A new online project called Heroes of the Great Irish Famine has been launched to pay tribute to the individuals and communities whose compassion and generosity sustained the lives of those who suffered during the famine when they were most in need.
Speaking at the launch, Jimmy Deenihan, TD, Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, said: "To start this project I have submitted a piece on the work of the Quakers who did so much to help victims of the Great Irish Famine by setting up soup kitchens and distributing aid to those in some of the worst affected areas in Ireland. Many of those in receipt of this aid would otherwise have starved and we should be thankful to those brave men and women who stood up for the impoverished during this terrible time in our history.
"It is fascinating to learn that groups such as the Chocataw Indians, the Jewish Community in New York, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and the Committee of Colored Citizens in Philadelphia were all affected by the plight of the Irish people during this time. I would urge members of the public to delve into this part of our history and take part in this project".
Heroes of the Great Irish Famine will have an online life as a section of a new website – irishfamine.ie –, which the Minister also launched today. The website will provide information about the Great Irish Famine and details of events in the run up to the National and International Famine Commemorations.
The Heroes of the Great Irish Famine section will be dedicated to those who showed kindness and humanity to the Irish people in response to the Great Irish Famine. Members of the public will be invited to provide brief accounts of those individuals and communities at home and abroad who they feel should be recognised for their generosity. At each location of the National and International Famine Commemoration, local communities will be encouraged to provide accounts of local 'heroes' to coincide with the planned events. Schools will also be invited to provide information and material on people local to their area who helped those during the Great Irish Famine.
Perhaps giving an idea of how IrishFamine.ie might develop, there's a link on the site to one of Skibbereen Heritage Centre's databases: The Loan Funds. The Loan Funds were originally set up by Jonathan Swift in Dublin in the early 18th century to provide credit to the poor, and their use gradually spread across the island. In the years just before the Great Hunger, there were several Loan Funds operating in Cork. The records in this database are for the Kilmoe & Crookhaven, Schull, Durrus, Creagh, Baltimore, Castletownsend, Glandore and Ballineen funds in the far south west of Cork. (Thanks to Genealogist Joe Buggy at Townland of Origin for alerting me to this.)