Statues Of Nubian Slaves – Tipperary Connection.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath”,Exodus 20:4

Before you read the text hereunder, let it be known to all that I, the administrator, support individual freedom and view slavery as an abominable crime against humanity.

Readers will be aware from other sources, that four statues, which have stood at the front of ‘The Shelbourne’ hotel in Dublin, for some 153 years, have now been removed.

The statues depicting two Nubian princesses from the lower Nile and their slave girls each holding torches above their heads, were first erected outside the hotel in 1867, four years after the death of the original owner, Tipperary man Martin Burke, latter the man who first established the hotel in 1824.

We understand the statues cast in bronze and commissioned from the studio of MM Barbezat of Paris, were recently removed by hotel management due to their association with slavery, with the slave girl statues having manacles around their feet.

Nubia is a region along the Nile river encompassing the area between Aswan in southern Egypt and Khartoum in central Sudan. Interesting to note, that between the years 639 and 646 the Nubians themselves, already involved in the burgeoning East African slave trade, agreed to trade 360 slaves, annually, to their northern neighbours, in exchange for spices and grains.

Religion – Its View On Slavery.

Since Bible times, those expressing deep religious conviction have justified continued ownership of slaves by referring to the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, (see Chapter 6: Verse 5): “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”

In the case of females; quotes from St. Paul (Ephesians Chapter 5: Verses 22 & 23) were also used; “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife”.

Other such justification can be found at Genesis Chapter 9: Verse 20-27.

As well as removing / destroying statues connected to slavery, should we also be removing text from the Bibles within all of our Christian churches.

Ireland & Early Slave Trade

From the 9th to the 12th century Viking Dublin, in particular, was a major slave trading center. In 870, Vikings, led by Olaf the White and Ivar the Boneless, besieged and captured the stronghold of Dumbarton Castle, the capital of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, in Scotland. The very next year they took most of the inhabitants to the Dublin slave markets.

When the Vikings first established themselves in Dublin they began a slave market that would come to sell slaves (thralls) captured both here in Ireland and taken from other countries including France and Spain. Irish slaves were sent as far away as Iceland, where Gaels formed some 40% of the founding population.

In 875, Irish slaves in Iceland launched Europe’s largest slave rebellion since the end of the Roman Empire, when the slaves of Hjörleifr Hróðmarsson’s killed him, before fleeing to Vestmannaeyjar on the south coast of Iceland. Indeed the name of the wet archipelago of Vestmannaeyjar is named after these Gaelic slaves who had been captured into slavery by Norsemen. The Old Norse word Vestmenn, means “West Men”, and had been applied to the Irish, and retained in Icelandic even though Iceland is situated further west than Ireland.

Not long afterwards Ingólfur Arnarson, blood brother of the now killed Hjörleifur, arrived in Iceland. The Irish slaves were quickly tracked down to Vestmannaeyjar and killed in retribution, hence the name Vestmannaeyjar meaning ‘the islands of the west men’.

Slavery became more widespread in Ireland throughout the 11th century, as Dublin became the biggest slave market in Western Europe, with its main sources of supply coming from the Irish hinterland, e.g Wales and Scotland.

From 1080, the Irish slave trade began to decline, after William the Conqueror took control of the English and Welsh coasts, banning slavery in its territory in 1102.

The Shelbourne Hotel – The Tipperary Connection

The Shelbourne Hotel on the north side of St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin was first established in 1824 by a Tipperary man, aged in his 40’s, named Martin Burke.

Almost nothing is known about Martin Burke’s early history; we do know however that he was a Tipperary man, born about 1788, a practising Catholic by birth and his death was reported in a Clonmel newspaper, (Tipperary Free Press) on Tuesday January 20th 1863, [The same day that Union General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac began his offensive against General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, known as the ‘Mud March’ in the American Civil war, and which led to the emancipation of four million slaves]

A mystery remains as to where Martin Burke got his start-up money for what was then an enormous transaction and where or even when he acquired the necessary training to be a hotel manager. He may have had connections with the Honourable East India Company, trading into the East Indies and certainly sold private land prior to his new venture.

Martin’s ambition was to open a hotel in Dublin that would, as he stated “Woo genteel custom who wanted solid, comfortable and serviceable accommodation at a fashionable address.”

Burke to achieve his ambition, leased three houses situated side by side; No.27, No.28 and No.29 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin. The buildings, then situated in one of the most fashionable parts of Dublin were taken over, “in consideration of a down payment of £1,000 and the promise of a further £2,000 at a later date and a yearly rent of £300,” with Burke and his future heirs being granted the leasehold interest for 150 years.

Martin Burke now sets about turning these three buildings into the quality licensed accommodation holder and hostelry that has been his long awaited dream.

His shrewd marketing ability soon came to the fore in the chosen name attributed to his new venture. Instead of calling it Bourke’s Hotel, he named his new enterprise after William Petty, 1st Marquess, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, Prime Minister of Great Britain (1782 – 83) and who had succeeded in securing peace with America during the final months of the American War of Independence. But Burke shrewly took the liberty of adding an ‘o’ into the name’s spelling, thus instantly linking the hotel with the fame and standards of the late Lord Shelburne, while also attracting the immediate attention of the then ruling ascendancy classes.

Within a year of its opening ‘The Shelbourne Hotel’ was the first hotel to install a gas lighting system lately arrived in Dublin, [The first piped-gas lamp appeared in Dublin in 1825]. The Shelbourne Hotel was now firmly established as a favourite of visitors “doing the season,” and stood proudly at the centre of Irish upper class society.

Historically, “The Season” ran from April to August; latter which marks the beginning of the shooting season. Here, upper class Society would retire to the country to shoot fowl during the autumn and go hunting foxes during the winter, before coming back to the city again with the onset of spring, to hold débutante balls, dinner parties, large charity events and take part in political activity.

It is estimated today that nearly 40 million people worldwide, still live in slavery, a small percentage of which reside in our Ireland of today.


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