. . . . the others, with emaciated faces and prominent, staring eyeballs, were evidently in an advanced state of starvation. The officer in charge reported the incident to Sir James Dombrain, the Inspector General . . . . . and Sir James “very inconveniently,” wrote Routh, “interfered.”
Cecil Woodham-Smith: The Great Hunger.
Routine patrol off West Mayo; sighting
A rowboat heading unusually far
Beyond the creek, I tacked and hailed the crew
In Gaelic. Their stroke had clearly weakened
As they pulled to, from guilt or bashfulness
I was conjecturing when, O my sweet Christ,
We saw piled in the bottom of their craft
Six grown men with gaping mouths and eyes
Bursting the sockets like spring onions in drills.
Six wrecks of bone and pallid, tautened skin.
“Biadh, biadh, biadh,” in whines and snarls their desperation
Rose and fell like a flock of starving gulls.
We’d known about the shortage but on board
They always kept us right with flour and beef
So understand my feelings, and the men’s,
Who had no mandate to relieve distress.
There was relief available in Westport
Though these poor brutes would clearly never make it.
I had to refuse food: they cursed and howled
Like dogs that had been kicked hard in the privates.
When they drove at me with their starboard oar
(Risking capsize themselves) I saw they were
Violent and without hope. I hoisted
And cleared off. Less incidents the better.
Next day, like six bad smells, those living skulls
Drifted through the dark of bunk and hatches
And once in port I exorcised my ship
Reporting all to the Inspector General.
Sir James, I understand, urged free relief
For famine victims in the Westport Sector
And earned tart reprimand from good Whitehall.
Let natives prosper by their own exertions;
Who could not swim might go ahead and sink.
“The Coast Guard with their zeal and activity
Are too lavish” were the words, I think.