25 March 2010

The Drogheda/Turkey connection in full (that is to say, empty)

President Mary McAleese has been on an official visit to Turkey this week, where she affirmed Ireland's support for Turkey's accession to the European Union, and honoured the Irish soldiers who died at Gallipoli in World War I.

More important, however, was the address she gave at a dinner at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on Tuesday:
Contacts between Ireland and Turkey are not simply a recent tourist phenomenon however. In the mid nineteenth century a million of Ireland's citizens died of starvation. During that Famine, Turkey's then leader Sultan Abdul Majid sent three ships loaded with food to Ireland. In your state archives, there is a letter of profound thanks for that generosity, signed by a large number of Ireland's public figures and clergy. The cargo was unloaded in a port called Drogheda and since then at the insistence of the people, the star and crescent of your country forms part of the town's coat of arms. Those symbols of Turkish kindness are to be found today on the crest of Drogheda's football team - a fitting contemporary link given that football is as much a national passion in Turkey as it is in Ireland.
Oh. Oh dear.

The story about how the star and crescent were added to Drogheda's coat of arms as a gesture of gratitude to the Ottoman Empire is a tenacious myth. In fact, according to Liam Reilly of the Old Drogheda Society, "There are no records with the Drogheda Port Authority of this [the landing of an aid consignment at Drogheda] ever happening". A spokesperson for the President has admitted the error.

When did the town adopt the star and crescent, exactly? In my cursory web-based rooting around in search of the answer (get thee to a library, Fred), I've found more than one. Reilly says it goes back to the granting of Drogheda's first town charter in 1210, during the reign of King John, whose symbol the star and crescent apparently was. The town's official tourism website concurs. Other sources, such as the Drogheda Rotary Club site, date the emblem to a charter presented to the town by Richard I (who also had the star and crescent as a personal symbol) in 1194. (The town did hold 800th anniversary celebrations in 1994.)

Either way, its provenance is royal, it predates the Famine by centuries, and it was later chosen by Drogheda United to adorn their crest. Another club with the star and crescent on their badge is Portsmouth. Like Drogheda, they took it from their town's emblem. Portsmouth was (according to the city council) granted its first town charter by Richard I in 1194. A correspondent to the Guardian's Knowledge feature last year seemed to imply that United had nicked the motif from Portsmouth. This is not so. Irish football may look towards England, but there are limits, good God.

Fans of Drogheda United and Trabzonspor have struck up a friendship in recent years, based on their mutual claretandblueness and, um, the Ottoman story. Hmmm. Also, the Wikipedia entry for the town of Drogheda has seen in recent months a determined effort to establish the tale as the Wikitruth. One edit included the somewhat bizarre line "Due to this the Irish people, especially those in Drogheda, are friendly to the Turks".

Glossing over the fact that Drogheda's coat of arms also has three lions on it, I draw your attention to another part of the Prez's musings. "[F]ootball is as much a national passion in Turkey as it is in Ireland"? More than a tad impudent — football (assuming we're talking only of soccer here) is a national passion in Ireland when it suits us. The vaguely hooliesque behaviour of a few skangery knobweasels who attach themselves to some clubs here hardly counts.

Here's a genuine connection between the Irish and the, um, Turkans:


Elliott 28/3/10 11:00 PM  

I hypothesize that the emblem came from a returned crusader turned free lance graphic designer. I'm sure his 12th century self thought - this is pretty cool and nobody will EVER put two and two together

Anonymous,  7/4/10 12:47 PM  

The rumor is that there is a related stone inscription on a wall of the historical Drogheda Municipality Building (now WESTCOURT HOTEL).

Official letter of thanks from Ireland to the Ottoman Sultan is still displayed in a Turkish Museum.

In a recent ceremony held by the inscription, Turkish Ambassador Taner Baytok said, this story appeared in an essay by Thomas P. O´Neill in THE TRESHOLD magazine (1957).

NOTE: the link above leads to a more recent article which appeared in the FOUNTAIN Magazine.. The magazine is published in USA; its web site includes an ABOUT section listing adresses where queries can be directed regarding truths of the printed articles.

Sarfaraz Abbasi 10/4/15 2:52 PM  

Why does it when the links show the closeness between Muslims and Christians go back to ancient time, bigots like you arise to try everything to portray it as fishy?

Anonymous,  19/5/15 9:00 AM  

I thought it had something to do with the bloody Shriners. The Crusader origin seems most likely. The only stories I've heard about Turks in Ireland involved beheadings and slavery.

Anonymous,  6/9/15 11:06 AM  

is it true Drogheda United played in Turkey in 2005 ?

Anonymous,  6/9/15 11:07 AM  

sorry if it is true does anybody know teams played & results

pat maher,  22/9/15 5:22 PM  

Can't find the name of the Polish club they played
01-Mar Kanous [ Lithuania] Turkey pre season tour 0 2 L
04-Mar Polish club Turkey pre season tour 1 0 W

Unknown 29/12/15 7:51 PM  

So you have heard wrong, you probably mix up christian colonizer and muslim Ottomans because there's a big difference between us ! What we did was not occupation but revitalizing, not pillage but conquest...if it was the contrary today nearly the middle of the world's population have to be muslims cause we are the only empire that was present in 3 continent..with all my respects

thecornerisbooked 1/1/16 7:10 PM  

Please see:
How Muslims helped Ireland during the great famine

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