Subscribe for Unlimited Access to Turtle’s History Quarter.

Includes content from Vanishing Ireland, Easter Dawn, Dublin Docklands, The Irish Pub, Maxol and many more, as well as Waterways Ireland, the Past Tracks project and hundreds of historical articles on Irish families, houses, companies and events.

Sultan Abdülmecid & the Relief of Drogheda, 1847

An extract from Turtle’s 2021 panel for Drogheda railway station, illustrated by Derry Dillon, showing Sultan Abdülmecid, his ships and the star and crescent flag.

Drogheda, 1847. The gas-lit harbour lights burned through the dusk as the tug-boat hauled the first of the three merchant ships alongside the handsome new wharfage. Out at sea, the other two ships awaited their turn, sails tight to the masts. Those gathered in the port waited eagerly for the cargo to be unveiled. On board the ships were hundreds of tons of Indian corn which had been sent, as a gift, by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to alleviate the suffering of the famine-starved people of Ireland.

Or at least that’s the story that has been in circulation for the last 20 years, and somewhat longer if you’re from Drogheda. In June 2014, a Turkish film company began drafting a movie called ‘Hunger’ based upon the Sultan’s legendary act of benevolence. Omer Sarikaya, the director first began auditioning Irish actors for the film in February 2012, while Sean Cronin and Randal Plunkett (21st Baron Dunsany) were on hand to co-direct.

The genesis of this story is a purported encounter between the Irish and Turkish delegates at an international post-war conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1923. The conference was about how to carve up the Ottoman Empire which had collapsed in wake of the First World War. Yahya Kemal Beyatli, the Turkish delegate, argued that former Ottoman strongholds such as Cyprus and the Aegean islands should be part of the new Republic of Turkey. However, all the other powers rejected the Turkish claims – with one exception, the representative of the fledgling Irish Free State.

When Mr. Beyati subsequently thanked the Irishman, the latter replied: ‘I am obliged to do it. Not only I, but all Irish men and women. When we suffered from famine and disease, your Ottoman ancestors shipped loads of food and monetary donations. We have never forgotten the friendly hand extended to us in our difficult times. Your nation deserves to be supported on every occasion.’

The greatest weakness with Mr. Beyati’s story is that, much to their dismay, the Irish Free State was not invited to attend the Lausanne conference and thus we did not have a representative there.

However, seventy years after Lausanne, the story of the Turkish ships received an unexpected boost. In 1993, Taner Baytok, became Turkish Ambassador to Ireland. The embassy suites were then located on the top floor of 5 Clyde Road, Dublin, directly above a retirement home. One day, while Mr. Baytok was clambering up the stairs, one of the residents of the home approached him and told how she had grown up in Drogheda where they still talked about the time when the Ottoman Turks had sent food supplies to relieve the city during the Great Famine.

The Ambassador promptly made his way to Drogheda where the City’s Mayor Frank Godfrey concurred with the old lady. The story was that Sultan Abdülmecid had sent three ships laden with supplies to Ireland. However, when the British authorities refused to allow his ships access to the ports of Belfast or Dublin, they had sailed into Drogheda and secretly unloaded their cargo. The Mayor explained that sadly there were no records confirming the arrival of these ships.[i]

The story tripped up President Mary McAleese when she spoke at a state dinner in Ankara in 2010 and referred to the three Ottoman ships in Drogheda. Local historians in Drogheda quickly denounced the accuracy of her facts which were not helped when she claimed, like many before and since, that Drogheda’s coat of arms featured the star and crescent to commemorate Turkey’s generosity. Best known as the emblem of Drogheda United, the town’s arms were in fact symbols taken from the crest of King John who gave Drogheda its original Royal Charter.

But there is rather more than a grain of truth about Drogheda’s links to the Ottoman Empire. The harbour at Drogheda was actually enjoying something of a golden age at the time the Sultan’s ships are said to have arrived. As well as new and wider quays, the port had been revolutionized by the arrival of a 16 horse-power dredging machine in 1835 which cleared away a troublesome sandbar.[ii]

Before the famine, Drogheda’s foreign commerce had consisted of little more than a few cargoes of Baltic and American timber. However, from 1847 through until the mid-1850s, the port experienced a tremendous surge in the import of foreign wheat, specifically Indian Corn from the Ottoman Empire.[iii]

One of the biggest ports on the Black Sea was Galantz (now the Romanian city of Galati) at the mouth of the River Danube in the Ottoman-run principality of Moldavia. During the 1830s and 1840s, Moldavia was known as the granary of Europe, selling immense quantities of grain annually to English merchants.[iv] In 1847, the disastrous harvest in north-west Europe meant that some 56% of Moldavian grain was purchased by merchants from Britain and France.[v]

Contemporary accounts registered that three “foreign vessels” and twelve British vessels entered Drogheda Port during 1847.[vi] It is certainly plausible that at least one – and possibly all three – of these ‘foreign ships’ had sailed out of the Ottoman port of Galantz and unloaded cargoes of maize upon the wharf in Drogheda a couple of months later. Omer Sarikaya, the Turkish film director, told me in January 2014 that he believes that four ships actually set out for Ireland but that one sank on the way. In terms of the missing paper trail, he explained that it is a norm in Islamic culture to have no official documents when something is being given as charity. ‘There is no paperwork,’ he told me in January 2014. ‘You just give it.’

Whether the Sultan paid for it all remains in doubt. It seems rather more likely that unscrupulous British merchants in Galantz simply saw Ireland’s misfortune as an opportunity. They purchased all the maize they could lay their hands on and sent it to Ireland where they charged the famine-weary buyers a price well above the Mediterranean norm for wheat at that time.

A marvellous insight into the mindset of these British merchants appeared in The Nation, the Irish nationalist weekly newspaper, on 1st May 1847 and offers further proof of close ties between the Turks and the Irish in famine times.[vii] The Nation printed an article from the correspondent of the Daily News, a Liberal paper, which revealed that whilst the ‘British merchants’ in Galantz had started a subscription fund for Irish famine relief earlier in the year, ‘these worthy men determined that none should participate in it but true and loyal Protestants’. And when the St. Vincent de Paul, then a tiny outfit with a base in Galantz, offered to contribute to the famine fund, the offer was rejected because the merchants ‘could not associate themselves with Papists, even in the performance of an act of charity.’[viii]

Faced with such rejection, the SVP turned to the Hon. Henry Wellesley who ‘at once consented to assist them in every way in their charitable undertaking.’ However, when news of Wellesley’s offer ‘reached the ears of the good Protestants of Galatz … they changed their intention of giving the money for the relief of the starving Irish and devoted it to the relief of the poor of Great Britain.’

The Hon. Henry Wellesley (1804-1884) was the acting ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at this time. He was a nephew of the Duke of Wellington and his wife was a niece of Lord Edward FitzGerald, the charismatic 1798 Rebellion leader. Wellesley had been based in Constantinople (now Istanbul) since 1843 where his immediate superior was Stafford Canning, the British Ambassador, son of an Irish-born London merchant. Canning was back in England during 1847.[ix] After his time in Constantinople, Wellesley went on to serve as Ambassador to France for 15 years and was created Viscount Dangan, in the County Meath, and Earl Cowley.

With Wellesley’s backing, the SVP started a subscription of their own which, the Daily News reported, enjoyed ‘immense success … People of every creed have joined it; and it has united, in a sentiment of common charity, the Mahomedan, the Christian, the Jew, and the Pagan. It has created throughout the Ottoman empire a sympathy for the suffering of the unhappy Irish which, in the East, had never before existed for any Christian people.’

And first billing for the SVP’s donors went to no less a man than ‘… the Sultan himself – the head of the Mahomedean world – the successor of the Prophet’ who sent Mr. Wellesley ‘the sum of £1,000 for the relief of the Irish’, along with ‘expressions conceived in the noblest spirit of philanthropy and universal benevolence.’ Furthermore, the paper added, all of the Sultan’s ministers and the ‘high functionaries of the empire’ are preparing to follow the example of his Majesty, and there is every reason to believe that the money which has already been deposited in the hands of Mr. Wellesley will, in a few days, increase to several thousand pounds.’

The correspondent suggested that at least some of these donations were made to spite the ‘exclusive intolerance given by the merchants of Galantz’ but it also spoke volumes about Turkish generosity and, as The Nation remarked, it was a ‘great credit’ to the Sultan himself.[x]

Abdülmecid I, the 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire was only 24 at the time.[xi] Educated in the European manner, he spoke French fluently and enjoyed literature and classical music. In 1847, Hungarian composer Franz Liszt performed for him in Constantinople.[xii] During the 1840s he did much to both Westernize and reform his empire, reorganizing both the legal and financial system, establishing universities and, in 1847, awarding a patent for the magnetic telegraph to American inventor Samuel Morse, he of the code.

There was a prominent Irish doctor in Constantinople at this time called Dr. Justin Washington Anthony Joseph McCarthy, whose descendant Janice McCarthy states here that he was doctor to the sultan and died in Egypt 1861. He apparently hailed from the McCarthys of Drishane and was a nephew of Dr Rev Florence McCarthy (d. 1810), Coadjutor Bishop of Cork. Attentive research by Tom Verde has unearthed some further clues on him. In 1831 Dr. Bryce penned an article on the state of medicine in Istanbul for The Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal in which he refers to a Dr. M’Carthy. Upon the death of Sultan Mahmoud II in 1841, the Cork Examiner (8 Sept 1841) referred to Doctor Justin Washington McCarthy as ‘one of the medical attendants, on the deceased Emperor, and one who has long attained considerable eminence as a physician in the Turkish capital.’ Was this the same man as Dr. James McCraith who was described in 1854 as ‘an Irish physician long settled at Smyrna, held in high and just repute?’ It is sometimes said that the Sultan’s Irish doctor lost his family to the Irish famine, stirring His Imperial Highness’s benevolent soul. I have yet to see any evidence that his family died in the famine.[xiii]

Another popular story is that the Sultan was all set to give £10,000 to relieve the famine when Wellesley informed him that Queen Victoria was only giving £2,500, and suggested that it would not be the done thing to outdo her. This story first appeared in 1850 in a radical periodical called ‘The New Monthly Magazine’ which told how the Sultan ‘would have given more much more but that state etiquette was quoted to show the reigning sovereign of England must in these cases be permitted to head the list.’[xiv]

Four years later, the story was repeated in a biography of Sultan Abdülmecid by the Rev. Henry Christmas, a London-born Protestant, who wrote: ‘During the year of famine in Ireland the Sultan heard of the distress existing in that unhappy country. He immediately conveyed to the British ambassador his desire to aid in its relief and tendered for that purpose a large sum of money. It was intimated to him that it was thought right to limit the sum subscribed by the Queen, and a larger amount could not therefore be received from his highness. He at once acquiesced in the propriety of this resolution and, with many expressions of benevolent sympathy, sent the greatest admissible subscription’. [xv]

The Sultan’s donation was ultimately swallowed by the ‘British Association for the Relief of Extreme Distress in Ireland and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland’, which was founded by London bankers Lord Rothschild, Thomas Baring and Jones Loyd in January 1847. The Queen topped their list of donors with £2500, and another £500 via the British Ladies Clothing Fund. Prince Albert added another £500, while there were sixteen donations of approximately £1000 each from the likes of the Queen’s mother, the King of Hanover, the East India Company, London Corporation, the Duke of Devonshire, the Worshipful Company of Grocers and an anonymous ‘landlord from Skibbereen’.[xvi]

The Topkapi Museum in Istanbul holds a letter of thanks from Ireland to the Sultan which reads:

“We the noblemen, gentlemen and inhabitants of Ireland want to express our thanks and gratitude for the Ottoman Sultan’s munificent assistance due to the disaster of dearth. It is unavoidable for us to appeal the assistance of other countries in order to be saved from the enduring threat of death and famine. The Ottoman Sultan’s munificent response to this aid call displays an example to European States. Numbers were relieved and saved from perishing through this timely act. We express our gratitude on their behalf and hope that the Ottoman Sultan and his dominions will be saved from the afflictions which have befallen us.”

In 1995, the thank you letter of 1847 was capped by a memorial plaque which Mayor Godfrey unveiled in the Westcourt Hotel, formerly Drogheda’s City Hall. It was claimed that the Sultan’s Turkish seamen had stayed in this building when delivering their wares.

And perhaps the last word should go to The Fountain, one of Turkey’s leading magazines, which wrote in 2007: ‘It is a case study that should be analyzed carefully, not only as historical evidence for the friendship between two nations, but also as a perfect example that differences of race, religion, or language should not prevent humanitarian aid. This generous charity from a Muslim sultan to a Christian nation is also important, particularly in our time when Muslims are often unfairly accused of human rights violations. Likewise, the appreciative plaque and overall reaction of the Irish society in return for this charity deserves to be applauded. We hope that the Turkish-Irish friendship sets a model for peace among different nations.’


[i] According to a Report of the Steering Group on Local Authority Records and Archives: “The Drogheda Harbour Commissioners archives are also among the best of their type in the country. They are held by Drogheda Port Company ( but unfortunately the DPC say they had to “completely seal the archive some years ago in order to fully preserve what records are there – thhere are no plans in the foreseeable future to re-open the archive” although the DPC say they will gradually upload more of the archive onto their website. The Old Drogheda Society may have information on ships that came into Drogheda Harbour, see

[ii]  The ancient and modern history of the maritime ports of Ireland, Anthony Marmion (2nd edition, 1855), pp. 262-268, is an invaluable online source.

Drogheda was a ferry port from 1826 when the Drogheda Steam-packet Company was formed and by 1840 five package steamers plied between Liverpool and Glasgow. As well as the dredging machine, harbour engineer J. P. Donor simultaneously concocted ‘an ingenious barrier of wicker’ to keep the harbour free of the sand stirred up by the dredging machine. By 1855, the port now boasted 720 yards of wharfage on the northside and 107 yards on the south. Today Drogheda is not considered such an important seaport. The depth of the sand bar at the river entrance that precluded the entrance of bigger ships caused the reduction of the Ports influence and the diversion of trade to more accessible ports as Dublin and Belfast.

[iii] Marmion, p. 267. Over a third of the imports into Drogheda comprised of corn, flour or meal, while tobacco was its main export (31%). (An atlas of Irish history, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Bridget Hourican, Table 7, p. 197)

[iv] Moldavia exported over 4 million hectolitres of grain annually. In 1851, 1,128 ships were laden at Braila. British ships alone carried 345,000 hectolitres of grain, while foreign ships conveyed another 350,000 hectorlitres to England. In 1852, upwards of 700 ships were loaded at Galatz. The Anglo-Celt (p.3) reported that vessels laden with Indian corn from Galatz had landed on December 11, 1846.

See also: ‘Balkan economic history, 1550-1950’ by John R. Lampe, Marvin R. Jackson, (p. 104).

[v] Nearly 5% of British cereal imports came from Braila and Galatz. The voyage to Ireland from Galantz and other Danube ports such as was of uncertain duration but generally took a long time. The ships generally journeyed in the winter as in the summers it tended to overheat. See: The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 7, edited by Thomas Stewart Traill, (A. & C. Black, 1854) p. 404.

[vi] In 1848, the number of foreign vessels trebled to 9. A further 686 sailing ships and 270 steamships also came into Drogheda in 1847 so feasibly any of these could have flown the Sultan’s flag.

John MacGregor, “Commercial Statistics: A Digest of the Productive Resources, Commercial Legislation, Customs Tariffs, Navigation, Port, and Quarantine Laws, and Charges, Shipping, Imports and Exports, and the Monies, Weights, and Measures of All Nations” (, 1999), p. 165 –

On 5th March 1847, three ships – the Nashua, William Price and Sultan from Philadelphia were reported to be discharging cargo of provisions somewhere in Ireland. (Anglo-Celt, Friday, March 05, 1847, p. 3). Given that one of the ships was called ‘Sultan’, I considered whether these were the three but Lloyd’s lists Nashua as an innocent Philadelphia bark owned by Pearson & Burton of Philadelphia and the Bark Sultan was operating out of New York under Captain Samuel P. Savage.

[vii] The Nation, May 1st 1847, p. 16. Quoting from the Daily News of March 31st 1847. ‘The three or four British merchants who reside in this city have set on foot a few weeks since a subscription for the Irish. In performing this act of Christian charity, these worthy men determined that none should participate in it but true and loyal Protestants. In obeying one of the dictates of Heaven, by contributing to the relief of their starving countrymen, they were, at least, resolved to do so in respectable company. There has existed here for some time past a charitable society called the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul. The members of this society, wishing to assist in what they considered a benevolent object, proposed to contribute to the subscription; but, to their great surprise, the offer was rejected on the ground that those worthy British merchants could not associate themselves with Papists, even in the performance of an act of charity. As, however, the members of St. Vincent de Paul did not exactly see the justice of this reasoning, they applied to Mr. Wellesley, the English Minister, who at once consented to assist them in every way in their charitable undertaking. When this reached the ears of the good Protestants of Galatz, they changed their intention of giving the money for the relief of the starving Irish and devoted it to the relief of the poor of Great Britain.’

The subscription, however, undertaken by the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul has had an immense success. People of every creed have joined it; and it has united, in a sentiment of common charity, the Mahomedan, the Christian, the Jew, and the Pagan. It has created throughout the Ottoman empire a sympathy for the suffering of the unhappy Irish which, in the East, had never before existed for any Christian people. The Sultan himself – the head of the Mahomedean world – the successor of the Prophet – in sending to Mr. Wellesley the sum of 1,000l for the relief of the Irish, accompanied the gift by expressions conceived in the noblest spirit of philanthropy and universal benevolence. Each of the ministers and high functionaries of the empire are preparing to follow the example of his Majesty, and there is every reason to believe that the money which has already been deposited in the hands of Mr. Wellesley will, in a few days, increase to several thousand pounds. No people in the world are more heartily alive to acts of injustice than the Turks, and amongst, perhaps, no other people are the principles of benevolence more strongly impressed. Charitable foundations are more numerous in Turkey than in any other part of the world, and acts of private bounty are here, perhaps, more frequent and more general than in the Christian nations of Europe. The example of exclusive intolerance given by the merchants of Galaz produced a general feeling of indignation – the more so as it contrasted strongly with the noble charities of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. In their establishments at Galantz each day may be seen crowds of the unfortunate of every nation and every creed who receive medicine, food or clothes, as their wants may require. Suffering is the only *****; there is no question of country or religion; that one is … [article appears to end here].

[viii] The SVP had been established in Paris by 21-year-old student Frédéric Ozanam in 1833. They were destined to lose one of their most outstanding members on 15th May 1847, namely Daniel O’Connell.

According to the Edinburgh Review of 1847, ‘ The freight and charges on the supplies of food and clothing sent to Ireland by charitable societies and individuals as well from the United States and Canada on the one side as from England on the other were paid by the Government to an amount exceeding 50 000l; all custom dues were remitted’.

[ix] The Hon. Henry Richard Charles Wellesley was born in London in 1804 and educated at Eton and Oxford. He was a nephew of the Duke of Wellington while his father, the Iron Duke’s youngest brother, was a British diplomat who was created Baron Cowley, of Wellesley, in 1828. He entered the diplomatic service aged 20 as an attaché at Vienna in October 1824, and passed through various subordinate grades at The Hague and Stuttgart, proving himself a highly skilled negotiator. In 1833, he married the Honourable Olivia Cecilia (d. 1885), daughter of Lord Henry FitzGerald, fourth son of the 1st Duke of Leinster. In 1843, he was appointed Secretary of Embassy at Constantinople.

Wellesley’s immediate superior in Constantinople was Stratford Canning, the son of an Irish-born London wine merchant and a cousin of the Tory Prime Minister George Canning. He was to become the longest serving British Ambassador in Constantinople. From 1809 to 1812, in the absence of a formal ambassador during the Napoleonic Wars, young Canning was in chargé d’affaires at the same embassy. He served again as ambassador from 1825-1827 and 1841-1858, during which time British influence increased and the Turks came to be seen more and more as British clients. Canning was later created 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe.

However, Canning was by no means delighted by Wellesley’s arrival as this account by Sir Henry Layard explains:

‘In the summer of 1844 the Honourable Mr Wellesley (afterwards Lord Cowley) arrived at Constantinople as Secretary of the Embassy. He was accompanied by his wife and family. It was generally reported that the Government at home, being anxious with regard to the policy pursued by Sir Stratford Canning, and suspicious that his high-handed proceedings might get them into difficulties especially with Russia had sent out Mr Wellesley as a check upon him. This report, of course, reached the Ambassador, who was consequently exceedingly jealous and suspicious of the new Secretary, declined to communicate with him on public affairs, and almost went so far as to forbid him access to the Chancery, where he might see the despatches that passed between the Foreign Office and the Ambassador, and other documents relating to political affairs. This unfortunate state of affairs interfered with that cordial understanding and confidence which had hitherto existed between the members of the Embassy and their chief, and led, occasionally, to some misunderstanding between them. It did not prevent me, however, from forming a friendship with Mr and Mrs Wellesley, which has lasted throughout my life. They have been amongst my kindest, truest and dearest friends. He became subsequently Charge a” Affaires and Minister at the Porte, when Sir Stratford Canning went to England on leave, and, as Lord Cowley, represented his country and worthily upheld her dignity, her honour and her interests, as the Queen’s Ambassador at Paris during many critical years. He was truly an upright, honourable, straight-forward Englishman, and a perfect gentleman. Although he was eminently successful as a diplomatist, he was never accused of having recourse to any of the tricks, subtleties and deceits, which are popularly believed to be necessary in the craft.’
Sir Henry Austen Layard, Autobiography and letters from his childhood until his appointment as H.M. Ambassador at Madrid (1903), p. 141-142.

When the foul-tempered Baron de Behr, the Belgian Minister at the Porte, who hated the sound of barking dogs, shot Mr. Wellesley’s favourite poodle in 1844, it nearly provoked an invasion of Belgium. The following year, Wellesley was appointed as minister-plenipotentiary to the Ottoman Empire. The idea was that he would run the show while Stratford Canning took a break back home in Britain; Canning sailed for England in the summer of 1846.

Wellesley’s father died in Paris on 27 April 1847 and he succeeded him as 2nd Lord Cowley. On 29 Feb. 1848 he was appointed Minister-Plenipotentiary to the confederated Swiss cantons 1848-1851), and in July he was sent on a special mission to Frankfurt, to watch the proceeding of the German parliament, which was then sitting at the Paulskirche. (He was engaged in the attempt to draw up a permanent constitution.) He went on to become Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the German Confederation (1848-1852) and British Ambassador to France (1852-1867). In 1857 he was created Viscount Dangan, in the County of Meath, and Earl Cowley.

[x] The Nation was amongst the first to note this bequest, publishing a short article (p. 5) in April 1847 entitled ‘THE SULTAN AND THE IRISH PEOPLE’ which stated that: ‘A letter from Constantinople mentions that the Sultan, which does him great credit, upon hearing of the suffering of the Irish, caused to be handed to the Hon. Mr. Wellesley £1,000 to be disposed of by him in the best way towards their alleviation’

The news was repeated the following Saturday, and also ran in the Nenagh Guardian, as well as The Spectator (1847), Volume 20, p. 369; the British Almanac, Vol. 21 (1848) and ‘The Living Age’ (p. 383, Volume 13, Eliakim & Robert S. Littell, Littell, Son and Co., 1847). None of them cast any particularly remarks on the Sultan’s generosity, bar the Daily News report republished in The Nation on 1st May.

[xi] The Sutlan’s father, Mahmud II, was a reformist while mother had been a slave. In July 1839, aged 16, he succeeded his father Mahmud II to become the 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. His first challenge was a revolt which had begun before his father’s death in southern Turkey under Muhammad Ali Pasha, an Albanian commander who declared himself Khedive of Egypt and Sudan. In June 1839, Muhammad Ali’s son Ibrahim Pasha inflicted such a heavy defeat on the Ottomans at the battle of Nezib that the admiral of the Ottoman fleet changed sides and presented the ships to Muhammad Ali. While Abdülmecid looked on, Muhammad Ali reluctantly struck a deal with the British who effectively backed his rebellion and installed him as puppet ruler of Egypt and Sudan. In return, Abdülmecid got his ships back, as well as his disputed territories in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

Once there was peace, he could concentrate on the reforms his father had begun. An enlightened soul, he benefited from the wise counsel of progressionist viziers like Mustafa Re?it Pasha, Mehmet Emin Ali Pa?a and Fuat Pasha. In 1844, he toured his empire extensively so that he could see first-hand what he was in charge of. He also visited the Balkan provinces in 1846 for the same purpose. In August 1847, the Sultan commissioning the construction of the first telegraph line between Istanbul and Edime. He also proved to be the first Sultan who attempted to listen to what the people thought, holding open days at his palace where people could come and talk to him directly. Like ‘Talk to Tony’ days.

Conservatives deplored his over-familiar manner. Nationalism was also on the rise. It was his hope that he could develop Ottomanism among the secessionist subject nations as an option, and he made attempts to integrate disgruntled non-Muslims and non-Turks into Ottoman society with new laws and reforms. He also tried to forge alliances with the major powers of Western Europe, namely the United Kingdom and France, who fought alongside the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War against Russia. But by 1859 he was bankrupt …

[xii] The Hungarian composer Franz Liszt performed in Istanbul on his way to wintering with his lover, Polish princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. She talked him into finally quitting the gruelling tours. He was in Istanbul for the final leg of the final tour that finished in September 1847.

[xiii] “Diary in Turkish & Greek Waters” by the Earl of Carlisle (1854). Dr. McCraith was later abducted by bandits but managed to survive. Many thanks also to Tom Verde for the pointer on the 1831 reference.

[xiv] ‘In 1849 [Admiral] Parker appeared not as an enemy to the Osmanlees, but to aid and assist the Sultan if necessary against the Muscovites – that young Sultan Abdul Medjid who in the recent Irish famine contributed the handsome donation of 1000 sterling to relieve the distresses of those whom his own creed regards as infidels, as Giaours, and who would have given more much more but that state etiquette was quoted to show the reigning sovereign of England must in these cases be permitted to head the list longo intervallo. “Cast thy bread on the waters and it shall return to thee after many days”. The Sultan did so in charity and it has returned to him in material assistance when his empire suddenly required such aid. If there’s an Irishman in Parker’s fleet, and that fleet yet have to strike a blow for the Padisha, we feel sure that the son of the Emerald Isle will in the moment of battle remember the Sultan’s well timed and noble generosity; and be the enemy whom it may, Paddy in mere gratitude will then strike hard and home.’ (The New monthly magazine, 1850, p. 151)

[xv] H. Christmas, The Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Medjid Khan – A Brief Memoir of His Life and Reign (Shaw, 1854), p. 20-21. This story came to the fore again in 1957 when Thomas P. O’Neill published an article called ‘The Queen & the Famine’in Threshold, a magazine by the Lyric Players Theatre (p. 60) in 1957.

[xvi] The Edinburgh review, 1848, Volumes 86-87, p. 147, Sydney Smith.

“The Society of Friends were first in the field of benevolent action. A subscription was opened by them in London in November 1816; members of the Society were sent on a deputation to Ireland and those who resided there aided by their personal exertions and local knowledge. On the 6th January 1847 a committee of which Mr Jones Loyd was chairman and Mr Thomas Baring and Baron Rothschild were members invited contributions under the designation of the British Association for the Relief of extreme Distress in Ireland and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. On the 13th January 1847 a Queen’s letter was issued with the same object and the 24th of March was appointed by proclamation for a General Fast and Humiliation before Almighty God in behalf of ourselves and of our brethren who in many parts of this United Kingdom are suffering extreme famine and sickness. A painful and tender sympathy pervaded every class of society from the Queen on her throne to the convicts in the hulks; expenses were curtailed and privations were endured in order to swell the Irish subscription. The fast was observed with unusual solemnity and the London season of this year was remarkable for the absence of gaiety and expensive entertainments. The vibration was felt through every nerve of the British empire. The remotest stations in India, the most recent settlements in the backwoods of Canada contributed their quota and £652 was subscribed by the British residing in the city of Mexico at a time when their trade was cut off and their personal safety compromised by the war with the United States. The sum collected under the Queen’s letter was £171,533. The amount separately contributed through the British Association was £263,251 and this aggregate amount of £434 784 was in the proportion of five sixths to Ireland and one sixth to Scotland. But besides great stream of charity there were a thousand other channels which it is impossible trace and of the aggregate result of no estimate can be formed.”

With thanks to Derek Jago, Tom Verde, Patrick McMahon, Brendan Mathews (Community Historian), Lorraine McCann (County Archivist, Louth County Archives Service), Joan Wiseman (Drogheda Port Company), Professor Christine Kinealy (Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Hamden CT) and Liam Reilly (Millmount Museum).