Potato, The

DESCRIPTION: "We have a loyal little friend, the potato," brought by Sir Walter Raleigh. Though there are varieties with fancy names, all are good. The singer hopes "our planters will plant more ... They are a vital food today in which we all must share"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1950 (OLochlainn-More)
KEYWORDS: food Ireland nonballad
FOUND IN: Ireland
REFERENCES (1 citation):
OLochlainn-More 81, "The Potato" (1 text, 1 tune)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Potato" (theme)
NOTES: Was this song written before or after 1845? The answer would be interesting.
The legend that Sir Walter Raleigh brought the potato to Europe is just that: Legend. There is no doubt that the plant came originally from South America, but no one knows who transported it across the Atlantic.
The dependence of Ireland on the potato was of course not voluntary. With the English having subdivided the Catholic lands into areas too small for proper farming, and with the rent laws making land improvements impossible (if a Catholic improved the land, his rent went up), there was no choice but to grow potatoes; it was the only food productive enough to support a family on the tiny plots the Irish were allowed.
Of course, potatoes needed little help from the growers, so the English accused the Irish of laziness -- but they had little choice. Especially with the population so high; even on improved land, it would have been hard to support the people of Ireland in the 1840s without the potato.
All that, of course, changed with the Great Hunger in the 1840s. - RBW
File: OLcM081

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