Irish Famine Charity - Ottoman Sultan Abdulmajid I of Turkey

A Heartfelt Letter of Thanks: The Irish Famine and a Beacon of Ottoman Aid


In the pages of history, the Irish Famine of the 19th century remains a poignant chapter, marking a period of immense suffering and hardship. Amidst the devastating circumstances, an unlikely source of aid emerged – the Ottoman Turks. In a rare but powerful gesture of solidarity, a letter of thanks on behalf of the people of Ireland to the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmajid I serves as a testament to the compassionate response during a time of dire need.

Ottoman Sultan Abdulmajid I of Turkey

The Irish Famine: A Time of Desperation
The mid-19th century brought about the Irish Potato Famine, a catastrophic event that led to the death and displacement of millions. The potato crop failure, exacerbated by British policies and indifference, left the Irish population in a state of famine. People were starving, families were torn apart, and a sense of despair permeated the air.

The Unexpected Aid: Ottoman Turkey's Compassionate Response
In the midst of this humanitarian crisis, relief came from an unexpected quarter – the Ottoman Empire. News of the dire situation in Ireland reached the Sultan Abdulmajid I, who, despite his own empire facing challenges, decided to extend a helping hand. In 1847, the Ottoman Sultan donated £1,000 (equivalent to approximately £100,000 today) to alleviate the suffering of the Irish people.

The Grateful Letter from Ireland
The authorities in Ireland penned a letter expressing their gratitude to Sultan Abdulmajid I. In the heartfelt document, the writers expressed their thanks, acknowledging the generosity of the Ottoman Empire during their darkest hour. The letter reflects not only the dire circumstances of the time but also the resilience and gratitude of a community in the face of adversity.

Irish Famine Letter to Sultan Abdulmajid I of Turkey
Irish Famine Letter Cork Ottamon Sultan

A Transcendent Message of Compassion
The letter serves as a historical artifact, underscoring the interconnectedness of humanity during times of crisis. It transcends political and cultural boundaries, demonstrating that compassion knows no borders. The Ottoman aid to the Irish during the Famine stands as a reminder that, even in the face of immense challenges, acts of kindness and empathy can bridge gaps and provide hope.

Lessons for the Modern World
As we reflect on this historical event, the letter from Ireland to the Ottoman Sultan offers valuable lessons for the present day. It encourages us to look beyond our differences, extend a helping hand to those in need, and recognize that humanity is bound by a shared sense of compassion. In a world grappling with various challenges, the historical alliance between the people of Ireland and the Ottoman Turks serves as a beacon of hope and a call for solidarity.

Abdulmejid I (reigned 1839–1861) was the 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, serving from 1839 until his death in 1861. He was born on April 23, 1823, and ascended to the throne at the age of 16, following the death of his father, Mahmud II. Abdulmejid I's reign marked a period of significant reform and modernization within the Ottoman Empire.

One of the key reforms during Abdulmejid I's rule was the Tanzimat reforms, which aimed at modernizing various aspects of the Ottoman state, including legal, administrative, and military systems. These reforms were intended to strengthen the central government, promote equality before the law, and improve the overall governance of the empire.

Despite his efforts to modernize the Ottoman Empire, Abdulmejid I faced challenges, including external conflicts and internal opposition from conservative elements resistant to change. The empire also struggled with financial difficulties during his reign.

Abdulmejid I died on June 25, 1861, and was succeeded by his brother, Abdülaziz. The Tanzimat reforms initiated during Abdulmejid I's reign continued to influence later developments within the Ottoman Empire as it navigated the challenges of the 19th century.


The Irish Famine Letter of Thanks to the Ottoman Turks is a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the capacity for compassion in times of crisis. In a world that often seems divided, this historical episode serves as a reminder of our shared humanity and the potential for positive change when disparate communities come together to lend a helping hand.

Excerpt from Charity and the Great Hunger in Ireland: The Kindness of Strangers
Book by Christine Kinealy

Abdul Medjod Khan's involvement in Famine relief took place early in 1847, when he made
a donation of £1,000 to the British Relief Association.

He had originally offered £10,000 to the British Relief Association and some ships
laden with provisions, but had been advised by British diplomats that British
Royal protocol meant that nobody should contribute more than the Queen. It was suggested
that he gave half the sum contributed by Victoria.

The Sultan complied with this suggestion.

The Sultan's donation was entrusted to the Honourable My Wellesley, the Ambassador
in Constantinople and forwarded to the British Relief Association.


In Ireland, a meeting of the Royal Irish Agricultural Society in Ireland was held, presided over by the Earl of Charlemont, a liberal, reforming landlord.

An address to the Sultan / thank you letter was drawn up, which was signed by many of the
principal people in the country.

The Sultan's response to the Irish address gives some insight into his motivations:

It gave me great pain when I hear of the sufferings of the Irish people.
I would have done all in my power to relieve their wants...I pray that
for the future they mae be prosperous and happy and independent of
the aid of other nations. In contributing to the relief of the Irish people,
I only listened to the dictates of my heart; but it was only my duty to
show my sympathy for the sufferings of a portion of the subjects of her
Majesty, the Queen of England, for I look upon England as the best and truest
friend of Turkey

The fact that, were it not for 'Royal Etiquette', the donation would have been
much larger, was used berate the British goverment.

The Sultan's act of generosity to Ireland in 1847, when he was aged only 23, has
not been forgotten.