Celebrating Irish Heritage Month, another graphic novel about Irish immigration is available online.
Go Home Paddy by John A. Walsh:
Paddy Brennan is just off the boat. Things in Boston are not that much better than they were in Ireland; minus the Potato Famine, of course. It’s 1847, and the Irish are setting sail in massive numbers for the New World. They flee the Famine and English oppression fueled by a view of the Irish as an inferior race. On American shores, Paddy is finding the same miseries that he had left behind on the other side of the Atlantic: bigotry, poverty and hatred. The Americans seem to detest the Irish — and in no city are they more despised than in Boston, where the natives regard England as their mother country and where, at one point, the Puritans had banned Christmas for being too Catholic! Paddy’s parents are dead, he has no job prospects and he’s haunted not only by what he saw during the Famine, but also by his experiences while crossing the ocean on one of the many infamous “Coffin Ships”. Paddy will have to fight for his rights, his religion and his very life if he’s going to survive in Boston. And what will happen if Paddy and his fellow immigrants assimilate? Will they remember their torturous pasts, or will they simply move up the ethnic ladder and look down on those considered different? GO HOME PADDY, a web-comic, is the tale of one Irish immigrant’s aching struggle to find his way in a Bostonian society that fears and hates him while not forgetting his people’s wretched history.
Heartbreaking, thought-provoking and ultimately uplifting, this unique narrative incorporates historical details such as the Great Hunger, the rise of the Know-Nothings, Victorian prejudices and the Great Boston Fire of 1872. GO HOME PADDY is also timely as it examines the role of immigration, race relations and religion in American society — hot political topics of today. GO HOME PADDY is a graphic novel of around 120-140 pages and illustrated using the Victorian simian stereotype of the Irish.
This comic will also help answer a few of the more patronizing and noxious questions often posed when discussing the Irish famine, such as why the dopey Irish simply didn’t plant crops other than potatoes so they wouldn’t starve.
As a farmer, let me add that a blight can wipe out an entire crop in a matter of days, so it’s not like farmers had a great deal of time to diversify their crops.
Moreover, the Irish didn’t own their own land. For many years, Irish Catholics were forbidden to own land or live near an incorporated town.
Rural Irish tenant farmers had small slivers of land to till. The plots were divided into such small portions the only crop they could grow which could sustain human life was the potato.
A potato will produce several pounds of food in a piece of land only about one square foot around. So, the only way a tenant farmer could live was to plant potatoes.
When the potato crop died, mass starvation was the result.
An equally foolish and patronizing question is why farmers didn’t just turn to fishing, what with their living on an island and all. A question like that coming from people who’ve never gotten their food anywhere but a grocery. C’mon.
With nearly 1 in 6 Irishmen dead or forced to leave the country, and the vast majority gone to Amerikay, the irony of the potato blight is that the potato is a native American food, not introduced to Europe until the 1500’s. And then as a decorative plant.
While the potato slowly gained ground in eastern France (where it was often the only crop remaining after marauding soldiers plundered wheat fields and vineyards), it did not achieve widespread acceptance until the late 1700s. The peasants remained suspicious, in spite of a 1771 paper from the Faculté de Paris testifying that the potato was not harmful but beneficial. The people began to overcome their distaste when the plant received the royal seal of approval: Louis XVI began to sport a potato flower in his buttonhole, and Marie-Antoinette wore the purple potato blossom in her hair.