Posted by: irishhungercomm | September 27, 2012

Irish famine remains a sad memory, but hunger still haunts mankind


When a Connecticut humanitarian, Elihu Burritt, visited Ire-land in 1847 in the midst of the Great Hunger, he discovered one small, but significant, ray of hope amid widespread starva-tion, disease, misery and death.
In various locations, Quakers had opened soup kitchens, and were providing thousands of gallons of soup per day. From Dub-lin, Burritt wrote: “At noon, I went to the soup kitchen, and there first came in contact with the famine-stricken people. A crowd of haggard, unwashed and ragged people crowded the nar-row passage to this pool of Be-thesda, as if the angel of salvation were there to heal and give them eternal life … Children with old rusty tin cups … Old wom-en shivering in their rags, with trembling hands pressed to the windows.”
By mailship, Burritt sent a desperate plea back to America: “Friends of humanity! Hundreds of your fellow beings are dying, almost daily dying, of starvation in poor Ireland. Will you not send them bread from your plenteous boards? … A penny a day will save a human life. Will you let thousands die when they can be rescued so cheaply from the grave? … May the God of all grace and mercy and compassion touch the heart of America in view of such a spectacle of wretchedness. “
In Connecticut, people of all religious faiths and all ethnic backgrounds responded with great charity and generosity to Burritt’s plea and the appeals of others for aid for the starving Irish. Margaret Coleman, an Irish domestic servant in New Ha-ven gave $20 out of her small salary. The Congregational Church in Meriden gave $76; the Methodists in Middletown, $62; the Episcopalians in Norwich, $100.
The Great Hunger in Ireland is but a sad memory now, but hunger remains a constant threat to the lives of millions throughout the world, and thousands right here in Connecticut. As there was in Ireland in 1847, thanks to the Quakers, there is in New Haven today a soup kitchen that provides basic suste-nance to those in need. Two Irish-Americans who play key roles in keeping that soup kitchen going will speak at our July meeting. David O’Sullivan, coordinator of the New Haven Soup Kitchen, and Michael McCann, who is involved in many civic activities in Greater New Haven, will explain why it is as im-portant in New Haven now as it was in Dublin and Cork in 1847 to reach out to combat the devastation and misery caused when people have no food.


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