When I asked him what was important to him, he said “I hate hypocrisy and Cover-ups.  Accountability is very important, otherwise it just lets people down“.

Many will argue that our current circumstances aren’t much different to the oppression of Famine times but surely, nothing could have topped that particular hell?!  Having had this discussion with International friends on different occasions, I was glad to have the opportunity to direct people en-masse to Micks Work.  The overall view of our Famine history is offered in a short 6 minute video on  Micks YouTube Channel.  His YouTube uploads are a dossier of Irish History, both old history and recent done through the medium of music.  The Rich Mans Feast is a particularly poignant and soul moving piece and has been very well received by the International Irish community.

Dispelling the widely accepted romantic notion of Ireland as a land of fun and frolics in various states of inebriation – The Rich Mans Feast by Mick Blake is a sobering and fair assessment of the times.  It may also go some way towards explaining the history of Uprising, War and Conflict endured by the Irish for hundreds of years.  At the very least, it will undoubtedly give the listener and understanding of WHY it all happened.  The “Famine” being just one horror along the way.

Our sincere thanks to Mick Blake for his work in highlighting issues that matter to the people.  He has a real Social Conscience and without him, and people like him, who make it a talking point, we would remain oblivious …. Oblivious! Another fine song by Mick Blake which was later recorded by Christy Moore.  A visit to Micks YouTube Channel will be an evening well spent!  Orders for his recent CD can be placed directly with Mick through his website here: https://mickblakemusic.com/

A link to The Rich Mans Feast is to be found below:


Famine Grave marked at Carrickmacross Workhouse