How New Englanders sent provisions to starving Ireland during the Great Hunger

Memorial sculptures to the Great Hunger, on the quays in Dublin's financial district. At the peak of Ireland’s horror, The New England Relief Committee sent the a ship laden down with supplies to Cork

In “Black 1847”, at the height of the Great Hunger in Ireland, The New England Relief Committee, made up of Catholics and Protestants, sent the USS Jamestown laden with supplies to the starving Irish.

This will be the topic of discussion at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in a talk named “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”.

Catherine B. Shannon, professor emerita of history at Westfield State University 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. 

Shannon describes 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.

“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 said.

Shannon has been a member of the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) since 1968 and served for ten years on the ACIS national executive board and also organized four New England Regional Conferences.

This event on Thurs, Feb 13, is free and open to the public. To register, visit or call 203-582-6500.


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