Schools invited to commemorate Famine by planting Lumper potatoes

Variety which millions of Irish depended on was destroyed by blight from 1845 onwards

Schools across Ireland are being encouraged to sow Lumper potatoes this spring as a way of commemorating those who died during the Famine of the 1840s.

The Lumper is a potato variety upon which millions of Irish people depended until it was destroyed by blight from 1845 onwards.

The Committee for the Commemoration for Irish Famine victims has teamed up with Glens of Antrim Potatoes to make free seed potatoes available to all schools in Ireland.

Organisers say the seed requires little care and the process of planting and tending the crop will help pupils remember the victims of the famine, as well as those who suffer hunger today.


President Michael D Higgins launched the initiative at Our Lady of the Wayside National School in Bluebell, Dublin, on Wednesday.


The Famine was the single biggest social catastrophe of the nineteenth century. An estimated 1.5 million Irish people emigrated, while a further million or more died out of a population of about eight million. In the years following the Famine, emigration continued unabated until the island’s population was roughly half of what it had been in the pre-Famine period.

Mr Higgins has spoken previously on how the vulnerability of the Irish people stemmed not just from the reliance of the population on a single variety of a single form of food, but also a combination of structural and social issues.

Irish land ownership, with its reliance on sub-dividing land, meant almost half of land holdings were under five acres at the time of the Famine.

Mr Higgins has also highlighted the damaging social policy at the time, which concluded that the giving of relief directly to those dying could constitute a “moral hazard”.

* School principals or teachers are being encouraged to email: to to receive free packs of Lumper seed potatoes, which will be made available for collection in locations across the country

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent