Up to three ships from the Ottoman Empire sailed up the River Boyne to Drogheda to deliver supplies during the famine, according to a local historian.
Both the Drogheda Argus and the Drogheda Conservative newspapers reported on ‘foreign ships’ that docked at the town of Drogheda from May 10-14, 1847.
According to the Drogheda Independent, two of the ships arrived from the Ottoman Port of Thessalonica, which is now known as Salonika. The third ship arrived from the port of Stettin. The three ships brought wheat and Indian Corn for local merchants in the area.
A local historian, Brendan Matthews, said, “The timeframe matches perfectly, but the fact there is no firm documentary evidence may not be a coincidence”.
“This is the closest I have come to finding documentation, as there are no shipping records for Drogheda Port at that time,”
According to the newspaper, the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Majid Khan sent £1,000 on Wednesday, March 31, 1847, to Dublin Castle. He had wanted to make a larger donation but was advised not to donate more than Queen Victoria, who had sent £2,000.
His generosity to the Irish people was reported in the in the London Times on Saturday, April 17, 1847, as well as in the Nation newspaper in Ireland.
“According to sources within the Turkish Embassy and the oral history of the Turkish people, the Sultan also sent three ships very soon after he had sent the £1,000 and that all three ships, although they may not have left the same port, arrived in Ireland at the same time and docked at the port of Drogheda,” Matthews said.
“If the Sultan had indeed sent such ships after the money aid, these ships would then have reached Irish shores around the first or second week in May of 1847.”
“The sultan of Turkey, Abdul Medjid Khan, may have sent the ships as a “hushed-up” gesture, not wanting to upset Queen Victoria,” Matthews added.
A plaque in Drogheda unveiled in 1995 by Drogheda Mayor Alderman Godfrey and the then Turkish Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, Taner Baytok reads, “The Great Irish Famine of 1847 — In remembrance and recognition of the generosity of the People of Turkey towards the People of Ireland.”