Mary Sheehan Coming Home To Cook

July 3, 2009

Spuds & Politics & win a cookbook!

Filed under: home base — admin @ 8:39 am

julykilrush-001I bought these  Land Leaguer potatoes at the Kilrush Farmers Market from Michael, one of our local farmers who reminded me about the Land League movement of the 1800’s.  But, why are these gorgeous potatoes with a purple skin and yellow flesh named after a post faminine political movement in Ireland? Here’s a brief history of the origins of the movement:

Making matters worse, the Encumbered Estates Act of 1849 allowed estates in severe debt to be auctioned off upon petition of creditors or even at the request of bankrupt landlords. Land values tumbled as hundreds of estates with huge debts were auctioned off at bargain prices to British speculators interested solely in making a future profit. These new owners took a harsh view toward the penniless Irish tenant farmers still living on the land. They immediately raised rents and also conducted mass evictions to clear out the estates in order to create large cattle-grazing farms. Between 1849 and 1854 nearly 50,000 families were evicted.

In 1879, the blight returned in force bringing the possibility of renewed starvation and further evictions in the west of Ireland. But by this time, farmers and laborers throughout Ireland had become politically organized. They were now represented by a national alliance known as the Land League, led by Charles Stewart Parnell. The League, funded by donations from America, organized boycotts against notorious landlords, encouraged the defiant burning of leases, and had its members physically block evictions.

Parnell’s “Land War” agitations brought the beginning of British political reforms helping Ireland’s small farmers and tenants. The Land Act of 1881 granted official rent reductions and recognized the “interest” of tenants in their leased farms. The following year, Parnell agreed to end the Land War in return for the government’s elimination of old unpaid rents.

Parnell came to Ennis, Co. Clare in 1850 and in the wee hours of the morning, gave an inspiational speech to the thousands who came out to meet his train. Michael said that this potato is associated with the west of Ireland, so, was it originally developed in Co. Clare around this time, maybe by a farmer directly involved in the organizing? hmmm…….

History books credit another county with the 1st resistance by the League against a Landowner. In 1880, this landowner refused to reduce the rent and, in response, the Land League organized all the tenants, workers and tradesmen in the area to stop their dealings with him. The household servants, gardeners, shop keepers in the village and even the Post Office ignored him.

So, here’s my 2 challenges: Why and how did  this potato get it’s name?  That’s a hard one!! This is much easier: What new word in the English language came out of the action against the landowner and why?                                            A copy of Coming Home To Cook will be sent out to the person or persons who answers either or both!  Good Luck. And, I steamed these lovely spuds and they are indeed winners!  Thanks Michael.


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