James Carty was my grandfather, a stern serious man not given to flights of fancy and with little tolerance of those who had same… but this story was told by my father that he told him…
Jimmy was in a neighbours house, who had gone out to the street to attend to some work, when another neighbour came rushing in, demanding bread and milk.
In those days, demanding food was a major taboo, even if you were hungry you protested you didnt want to eat even though food would be put in front of you. So this was highly unusual.
Jimmy said the dinner was on, and bade the man wait and settle down, but the man shouted he had “walked on the hungry grass”. Jimmy understood the superstition and went to slice the loaf, but the man demanded it as it was, upon which he tore at it with his hands, drinking the milk with it, and after a few bites his hunger was sated.
When the householder returned, to his amusement and concern the story was related to him, and he confirmed there was a patch of ground outside that was said to be where the famine dead had lain to die.
On walking on it, a bypasser would be overcome by a phantom hunger which could only be cured by the food that was available at the time – bread and milk, and the bread had to be torn at. Any other food, especially is properly prepared, would not be any good.
There are many versions of this phenomena around Ireland, recorded most famously by Annie M.P. Smithson in her works. That is the story from our family of The Hungry Grass… which I recorded in verse for posterity.