Since the Norman invasion of the land, the native Gaelic where relegated to second-class citizens on their own land. Subjected to laws forged in London and blessed by the Anglican Church, the Catholic Irish where left to farming and providing manual labor to an industrializing nation on the other side of the Irish Sea. In his book, Paddy's Lament, Thomas Gallagher recounts one of history's most tragic events to be bestowed on the people of Ireland in the mid-19th century. A story unfolding the horror of an uncaring and unforgiving occupying force, Paddy's Lament tells of the impact of the potato famine during 1846 to 1847, and the negligence of the governing English parliament. .
The staple source of food for the Irish, the potato crop fell victim to blight during the mid 19th century and created years of havoc to an agricultural society. The crop disease, later discovered by scientists to be an unintentional passenger on food shipments from North America, burgeoned in the central regions of the Irish farming districts in previous years. In the summer of 1846, it was apparent that this harbinger of starvation was consuming each and every farm throughout Ireland. As the Irish daily news printed at the time, "The (potato crop) failure this year is universal; for miles a person may proceed in any direction, without perceiving an exception to the awful destruction" (Gallagher 6). .
The meager harvest, much of which was pulled from the earth early to avoid devastation, produced a diminutive potato that was sold at an exorbitant price. To a great extent, the commoners where relegated to eating "mangel-wurzel, a large, coarse, reddish-orange beet grown as fodder for cattle" (Gallagher 10). In addition, bloodletting of the cattle herd became commonplace amongst the starving populace. A staple ingredient mixed with other foodstuff, the animal's blood offered protein and life-sustaining minerals to the scavenging Irish families.