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- In Swords there are no old people who remember the great famine of 1846-47.Before 1847, Swords was a city and had a large population, many died of hunger or disease or were forced to emigrate.The famine was caused by failure of the potato crop through blight. The blight was a germ that settled on the leaf of the potato and rotted it, then the stalk and finally the potato itself. It was early in the season when this took place and the crop rotted in the ground.The people lived on yellow meal bread and yellow meal porridge. The English Government gave little or no assistance, but subscription lists were opened on the Continent and in U.S.A.This event decreased the population by about half.Transcribed by a member of our volunteer transcription project.