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I am currently planning a major podcast series on The Great Famine (beginning in 2017) and I have been reading newspapers from the era. I will be posting articles I come across here as much to save them as anything else. 

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 10.21.35In 1849 Rev. James Anderson, a protestant rector in the West of Ireland highlighted reports of cannibalism he had heard. He claimed in a neighbouring area a starving man had butchered and eaten the liver and heart of a shipwrecked corpse.

The issue was raised Maurice O’Connell (M.P. & son of Daniel O’Connell) in the House of Commons in 1849. The then Prime Minister Lord John Russell in reply acknowledged an incident had taken place but denied it was cannibalism.

Russell’s account was utterly unconvincing to say the least. While original reports had claimed the culprit had acted from starvation, Russell claimed he was merely “a man of singularly voracious appetite

His account got even more unbelievable as Russell continued

“When he found the body, he did not appear to know that it was a human body, and he proceeded to cut out a part of it, and was about to eat it, when some of the neighbours remarked that it was the trunk of a human being. He said he was not aware of that, and it does not appear that he ate any portion of the flesh, whatever his original intention might have been.”

What say ye?

Sources

House of commons debates 1st June 1849
Irish Examiner 1841-current, 04 June 1849, p.3
Article Nenagh Guardian 1838-current, 6th June 1849, p.2
[1] Irish Examiner 1841-current, Friday, 04 May, 1849; Page: 2

 

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