Herself is learning about the famine in school. She had a great time doing a dramatisation where she got to play the lady from the big house increasing the rents of misfortunate tenants who had made improvements and then tossing them out. Another day, they made a coffin ship.
One night, she had a couple of questions for homework, the first of which was – “Why were the Irish so poor at the time of the Famine?” “Why were they so poor?” she asked me. “Well, lots of reasons: landholdings tended to be small as they were divided up between families; landlord and tenant law was unsatisfactory in a number of ways [insert digression on land league]; there were, of course, absentee landlords and unfair agents [digression here to cover Captain Boycott]; then remember that the Catholics had been disenfranchised for a long time and there was the legacy of the Act of Union in 1801 and the penal laws…” I began. “Does this go back to William of Orange and James II?” she asked. “Well, yes, even before that, I suppose it is the nature of history that it is informed and shaped by the past.” And so on.
I checked her homework later. In response to the question, “Why were the Irish so poor at the time of the Famine?” she had written: “Because the English were not very nice.”
Is it any wonder that her aunt has vetoed all talk of the Famine when she marries her English man in London at the weekend?