Is then our Isle of Heaven accursed and banned,
That all desert her thus? Perish the thought!
Not in such spirit read we Erin's lot;
Full often is adversity's chill breath
More precious than the wealth of India's mine,
High is the comfort of the text divine:
‘Whom the Lord loveth, them He chasteneth!'
The Great Irish Famine occurred in a highly politicised country with a well advanced system of communications, a literacy rate of about 50 per cent, a universally spread local and state bureaucracy and considerable openness to the press, domestic and foreign. Accordingly, it is well documented and extensively remembered. However, both documentation and remembering are incomplete and fragmented in ways that suggest reticence and ambivalence. The Great Famine as national grievance is well posted; but the totality of contemporary response and later remembrance and interpretation is much less clear-cut, incorporating elements of anger, providentialism, embarrassment, guilt and, of course, incomprehension in fluctuating combinations. The present chapter is intended as a tentative exploration of this complexity and of its reflection in history writing. Only limited reference is made to the thriving literary and cultural study of the Great Irish Famine pioneered by Margaret Kelleher, Christopher Morash and others.