Punch Comments on the Famine

The items below are mostly full-page cartoons, with a few related articles. The cartoons can also be browsed via the Punch Cartoon Gallery.

For some quick reads, see a collection of squibs.

Sympathy for Ireland
Perhaps because its vehicle was satire, Punch rarely dealt directly with Ireland’s famine, but concentrated more on the related politics. It occasionally showed a sympathetic, if pathetic view of the Irish, as in the satirical piece, Landlord Ejectment in Ireland, April 8, 1846.

Potato Failure
When Punch did choose to direct its attention to the potato failure itself, it was usually to minimize it or proclaim its demise, as in these pieces, published in 1845, 1847, and 1849, respectively.

The Irish Burden
Punch’s image of the pathetic Irishman developed into the image of the lazy Irishman, a burden on England:

The O’Connell Tribute
One of Punch’s chief Irish targets during the 1840s was Daniel O’Connell and the movement to repeal the Union of 1801. There were dozens of full-page cartoons criticizing O’Connell; one recurring complaint was that he financed the Repeal Association with subscriptions by the Irish peasantry– variously called the “O’Connell Tribute,” the “Catholic Rent,” or simply, the “rint.” The penny-a-month rate was designed primarily to broaden membership, though at its peak, it brought in £1,000 per month. See “Punch’s Tribute to O’Connell,” Nov. 15, 1845.

Rebellious Ireland
In 1846, a group of militant Irish nationalists calling for “Physical Force” split off from O’Connell’s Repeal Association. Punch’s animosity for “Young Ireland” was so great that the paper occasionally went so far as to show sympathy for O’Connell. The Irish peasant, formerly depicted as pathetic and lazy, was now seen as ungrateful and violent. See Punch’s response to the arrest of William Smith O’Brien, “The Fine Young Irish Gentleman,” April 8, 1848.

Punch supported emigration as a solution to Ireland’s troubles (see What Can Be Done With Ireland?):