The Irish College community was also able to effectively help
the Irish people in times of crisis.
The organisation founded a committee that included the Archbishop of Paris, the secular and regular clergy, and the faithful. In the Administration and accounting register of 1849-1890, the entry dated 19 February 1880 specifies that the "College sent 1,800 francs (£72) to the Committee to Relieve the Distress in Ireland, of which more than 15 pounds were donated by professors and the rest by students". Following successive crop failures from 1877 to 1879, Ireland experienced a "Lesser Famine" that year. While it was less serious than the "Great Famine" of the 1840s, the entire country felt its effects.
During the same period, the register made note of
particularly difficult weather conditions, noting that the
"Seine froze from its source to its mouth" in the winter of
1879-1880. Despite these challenges, the Rector of the
Irish College, Thomas Mac Namara, discussed the efforts
of the Irish community in Paris to help their
compatriots in his Annual Report to the bishops of
Ireland in 1880 (have a look at the
complete digitized document).
Mac Namara himself acknowledged that "the winter was exceptionally severe and long" and that the members of the college were "happy to avail [them]selves of [their] position here in Paris to reach a helping hand towards the relief of the distress in Ireland". The college organised a community-wide charity drive, as Mac Namara explains: "We ventured to address a Memorial to the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris [Joseph-Hippolyte Guibert], begging his Eminence to appeal, on our behalf, to the faithful of the diocese, in the hope that the example of the Metropolis would be followed throughout the country. Our Memorial found his Eminence quite disposed of himself to come to our aid."
Photograph of the River Seine, still frozen after the cold snap of December 1879.