Devastation ravaged Ireland in 1845—An Gorta Mór is what they called it. It was a force that could not be reckoned with as it took potato after potato into its deadly grip. The Irish Potato Famine, as it is more commonly known, was a disaster that struck Ireland and forever changed history, marking a turning point in the lives of all Irish. While it has been determined that the disease that took down the mighty potato was a mere blight brought overseas by an English-goods carrying ship, it can be argued that it had a more notable contributor.

Enter 35-year-old Patrick O’ Flannery, son of an Irish Catholic priest. By the 1840’s Patrick had seen his great homeland turn into a dark and deeply sorrowed place. Poverty then was comparable to that of a Third World country. Growing up in a culture that embraced the potato as a supplementary food, he appreciated its hearty properties and had a palette for it similar to any of his neighbors. However, as he matured and saw his fellow countrymen perish, so did the potato prosper, becoming the sole food for lower class, and a staple for most.

Patrick was raised Catholic and thus well educated with the Bible. This was problematic at the time. The English, who currently had control of Ireland, were promoting Protestantism by placing heavier burdens on the Catholics and thus increasing their levels of poverty. Patrick watched as the poverty-stricken people lay down with the potato, living their lives in utter despair, but doing nothing to stop it. They were completely dependent on the potato for survival..

With his background in Catholicism, Patrick drew strong parallels to the suffering of his neighbors, which had been described in the Bible. The dire conditions surrounding him magnified his view, and Patrick soon came to the understanding that the potato was the devil and God needed him to smite the potato from the land. This was the only way that his brothers and sisters could come out of the trance the potato had on their souls.

Wiping out an entire crop, however, would not be easy, especially one that grew so feverishly throughout the land. While Ireland had a history with diseases and viruses such as “dry rot” and “curl” that would sweep through most of the country, they would take but only one season’s crop. What Patrick needed was a terrific end to the potato that would last long enough to pull his fellow Irishmen from it’s fastened grip.

Talk was afoot of a potato plague in America, that had brought the vegetable down for two full years. Fear was making it’s way into the heart of Ireland. Patrick saw this is a readily available scapegoat, but how could such a vicious plague occur in Ireland?

Patrick soon came to the understanding that the potato was the devil and god needed him to spite the potato from the land.

The answer came far more easily then anticipated. While reading the news one day, he saw an article on the topic of a witch who resided in the hills of Kilkenny, who was spoken of with the greatest disdain.

Celtic witchcraft was a well-known practice, however, this witch named Barm (Gaelic for Dark raven) had been outcast and was forced to dwell in solitary, nothing but ugly rumors to keep her and her evil magic company. This was what Patrick needed, and soon his journey began.

After traveling for four days and nights, Patrick arrived in the burrow of Barm, witch of Kilkenny. There he approached her with his request of a plague so dire it will bring all of Ireland to it’s knees—the death of the potato. Being of the evil nature that she was, Barm likened to Patrick’s request and immediately sent him to a small pond in the forest of Gilshire, beside the eldest tree. There he would find holy water so tainted by the devil’s tongue, only a drop would be needed to engage it’s demise.

Patrick’s journey home was a joyous one, as he dropped the tainted water on each potato farm he passed. The blight that struck came like a whirlwind, destroying every potato in its path. By November, one-third of the entire potato crop had been destroyed. While Patrick had metaphorically seen his fellow Irishmen lay down in poverty with the potato, he soon saw them lay down in starvation, depraved of the potato’s bounty in the worst destruction
Ireland had ever seen.