UCC Famine documentary sees huge success on premiere night

UCC Famine documentary sees huge success on premiere night

To mark the 175th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Irish Famine a major two-part documentary based on the University College Cork’s Atlas of the Great Irish Famine is being broadcast. The first episode was broadcast last night.  

The first part of a historical documentary on the famine aired on Monday night with 430,000 viewers tuning. 

The Hunger: The Story of The Irish Famine aired on RTÉ One and was a collaboration between RTÉ, University College Cork (UCC) and ARTÉ, the European Culture Channel.

The first episode of the two-part documentary looked at the social, political and economic conditions that allowed the famine to occur, with a focus on the first three years of the crisis.

Narrated by Liam Neeson, the documentary proved to be a hit amongst viewers, captivating a large audience from across Ireland.

Its popularity, according to University Librarian and UCC producer, John FitzGerald is a combination of a number of factors.

Mr Ftizgerald said that approximately 430,000 tuned in to the first episode.

“I think Liam Neeson’s voice is captivating. I think the cinematography and shots of the landscapes in particular, captured by Ruán Magan are just breathtaking,” he said.

“We used a lot of original newspaper material, drawings, portraits of the figures and we try to put faces on everybody.

“The fact that it was a human story and we hopefully humanised it and personalised it, kept people in their seats and coming back after the ad breaks,” he said.

The documentary combined a number of articles, documents, images and first-hand accounts to portray a clear and engaging and informative retelling of the events that lead to the Great Irish Famine.

“I think that a lot of people were taken aback by the starkness of that and I think also, the statistics. One statistic that really rang out, and I see it in a lot of tweets was that there were 90 million eggs exported from Ireland to Great Britain before 1845 annually,” said John FitzGerald.

“We also highlighted a number of personal stories so that was something we really wanted to do, to not just look at the big political forces and the big issues but people like Bridget O’Donnell in Clare whose first-hand account was transcribed … and this man, Dr Daniel O’Donovan in Skibbereen who encounters another mother who is struggling to bury her children.” 

The documentary is based on the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, edited by John Crowley, William J Smyth and Mike Murphy from the UCC Department of Geography, published by Cork University Press.

The second part of the documentary will air on Monday night on RTÉ One at 9:35pm.

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