Just a brief notice.
I’ve always had a great love for the famine memorial at Custom House Quay, even managing to shut out the surrounding IFSC setting in my mind when I stop there. Like many people, I was horrified by the stories in recent weeks of people losing their lives in the Mediterranean, fleeing from war and starvation in search of better lives in Europe. According to the UN and the International Organisation for Migration, 1,776 people are dead or missing so far this year already, a staggering figure when compared to 56 for the same period last year.
Between 1845 and 1849, the population of this tiny little island decreased by about 25%, as a million people starved and a million fled in coffin ships. On some of these ships, the mortality rate rose above 30%, while one brig, the Hannah actually sunk in 1849 with the loss of dozens of lives. A brief history of the Hannah‘s tragic sailing can be found here.
The brig Hannah failed to skirt the pack ice on the harsh gulf. Its hull was crushed by an iceberg. Passengers, jolted from their sleep, were bruised and cut in the scramble off the ship. Others perished in the chilling waters, unable to gain the ice, or were lost in rescue attempts.
As historians, and with our blog, we have always believed that the past isn’t just a serious of quirky anecdotes, but that there are important stories and lessons in history too. Approaching friends who work with migrants in Ireland today, through the European Network Against Racism, we decided that on Friday at 1pm we would lay a wreath at the Famine memorial for those who have died in recent months, making the connection with the history of this city and country, while also highlighting the difficulties migrants face today. It will be a very short little event, with ourselves and the European Network Against Racism, while we hope to have a singer on hand to sing a fitting song before we disperse. You’re more than welcome to come along.
UPDATE: Thank you to the dozens of people who attended what was a very moving event. In particular, thank you to the speakers from various migrant rights groups and campaigns.