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the laws of hospitality,” Christmas quoted the Sultan as say-

ing, in response to an influx of Polish and Hungarian refugees

fleeing Austrian and Russian aggression. The Protestant min-

ister cited this, together with the story of the gift to the Irish,

as examples of Abdülmedjid’s “true spirit of Christianity, and

there is more of it in the Mohammeden [sic] Sultan of Turkey

than in any or all of the Christian princes of Europe.”

Searching archives in Ireland and Istanbul, Ö reten

has, at the very least, uncovered evidence that suggests the

Sultan’s donation was, in fact, somewhat larger than was

publicly reported.

“A document in the Ottoman archives records he donated

1,000 Turkish lira, not 1,000 [British] pounds,” says the pro-

fessor. The document concerns a request by a man who was

identified as the one who presented the Irish letter of gratitude

to the Sultan, “Mosyo O’Brien”—possibly Sir (“Monsieur”)

Lucius O’Brien, a signatory to the letter. Whether it was a slip

of the pen, or a figure lost in translation, the amount noted

in the document is “1,000 Lira,” which Ö reten points out

would have been worth more at the time than £1,000. With

an 1847 exchange rate of £1.20 to one Ottoman lira, Abdül-

medjid’s donation of 1,000 lira (£1,200) would, in today’s

currency, be close to


Whatever the

amount, how a dis-

tant Muslim ruler

became a hero in the

annals of Drogheda

ultimately comes

down to a conflu-

ence of circumstanc-

es, including, finally,

the coincidental role

played by the town’s

crest that uses a star

and crescent, accord-

ing to Drogheda his-

torian Brendan Mat-

thews, author of the

study, “Drogheda &

In 1995, William Frank,

then mayor of

Drogheda, recognized

the Sultan’s aid with

this commemorative

plaque over the

entrance of the

Drogheda Hotel, which

is the same hotel that

may have housed

Ottoman sailors

responsible for the

distribution of corn

and wheat.

f the story of the Ottoman Sultan’s aid to the Irish during the potato famine seems as if it would make a

good movie, Omer Sarikaya of Istanbul-based AVN Film Production is already there. For the past two years,

he has been working on “Famine,” scheduled for feature release later this year. With a largely volunteer,

international cast and crew from Ireland, Turkey and England, the movie is being filmed in all three locations,

and it tells the story of an Irish girl who falls in love with a sailor from one of the Turkish grain ships.

“It is a very powerful story of two countries coming together during sadness, and a love affair between two

people from different countries who do not speak each other’s language but are able to love and communicate. We

think ‘Famine’ will be the next ‘Titanic,’” says Sarikaya with characteristic optimism. As a charity production, 85

percent of the film’s proceeds will go to United Nations programs that combat hunger as well as the International

Red Cross and Red Crescent.


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