Band Aid inspired by campaigner’s efforts in famine-era Skibbereen, Geldof to tell history festival

Band Aid inspired by campaigner’s efforts in famine-era Skibbereen, Geldof to tell history festival

Bob Geldof is to tell audiences at the West Cork History Festival this weekend how the depiction of famine conditions near Skibbereen inspired Band Aid.

The legendary musician says Band Aid’s tactics to highlight famine in Africa in 1980s mirror the way a 19th-century campaigner described the horrors of famine at South Reen near Skibbereen to ignite a response from British authorities.

The Boomtown Rat will tell audiences at the West Cork History Festival this weekend that Ireland’s population and culture was decimated during the Great Famine in a similar fashion to what he saw unfolding in Ethiopia in the early 1980s.

Mr Geldof was spurred into action and recruited colleagues in the music industry to record a Christmas record in 1984, and the legendary Live Aid concert the following summer, with the proceeds aimed at relief efforts in the region. 

During his speech this weekend, the musician will pay homage to NM Cummins, who successfully appealed to Queen Victoria and the British and international public to respond to the horrors unfolding during the famine in Ireland.

Mr Cummins’s letter to the Duke of Wellington was published in the London Times on Christmas Eve in 1846, and goes into great detail of the plight he had seen in West Cork.

He wrote: “In the first six famished and ghastly skeletons, to all appearance dead, were huddled in a corner on some filthy straw, their sole covering what seemed a ragged horse-cloth, naked above the knees. I approached in horror, and found by a low moaning they were alive, they were in fever — four children, a woman, and at what had once been a man.

It is impossible to go through the details, suffice to say, that in a few minutes I was surrounded by at least 200 of such phantoms, such frightful spectres as no words can describe.

“By far, the greater number were delirious, either from famine or fever. Their demonic yells are still yelling in my ears, and their horrible images and fixed upon my brain.” 

Mr Cummins’ imploring of authorities to take auction and his use of the media to reach the widest audience is what Band Aid was trying to do well over a century later according to Mr Geldof.

He will tell attendees that in “anybody’s language” what happened during the Famine must be deemed a holocaust “just sweeping through a land taking their people, their language, and all that vast culture away from them”.

He will say: “One of the people who couldn’t turn away was Nicholas Cummins… he seems to me to be a very modern man. It’s a bit embarrassing that it’s me talking about this, but all the language of this letter and the peo

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