HAMDEN — When Ireland’s flowering potato plants suddenly withered in the fall of 1845, its people wilted with them. As a deadly pestilence scorched the island’s staple crop — the average Irish man consumed 14 pounds of potatoes a day — the Great Hunger gnawed the nation.
Through seven terrible years of famine, Ireland’s poetic landscape authored tales of the macabre. In one village, a child was found suckling at the dried breasts of its dead mother. Wild dogs searching for food fed on human corpses. The country’s legendary 40 shades of green stained the lips of the starving who fed on tufts of grass in a desperate attempt to survive. As typhus, dysentery, and cholera raged, gravediggers could not keep up, and the emaciated bodies were thrown into mass graves.