From poems, plays and novels, to paintings and a seemingly ill-advised comedy TV series (which never got off the ground), the story of Ireland’s Great Hunger has been told in many art forms.
Now, a new graphic novel immerses readers in the harrowing years of 1845 – 1852, when Ireland starved, one million died and another two million people immigrated.
"The Bad Times" tells the tale of the Great Hunger, from the point of view of three teenagers and their dog, Cú, from Kilkee, County Clare in the west of Ireland.
It is the product of a collaboration between Christine Kinealy, founding director of Ireland's Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, and John A. Walsh, an illustrator and graphic novelist. It was launched this month by Quinnipiac Press and Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute.
When the story commences, in late summer 1846, the potato crop is about to fail for a second time. Brigit, Daniel and Liam are three teenage children from the west of Ireland who live through the horrors of the Great Hunger, also known as“the bad times”. Their friendship keeps them strong as they each have to make tough decisions in order to survive.
“One of our aims was to bring the story of the Great Hunger to a younger generation,” said Kinealy, who also is a professor of history at Quinnipiac. “It does deal with famine and there is death in it, but we have created something that is very visual and historically accurate. It tells the story of this pivotal event in Irish history in a way that is accessible, attractive and authentic.”
“It is historical fiction, but, most importantly, we tell a good story and from that story there are elements about people who actually existed and places and settings that are real,” Walsh said. “I think we have done a good job of balancing the real and the fictional.”
Anne Dichele, professor of education and director of Master of Arts in teaching program at the university, has created a curriculum for middle school students to accompany the graphic novel.
“We think it has a very strong educational dimension,” Kinealy said. “It is a great teaching resource.”
Check out the video below to learn more about “The Bad Times,” or go to Amazon to order your own copy.