Peasant Autonomy
go to the previous page     Nederlands     go to the next page
Story 15

A valley in Ireland – 1846

The angel and the sailing ship

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: James Stringer)


Mary stays near the low wall of her kitchen garden. She has just dug up the last two tubers. She looks into Black Valley, and counts the smoke plumes that come from the huts. “Just twenty-seven,” she tells herself, “ten huts are already abandoned. People are leaving. How beautiful this valley always has been, with its green potato fields. But now death prevails.”

It is autumn. Just before the harvest all the potatoes suddenly started rotting from a terrible disease. The peasants are desperate, because potatoes are their most important food. How can they pay their rent, when they have to buy food in the shop all the time?
Ireland is a colony of England. The land is held by English owners. The rent is high. The stewards are merciless. When you cannot pay your rent, the bailiff comes to take your livestock. When you don't have livestock any more, you will be evicted from your land.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Larry Koester)


Already three times Mary has dreamed of an angel, who points to a big ship with billowing sails. Third time is a charm. This is not just a dream, this is the hand of God! Together with her husband and baby she has to emigrate to America, the land of abundance, with its rustling golden wheat fields. While Mary is singing her baby to sleep, her mind wanders off to the free land far away, without heartless landowners.


The book Famine (1937) written by the Irish author Liam O'Flaherty describes the terrible potato disease in the middle of the nineteenth century, which caused countless Irish people to decide to emigrate.

Go to:
= the next page:
'Narayama is waiting for us' - a remote mountain village in Japan – in the 19th century, story 16.
= the Table of contents, story 15.