Famine relief from the Sultan of Turkey

U 12.1369: Even the Grand Turk sent us his piastres.

Weldon Thornton (Allusions in Ulysses) notes: ‘Though this may be a fact, I have been unable to confirm it.’ Gifford and Seidman (Annotated Ulysses) cite a suggestive but imprecise reference from Timothy O’Herlihy:

Though the English government made no gestures of relief, the Society of Friends made more than a quarter of a million pounds available for relief.... Many other countries contributed their obole [coins], even the Turksman.

The Famine (1845-7); A Survey of its Ravages and Causes (Drogheda, 1950), p. 85

Piastre was small coins of the Ottoman Empire. Patrick O’Sullivan (The Meaning of Famine (1997) 145) refers to the gift of the Sultan of Turkey to Irish famine relief: ‘Leading by example: the role of royalty, the Pope, and the sultan of Turkey’.

This is confirmed by the Belfast News-letter of 2 March 1853:

We cannot forget that Mahommedan Turkey has more than once shamed the nations which boast of their Christianity, by the practice of those principles which they only professed. It was the present Sultan of Turkey who, more generously than any other European potentate, contributed to the relief of our famine-stricken countrymen in 1847.

The generosity of a Muslim country (implied by Joyce’s ‘Even’), at a time when it too was experiencing sharp famine and shortage, is noted in the Morning Post of 21 April 1847:

Turkey.... Constantinople, March 31.... The Sultan sent this day to Mr. Wellesley the sum of one thousand pounds for the relief of Ireland in the grievous famine under which that country is now suffering. This act of regal munificence on the part of his Imperial Highness is without precedent. For the first time a Mahomedan Sovereign, representing multitudinous Islam populations, manifests spontaneously a warm sympathy with a Christian nation. 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! (p. 5)

John Simpson

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