Amidst the worst hunger many would ever know, children and old people died in their hundreds. Angry mobs filled the streets of countless communities, demanding food for their families as famine strangled the life from them.
Yet these incidents didn’t happen in some far-flung part of the world, but across Scotland in 1846-47 when the country’s potato crop was lost to blight, sparking prolonged and serious civil unrest across the north and north east.
The crisis has now been explored in unprecedented detail in Insurrection: Scotland’s Famine Winter, a new book by Press and Journal columnist Jim Hunter, which will be launched at Waterstones in Inverness on October 10.
On islands, such as Barra and South Uist, relief efforts came too late to prevent starvation and death, with parents watching powerlessly as their children succumbed.
Further east, the public in towns and villages from Aberdeen to Wick and Thurso – by way of places such as Fraserburgh, Macduff, Buckie, Portgordon, Garmouth, Hopeman, Burghead, Elgin, Inverness, Avoch, Cromarty, Dingwall and Invergordon – rose up in protest at the cost of the oatmeal, which replaced potatoes as people’s basic foodstuff.