Catherine B. Shannon, professor emerita of history at Westfield State University, will present the lecture “It is Not an Everyday Matter to See a Nation Starving: Captain Robert Bennet Forbes and the 1847 Voyage of the USS Jamestown to Cork, Ireland,” at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University.
Shannon will discuss the voyage of the USS Jamestown which left Boston on March 28, 1847 loaded with more than 800 tons of provisions and supplies for the starving people of Ireland in the darkest months of “Black 1847,” the year the Irish famine peaked. The New England Relief Committee, which was comprised of Boston Catholics and Protestants cooperating in an effort to collect money and bring food to Ireland, organized the voyage. The committee collected approximately $150,000 in food and cash, which accounted for half of the $300,000 that was sent from Boston to Ireland in 1847.
“I will describe Captain Forbes’ efforts to insure that the supplies reached the Irish people in the most efficient and fastest way possible, and his reactions to what he witnessed in Ireland upon arrival there in mid-April,” Shannon said. “This episode was a unique instance when the historic suspicions and hostility that divided the Boston’s Irish and the Yankee communities were cast aside and replaced by cooperation for a great humanitarian purpose.
Shannon has been a member of the American Conference for Irish Studies since 1968 and served for 10 years on the ACIS national executive board and also organized four New England Regional Conferences. Her publications include “Arthur J. Balfour and Ireland, 1874-1922,” two recent chapters on Lord Randolph Churchill and the Home Rule issue in “The Churchills in Ireland,” edited by Robert McNamara, and various articles and chapters on Northern Irish women and the northern conflict from the 1960s to 1998.
Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of visual art, artifacts and printed materials relating to the Irish Famine. The museum preserves, builds and presents its art collection in order to stimulate reflection, inspire imagination and advance awareness of Ireland’s Great Hunger and its long aftermath on both sides of the Atlantic.
The collection focuses on the famine years from 1845-52, when blight destroyed virtually all of Ireland’s potato crops for consecutive years. The crop destruction, coupled with British governmental indifference to the plight of the Irish, who at the time were part of the United Kingdom, resulted in the deaths of more than 1 million Irish men, women and children and the emigration of more than 2 million to nations around the world. This tragedy occurred even though there was more than adequate food in the country to feed its starving populace. Exports of food and livestock from Ireland actually increased during the years of the Great Hunger.
Works by noted contemporary Irish artists are featured at the museum including internationally known sculptors John Behan, Rowan Gillespie and Eamonn O’Doherty; as well as contemporary visual artists, Robert Ballagh, Alanna O’Kelly Brian Maguire and Hughie O’Donoghue. Featured paintings include several important 19th and 20th‐century works by artists such as James Brenan, Daniel MacDonald, James Arthur O’Connor and other pieces by Jack B. Yeats.
The museum, located at 3011 Whitney Ave., is open Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays 1-5 p.m.
Categories: Ireland's Great Hunger Museum