The year summer bypassed Galway - and the city went mad

Conference to be held on 1816 - the 'Year Without a Summer'

"It could have been worse, we could be in 1816."

"It could have been worse, we could be in 1816."

Many people feel 2016 was a year without any real summer weather, but 200 years ago Galwegians faced far worse weather, one that resulted in rioting, protests, blockades, and food shortages.

Historians call 1816 the 'Year Without Summer', and meteorologically it was the worst in Ireland in the decades before the Famine. It will be the subject of a public conference on Friday October 7 and Saturday 8 at NUI Galway and the Mechanics Institute, Middle Street.

Galway is a long way from Mount Tambora in Indonesia, but a volcanic eruption there on April 10 1815 had serious consequences for the west of Ireland. Almost a thousand times as powerful as the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010, Tambora spread volcanic dust throughout the northern hemisphere, blocking out the sun. The following year, 1816, was exceptionally cold. Crops failed for want of sunlight, resulting in food shortages, epidemic disease, and widespread social unrest throughout Europe. In Galway, the townspeople rioted repeatedly to secure reductions in food prices, while the Claddagh fishermen blockaded the port to prevent the export of grain.

Marking the bicentenary of the crisis will be a number of free public talks. In the Mechanics Institute (October 7, 7.30pm, ) there will be three short presentations from Dr Audrey Morley (NUIG ), Dr John Cunningham (NUIG ), and Prof Breandán Mac Suibhne (Centenary College, New Jersey ) who will discuss the effects of the eruption on Ireland’s climate and ecology, and its impact in Galway and the Donegal-Derry area.

In the NUIG Human Rights Centre, opposite the Cathedral, Prof Seán Ryder (NUIG ) and Prof Claire Connolly (UCC ) will speak on the influence of the climatic catastrophe of 1816 on Gothic literature (October 8 ). The Human Rights Centre was formerly the Galway Fever Hospital, first established to deal with the public health consequences of the ‘Year Without Summer’.

For a full conference programme email [email protected]. All are welcome.


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