Today use to be Arthur’s Day. A day thought up as a marketing ploy by a multinational company to promote Guinness. It was an annual series of music events worldwide, originally organised in 2009 to promote the 250th anniversary of Guinness. it was scrapped in 2014 and despite the somewhat dodgy political tendency’s of the original Guinness family today is still a good day to celebrate that most Irish of drinks.
WHEN GUINNESS SAVED IRELAND
By Brighid O’Sullivan
Guinness? Seriously? As my grand daughter would say. How did that happen.
With the history of the Great Hunger barely hundred years before, I was surprised by this trivia fact. England wrought what some would call heartless vengeance onto her own people once again.
During the Second World War, Ireland remained neutral, despite the fact Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. The mother country was deeply engaged in mortal combat with Germany.
This decision did not bode well with England. In fact, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England was furious and resented Ireland’s neutrality. In an effort to bring Ireland into the war, he implemented several strategic actions by controlling ports and shipping supplies to Ireland. These strategies had disastrous consequences, hitting the Irish population at its poorest.
With the European conflict raging, Churchill prepared to deliver several embargoes that would devastate Ireland; that is until she brought out her secret weapon to defend herself. Check out the facts below.
England ceased to transport the necessary supplies of fertilizer to Ireland. 100,000 tons remained in ports, a devastating blow to Ireland to be sure. Also the British supply of feeding stuff was slashed from six million to zero as well as petrol supplies. Trains stopped running as British coal remained in England as well.
Children felt it the quickest. With no wheat to be had, Ireland introduced a new kind of bread, the 100 Percent Black Loaves, made with ground bone or lime powder in the place of wheat flour. Does this sound familiar? During the Great Hunger the British substituted corn for potatoes, also a poor substitute Besides being a poor substitute, there was a more serious problem. The ingredients used to make the bread inhibited calcium absorption, leading to widespread cases of childhood rickets across the land. Rickets is caused by a Vitamin D deficiency and symptoms can include brittle bones, dental problems, muscle weakness, skeletal deformities and failure to thrive.
Ireland relied on exports for most of her existence. The Irish writer, George Bernard Shaw, stated, “the Irish are a powerless little cabbage garden.
Though on the surface this may have seemed true, Shaw underestimated Ireland as did the British. Ireland did not lose her Irish spirit nor her ingenuity and determination to survive. She learned this lesson from the British, beginning with the Reformation right down to the Great Hunger.
This time, Ireland had a secret weapon. Guinness!
In March 1942 the Irish government banned the export of beer to England! At the time England was consuming near a million barrels of Guinness beer annually.
Allied troops and the British army felt the sudden beer shortage the most and England’s elite commanders complained to Whitehall of their recruits’ disparities. A short time later an agreement was made between England and Ireland. Ireland would again receive coal, wheat, and fertilizers in exchange for Guinness beer. How’s that for hitting the British where it hurts?
- Brighid is the author of several books and a great Irish-American blog Celtic Thoughts here but you can get a free download of her e-book Ten Irish Heroines, The Women of the Rising by clicking here and following the simple instructions. Women played an active role in the Easter Rebellion of 1916. They were courageous, self-sacrificing, giving up everything for Ireland. This is a short book about ten of these extraordinary women.