July 13, 2010

When Turkey sent a flotilla

It didn't take us long to get back to the emerald isle but I have just been sent a link to the story of another time when a flotilla was sent from Turkey to aid those suffering from a lack of food because of the genocidal policies of their neighbours. I have only seen this on facebook and one other site but it all looks well researched:
Ireland was ridden with famine and disease between 1845 and 1849. Also known as the Great Hunger, this famine had lasting effects: at least one million people died due to famine-related diseases and more than one million Irish fled, mainly to the United States, England, Canada, and Australia.

Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid sent five ships full of food supplies and funds as charity. However, the British administration did not give permission for these ships to enter the ports of Belfast or Dublin. Taner Baytok, former Turkish ambassador to Ireland, recounts in his memoirs that these ships secretly discharged their load in Drogheda, a town approximately 70 miles north of Dublin.

On May 2, 1995, commemorating this charity, the mayor of Drogheda, Alderman Frank Goddfrey, paid honor to Baytok and erected a plaque in the Westcourt Hotel, which was then the City Hall where Turkish seamen stayed. Baytok says he first learned of this act of charity from an article by Thomas P. O’Neill published in The Threshold magazine in 1957.

The Otoman sultan declared that he would donate £10,000, but on the orders of Queen Victoria the British Ambassador in Istanbul informed the Sultan that he should reduce this amount, for the Queen’s donation was only £2,000. As noted in the letter of gratitude from the “noblemen, gentlemen, and inhabitants of Ireland,” the amount donated by Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid was reduced by the Queen to one thousand pounds.
I can only wonder what was happening in Armenia at the time but it's an interesting tale with an obvious parallel today.

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