Flight From Famine

Flight from Famine
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Slide 1: Slide
HistoryPrimary Education

This lesson contains 17 slides, with interactive quizzes and text slides.

time-iconLesson duration is: 15 min

Items in this lesson

Flight from Famine

Slide 1 - Slide

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When you see this symbol in the lesson:
Use what you already know 

Learn some new facts

Get ready to take part

Reflect on what you have learned

Slide 2 - Slide

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Why did people leave Ireland during the Famine...?

Slide 3 - Mind map

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A person who decides to leave their homeland is an emigrant. Once they arrive in another country they become an immigrant.

We often think about emigration in terms of push and pull factors. Push factors help people make the decision to emigrate. Pull factors help them decide where they want to emigrate to. 

Understanding the movement of people...

Slide 4 - Slide

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Push factors are things that force people to leave their home country.  

Poverty, disease, war and  unemployment are all strong push factors.
Pull factors are things that draw people to a new place.

Job opportunities, education,  better living conditions, and family connections are strong pull factors.   Safe, cheap or easily available transport is also an important factor.

Understanding Push and Pull factors...

Slide 5 - Slide

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What are the push and pull factors that drove emigration from Ireland during the famine?
Job opportunities
Better standard of living
No jobs
Well established transport links

Slide 6 - Drag question

With rampant hunger, poverty and disease, emigration was the only option for thousands of Irish people.

Well established transport and trade routes between Ireland and Great Britain, Canada and the United States allowed for relative ease of travel.  Growing industrialisation crated the demand for workers, and emigration offered the promise of a better life and improved living and social conditions.  
How many millions of people do you think left
Ireland between 1845 and 1855?

Slide 7 - Poll

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Approximately 2.1 million people left Ireland during the Famine.

This is around one quarter of  Ireland's pre-famine population!

Slide 8 - Slide

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Where did Irish people emigrate to?

Slide 9 - Open question

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Nearly 340,000 Irish people emigrated to Canada

United States

Almost 1.5 million Irish people travelled to the USA.  Many settled in big cities such as Chicago, New York and Boston.

Great Britain

Between 200,000 and 300,000 Irish people settled in England, Scotland and Wales.


Around 50,000 Irish people settled in Australia and New Zealand.
New Zealand

Nearly 50,000 Irish people settled in Australia and New Zealand.
Click on the pins to find out where Irish people emigrated to...

Slide 10 - Slide

  • Between 1845 and 1855, around 1.5 million Irish people sailed for the United States.  Ships carrying cargo from North America usually carried emigrants on their return journey. Cargo would be loaded first, then cabin passengers and finally steerage passengers.

  • Ship tickets to Canada were cheaper but conditions on board were very poor. American ships were more expensive but conditions were much better.   
  • Between two and three hundred thousand people settled in Great Britain.  Before the Famine. Irish people would regularly travel to England Scotland and Wales to find work, especially at harvest time when demand was high for men to help bring in the crops.  
  • At least 50,000 went to Australia, New Zealand and other lesser destinations.

On the next screen you will see a button that will allow you to explore a trans-Atlantic emigrant ship from this period!  You can move around the dockside and ship by clicking on the circles.
There were busy trade routes from North America to Britain and Ireland, with ships carrying cargo such as cotton and tobacco .  To make more money, ship companies often carried passengers on the return journey.  These existing trade routes made it easier for Irish people to emigrate to Canada and the United States.

Slide 11 - Slide

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Slide 12 - Link

This link will take you to an interactive scan of the dockside and the Brig Union at the Ulster American Folk Park.  

The Brig Union is an excellent example of the type of ship emigrants would have sailed upon between Ireland and North America.

You can explore the dockside and ship using the white circles and by moving your cursor.  
Today, people often call the ships that transported Irish emigrants to North America 'coffin ships',  but not all ships leaving Ireland or Britain can be considered 'coffin ships'.  

Understanding coffin ships...
'Coffin ships' were often old and slow with very little natural light or fresh air.  Many were cargo ships that were altered to carry passengers.  Poor hygiene along with cramped and overcrowded conditions between decks meant disease spread quickly among people who were already exhausted, weak and ill from hunger.  

Slide 13 - Slide

Today we often describe these boats as 'coffin ships', but people at the time would not have used this term.  
Emigration to North America
By looking at the information, we can see that the following ships might be considered coffin ships:
  • Erin's Queen
  • Pandora
  • Virginius
  • Naomi
These ships were very overcrowded with high levels of death and disease.  Of these 'coffin ships', 3 left from Liverpool.  Many Irish Famine emigrants travelled to Liverpool with the hope of an onward journey to North America.
Have a look at the Arrivals Log for 30th July 1847. 

Which of the ships could be described as 'coffin ships'? Why do you think this is?  

Remember, coffin ships were often overcrowded with many people sick from hunger and disease.

Slide 14 - Slide

Grosse Ile is a small island in the St Lawrence River, in Quebec, Canada.  It was Canada's main immigration gateway and served as a quarantine point for thousands of Irish emigrants entering North America.  

Today, Irish people who have settled around the world are known as the Irish Diaspora. 

This term also includes people born in other countries but who have Irish ancestry.

Around 70 million people all across the world make up the Irish Diaspora, but the largest group is in the United States with 36 million people having Irish heritage!  Many of these people can trace their families through Famine emigration.

Slide 15 - Slide

In the picture we can see a celebration of St Patrick's Day in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States.

St Patrick's Day celebrations are good opportunities for Irish people all around the world to join together and celebrate their heritage!

What was the most surprising fact you learned about Famine Emigration?

Slide 16 - Open question

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How did you enjoy the lesson?

Slide 17 - Poll

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