SULTAN ABDULMEJID I
Potatoes have a special place in Irish culture, as for centuries the people of the Emerald Isle have depended on this tuber as a diet staple.
seven-year famine in the 19th century, known as the Great Famine or
Potato Famine, killed more than a million people in Ireland, and stories
from that time have left deep scars on the national psyche.
The famine in Ireland, which was under British rule at the time, was triggered by the potato blight or late blight, a disease caused by a fungus-like organism causing collapse and decay.
The greatest single disaster Ireland has ever suffered -- Gorta Mor in Gaelic -- forced more than a million citizens to migrate to the U.S., but those who were too poor to go anywhere were doomed to die from starvation or illnesses that struck the weak and malnourished.
Observing the suffering, English philanthropist James Hack Tuke said that people in the worst-affected areas were "living, or rather starving, upon turnip-tops, sand-eels and seaweed, a diet which no one in England would consider fit for the meanest animal."
The worst year for the famine was 1847, as it saw no improvement in crop yields from the first two years of the plague.
But it was at that time, the plague's worst year -- "Black '47" -- that unexpected aid arrived from afar.
Help from Ottoman sultan
Thousands of miles away, in the Ottoman capital Istanbul, Sultan Abdulmejid I was made aware of this great human suffering when his dentist, who came from Ireland, told him about the desperate situation.
The sultan quickly offered £10,000 -- just over a million pounds at current values ($1.3 million) -- to be used to help the starving people of Ireland.
However, Queen Victoria had already aided Ireland with £2,000, and her advisors in London refused to accept any offer exceeding the monarch's aid.
Faced with this dictate, Sultan Abdulmejid unwillingly slashed his original offer of aid, and sent Ireland £1,000 instead.
However, the sultan had a fierce desire to extend more help for this humanitarian cause.
"He was eager to do more, and that's why he ordered three ships to take food, medicine and other urgent necessities to Ireland," said Levent Murat Burhan, Turkey’s ambassador in Dublin, relating what happened next.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Burhan said the historic aid operation was done on the sly, as the British navy would not allow any foreign ships to dock at harbors in either the capital Dublin or Cork.
“So the Ottoman ships had to travel further north and deliver the aid to the harbor of Drogheda,” Burhan said.
The aid was delivered to the wharfs of Drogheda on the coast of the River Boyne, and it is especially in that place that the generosity of the Ottoman Empire is still remembered by the locals, 173 years later.
Visitors to Dublin museums can come across memorials and information about this unforgettable aid from the Ottoman Turks, but a plaque on the wall of a central Drogheda building, unveiled in 1995 by Mayor Alderman Godfrey and then-Turkish Ambassador to Ireland Taner Baytok, reads, "The Great Irish Famine of 1847 – In remembrance and recognition of the generosity of the People of Turkey towards the People of Ireland."
During a 2010 visit to Ankara, Ireland's then-President Mary McAleese expressed the Irish people's gratitude for the aid, saying that the people of Drogheda had "incorporated into their coat of arms your own beautiful emblems, beautiful crescent and star, and they are there to the present day."
One can indeed see the emblematic Turkish crescent and star across the town and most famously in the emblem of the local football team, Drogheda United.
Apart from the plaque of gratitude in the center of the town, the crescent and star are engraved on stones and painted on a wall.
But perhaps the most significant evidence of the aid and the local gratitude for it comes in a letter signed by local dignitaries of Drogheda.
With pride, Ambassador Burhan showed Anadolu Agency a copy of the letter in his official room in Dublin.
The letter reads: "We, as Irish nobles, dignitaries and people, submit our gratitude to the Ottoman Sultan for his generous assistance to us due to famine disaster. It is inevitable that we apply for the other countries’ assistance to get rid of threat and hunger and death.
"The answer given to assistance call generously by the Ottoman Sultan has also been a model for the European countries. Thanks to this accurate behavior, many people have been relaxed and got rid of death. We submit our gratitude on behalf of them and pray for the Ottoman Sultan and his country not to face any disasters as we do."
'Good, humane, generous'
An article titled A Benevolent Sultan, written in a religious journal, praised Abdulmejid’s generosity.
"For the first time a Mohammedan [Muslim] sovereign, representing multitudinous Islamic populations, manifests spontaneously a warm sympathy with a Christian nation," it said.
"May such sympathies, in all the genial charities of a common humanity, be cultivated and henceforth ever be maintained between the followers of the crescent and the cross!"
A nationalist Irish journal also celebrated the Sultan's philanthropic approach to the Irish famine, hailing Abdulmejid as a "good, humane, and generous man."
"A believer in Mohammedanism [Islam], he acted in the true spirit of a follower of Christ, and set an example which many professing Christians would do well to imitate."
Irish son James Joyce, the legendary novelist, even referred to Abdulmejid's aid in his masterwork Ulysses.
"Even the Grand Turk sent us his piasters," one of the book's characters says, criticizing the lack of aid from the British during those hard times.
Ambassador Burhan has visited Drogheda a few times, each time getting a warm welcome from local politicians.
Indeed, the respect and love for Turks is still there. He remembered a charity foot race with Frank Geoffrey, then the mayor of Drogheda.
"He went home and brought a Turkish flag to run with it," Burhan said, explaining that he was happy to see the mayor kept a Turkish flag at home.
Burhan also said that the embassy is working on plans for a charity football game between Drogheda United and Trabzonspor, a Turkish Super League team from the Black Sea region.
Sharing the same colors, maroon and blue, the two sides became sister clubs in 2011, the Turkish ambassador explained, an enduring symbol of long-distance compassion between two peoples.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
Sent by Kate Bates
The Slaves That Time Forgot
DON JORDAN & MICHAEL WALSH
They came as slaves; vast human cargo transported on tall British ships bound for the Americas. They were shipped by the hundreds of thousands and included men, women, and even the youngest of children.
Whenever they rebelled or even disobeyed an order, they were punished in the harshest ways. Slave owners would hang their human property by their hands and set their hands or feet on fire as one form of punishment. They were burned alive and had their heads placed on pikes in the marketplace as a warning to other captives.
We don’t really need to go through all of the gory details, do we? We know all too well the atrocities of the African slave trade.
But, are we talking about African slavery? King James II and Charles I also led a continued effort to enslave the Irish. Britain’s famed Oliver Cromwell furthered this practice of dehumanizing one’s next door neighbor.
The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.
Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.
From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well.
During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.
Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: Slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle.
As an example, the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period. It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.
African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (50 Sterling). Irish slaves came cheap (no more than 5 Sterling). If a planter whipped or branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive African. The English masters quickly began breeding the Irish women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of the master’s free workforce. Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish moms, even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their kids and would remain in servitude.
In time, the English thought of a better way to use these women (in many cases, girls as young as 12) to increase their market share: The settlers began to breed Irish women and girls with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. This practice of interbreeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.
England continued to ship tens of thousands of Irish slaves for more than a century. Records state that, after the 1798 Irish Rebellion, thousands of Irish slaves were sold to both America and Australia. There were horrible abuses of both African and Irish captives. One British ship even dumped 1,302 slaves into the Atlantic Ocean so that the crew would have plenty of food to eat.
There is little question that the Irish experienced the horrors of slavery as much (if not more in the 17th Century) as the Africans did. There is, also, very little question that those brown, tanned faces you witness in your travels to the West Indies are very likely a combination of African and Irish ancestry. In 1839, Britain finally decided on it’s own to end it’s participation in Satan’s highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded THIS chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.
But, if anyone, black or white, believes that slavery was only an African experience, then they’ve got it completely wrong.
Irish slavery is a subject worth remembering, not erasing from our memories.
But, where are our public (and PRIVATE) schools???? Where are the history books? Why is it so seldom discussed?
Do the memories of hundreds of thousands of Irish victims merit more than a mention from an unknown writer?
Or is their story to be one that their English pirates intended: To (unlike the African book) have the Irish story utterly and completely disappear as if it never happened.
None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and biased history books conveniently forgot.