Translation:When the Great Famine came, my ancestors died.
I'll just say that "An Drochshaol" is a better translation for the great famine. For example:
Bhí a lán daoine ag folag gorta i rith an drochshaoil = There was a lot of people enduring hunger during the famine.
(Folag is a dialectal form of Fulaingt = Enduring/Suffering)
Searching a few novels by native speakers (Maidhc Dainín, Pádraig Ua Maoileoin, Peadar Ua Laoghaire, Pádraig Ó Conaire, Mairtín Ó Cadhain) and a few folklore collections from native speakers (Mioscais na gCumar, Leabhar Mhaidhc Dháith, Gort Broc, Béarrach Mná ag caint) the ratio of 'An Drochshaol' to 'An Gorta Mór' is about 20 to 1. 'An Gorta Mór' was a translation from the English 'The great hunger' and appears mostly in non-native speaker works.
Not to say there is anything wrong with 'An Gorta Mór', but it's not the native way to say it.
I checked a few books in Mayo Irish and Galway Irish as well (the ones above are mostly Munster) and Drochshaol is the most common term. The Mayo books were "Le Gradam is le Spraoi", "A Mhuintir Dhú Chaocháin" and "Taidhgín".
"Ceart nó Mícheart" is also another Mayo Irish book where the author actually discusses this point.
According to Atlas of the Great Irish Famine (2012, Cork University Press):
"An Drochshaol ('The Bad Life') ....is how speakers of Irish designated the Famine after it had occurred. The term gorta, was also used to depict it when in progress and subsequently. Here, a link with a root denoting 'heating' lead to the development of meanings like 'scalding', if the exterior surface of the body was burned, or 'searing, piercing pain', namely, from sharp pangs of hunger felt internally in the stomach, whence the concept of 'famine'. That word is a derivative abstract noun from the adjective "goirt" ("bitter"). ...Gorta, in a primary and a range of other senses, is well represented in the culture."
Gorta is used to convey extreme hunger, stronger than "Airc ocrais", so it would certainly be used in describing the famine, the phrase "An Gorta M(h)ór" however is almost never used in native speech/writing for the famine itself.
Do you know what they mean by:
"Gorta, in a primary and a range of other senses, is well represented in the culture."
surely Gorta, being just a word for starvation level hunger, is easily attested, I'm not sure what "represented in the culture" means.
I take it to mean that it is a recognized native way of saying it.
Sigh. "The British version of history" has nothing to do with the phrase an Gorta Mór. Aside from the fact that the British government at the time didn't accept any responsibility for the famine, they certainly weren't in the habit of subverting the Irish language to play down their role. And, as the comments above make clear gorta implies starvation level hunger, and is used to describe other, modern famines around the world. The Irish phrase An Gorta Mór is actually stronger that "the Great Hunger" that it is sometimes translated as.
As for starvation versus famine, for all their faults, the government of the day are damned for what they didn't do, not for what they did do. The food that was exported from Ireland during the famine was exported by private individuals and public companies, not by the Government. The laissez faire policy of the Government meant that they didn't intervene to prevent the beef and tillage farmers of the East and South from exporting their crops, and the Government didn't force those (Irish) farmers to give their wealth to the penniless and destitute starving people further west. Even the (private) charitable organizations that did spring up in response to the famine didn't try to feed the starving by buying this Irish food - they often spent their money on much cheaper imports (not always with the greatest of success).
It's a complex issue, so be careful about cheap denunciations.
An Gorta Mór is the term used on most of the memorials in Ireland too. drochshaol simply means "hard times" or "a hard life", but when used with the definite article an and capitalized, an Drochshaol refers to the hardest of hard times, the Famine, just as the term "the Famine" is understood to refer to the famine that started in 1845. (Before 1845, people probably referred to the 1740 famine as an Drochshaol too).
Ireland was neutral during an Dara Cogadh Domhanda, it wasn't "at war". The various legal provisions that had to be introduced, such as rationing and interning of foreign military personnel who found themselves washed up on our shores, were introduced as Emergency acts.
My grandmother, aged 1, was the only child listed in her 1911 census record, though she was the 7th birth in the family. She never "admitted" that either, though it is quite possible that she wasn't aware of it. Before the 20th century, children who died were often "forgotten" - it was a much less memorable event than it is today, because it was so much more commonplace. The famine frequently took whole families, as, if the adults died, it is likely that young children would also die. As the people who died weren't freeholders, survivors usually had to move away from their homes, so there was no "community memory" to pass on memories of individuals who had died, and if there were such stories kept alive in a family, they were likely to be stories of that persons life, not their death. You won't find many families "admit" that someone drowned, or died in a house fire, or fell from a tree or was gored by a bull, or of lockjaw or pneumonia or blood poisoning due to an infected wound, but there were plenty of those deaths in the 19th century too. Most of them just don't survive as memories beyond a generation or two.