More than a century ago, James Coleman published a short article, ‘Voyage of the “Jamestown”’, in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, in which he recounted the arrival of the US warship Jamestown in Cork Harbour on Monday 12 April 1847. The vessel had departed from the Charlestown Navy Yard, Massachusetts, two weeks earlier, on 28 March, with a capacity cargo of some 800 tonnes of Irish ‘famine’ relief supplies, valued at $40,000, on board. The provisions and clothing had been donated or purchased with money raised among the people of Boston, the state of Massachusetts, and parts of New England.
The need for the Jamestown mission, and further humanitarian intervention during the extremely difficult winter and spring of 1846-7, was captured in an apocalyptic leading article in a Cork newspaper some weeks after the arrival of the vessel in the Harbour:
We are overwhelmed with distress; we are crushed with taxation; we are scourged by famine; and visited by pestilence. Our jails are full; our poor houses choked; our public edifices turned into lazar houses; our cities mendicities; our streets morgues; our church yards fields of carnage. Our ordinary trade is gone; our people are partially demoralised. Society itself is breaking up; selfishness seizes upon all; class repudiates class; the very ties of closest kindred are snapt asunder. Sire and son, landlord and occupier, town and country repudiate each other, ceasing to co-operate – Terror and hunger, disease and death afflict us … Is there a locality in which there are not dire distress, horrible suffering, utter penury, and total idleness through the absence of employment?