Although the Irish Great Hunger is no laughing matter, a great number of people are finding much entertainment from one man’s personal obsession with discussing the tragic years of hunger in Ireland that saw one million people die and a further million leave the country.
In 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton began Humans of New York, a photography project that initially endeavored to photograph some 10,000 of the interesting and incredibly varied people you can meet in the Big Apple’s streets. At some point along in his project, Stanton also began to interview his photo’s subjects, finding that he could reveal everything from the heartbreaking to cheering, to inspirational stories from people who were strangers just a short time beforehand.
Posting quotes from these interviews alongside the portraits he shot, HONY quickly became a phenomenon leading to two bestselling books and travels to twenty other projects to engage in the same practice with different peoples.
In the wake of the Presidential election on November 8 and the election of Donald Trump as president-elect, Stanton traveled to an area that voted for Trump to give greater insight into those who cast their vote on the real-estate mogul. For the first time in almost 30 years, a Republican candidate carried Michigan and so the photographer journeyed to Macomb County, a blue-collar suburb north of Detroit.
Read more: The Irish Humans of New York (PHOTOS)
There he met with this unfortunate woman who out of the goodness of her heart has taken into her home not only cat-crazy sister but her sister’s famine fanatic of an ex-husband.
As she describes it: “My sister moved in, her five cats moved in, and her ex-husband moved in. It’s driving me nuts.
“My sister watches those murder programs. And her ex-husband is Irish so he keeps talking about the potato famine. He loves that potato famine. Always the potato famine.”
Some people were not impressed with the apparent flippant way in which they felt this man was discussing a terrible time in Ireland.
“Just for the record...the Potato Famine is not an everyday topic of conversation in Ireland. Enormous tragedy, huge impact on the shape of the nation and national psyche, yes, everyday conversation- no. Enough already, ex- brother in law. You are not representing us well!” wrote one user.
While some took issue with an American discussing the subject stating: “Emmm...Irish people don't talk about the 'potato famine' (it's actually called The Great Famine)...I suppose he's drunk on Whiskey all the time and says 'top o' the mornin' to you' too?”
Other users sympathized with the endless chat on the subject, however, explaining how they’d had similar experiences.
“Ha ha, the potato famine!! My ex-husband was of Irish heritage but neither he nor his parents had ever actually been to Ireland yet he always talked about the potato famine like he lived through it! You made me laugh!” one wrote.
Other Irish in America sympathized with the ex-husband, however, stating: “Having just returned recently from Ireland to honor my ancestors and visit the old sod I also just finished a book by John Kelly called "The Graves are Walking" about the potato famine and emigration/immigration during that time. After reading that I can see why your brother -in-law continues to speak of it.”
And “Don't think you're [sic] ex bro in law 'loves that potato famine' actually! Maybe, just maybe he feels strongly about millions of his fellow countrymen being starved to death and the rest of the world turning that fabulous blind eye??”
In general, the Irish followers of HONY thought it funny that a man the opposite side of the Atlantic would still be so concerned about potatoes in Ireland.
“This sentence: "..her ex-husband is Irish so he keeps talking about the potato famine." That is pure comedy gold! Do you think she needs another friend? I need someone who can make me laugh with their complaints.”
“Tell the ex-husband that we're grand now - fret no more , we've plenty of spuds?roosters, Kerr pinks, Wexford ones, little ones, big ones, chipped, boiled, mashed or roasted - sure we're tripping over them, there are that many?but thanks all the same!”
“He's probably not 'off the boat' Irish. I work construction with Irish immigrants every day for the last 5 years and not one person has brought up the potato famine”