Quaker Joseph Bewley was an Irish tea and coffee merchant – yes, the same Bewley family that established those wonderful cafes in Ireland and broke the monopoly of the East India Company by importing tea directly from China to Ireland. In 1846, Joseph Bewley helped establish the Friends’ Relief Committee that set up soup kitchens to provide direct, no-strings relief in an organized manner during the Famine. This was done without British (government) help, being funded privately from a variety of sources. Joseph Bewley didn’t just talk about aid or raise money, he put his beliefs into practice. As a result, he was one of 15 Quakers (out of a population of 3,000 in Ireland) who died in the Famine as a direct result of his work with those in need. As explained elsewhere on this blog, the Quakers were noteworthy during the Famine for doing so much given their small numbers and for doing it without an agenda (religious or political). Help was given to those in need – food in the beginning and then seeds/training later on in the hope that alternative crops to potatoes could be established.*
So, when you next stop by Bewley’s (or Java City in the U.S.) remember Joseph Bewley – a man celebrated for his humility and self-sacrifice who paid the ultimate price for his beliefs.
* it goes without saying that I take great exception to writers like Tim Pat Coogan who characterized the Quakers’ work as “disinterested efforts”. Of course, he wrote that in a British, Catholic periodical. Still, regardless of such revisionist historians, the facts are otherwise and will – forever – speak for themselves.