Picking up the bill for Trevelyan’s corn

Picking up the bill for Trevelyan’s corn

TWO descendants of Sir Charles Trevelyan — who is referenced in the song The Fields of Athenry — have said that they would consider paying reparations to Ireland.

John Dower and Laura Trevelyan are descended from six Trevelyans who in 1835 shared £29,000 as “compensation” for owning 1,004 enslaved people on the island of Grenada.

Laura Trevelyan, a former BBC journalist, is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Sir Charles Trevelyan, a senior British government official in the Treaury.

Ms Trevelyan has said that her ancestor “failed their people” during the humanitarian catastrophe of An Gorta Mór in the 1840s.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster’s The Nolan Show, she told presenter Stephen Nolan: “If the Irish government said the Trevelyan family are liable for what Sir Charles Edward did, then of course that would have to be considered.”

The Trevelyan family has already paid £100,000 in compensation for the family’s “ownership” of 1,000 slaves in Grenada in the Caribbean.

Trevelyan’s role in the Great Famine is remembered chiefly for his reluctance to provide any aid to the Irish during the Famine. He was the senior British Treasury official at the time, a strong belief in a free market economy — which meant no government intervention. This lack of financial support to the Irish people, while sluicing off profits, was a key factor in the worsening of the effects of the Famine.

Sir Charles Trevelyan also wrote highly disparaging remarks about the Irish in a letter to an Irish peer, explaining that the Famine was an act of Heavenly retribution. He wrote: "The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson.”

This year John Dower and Laura Trevelyan, both descended from the Trevelyan dynasty, have announced they want to make amends, if possible, and pay reparations. On their website Heirs of Slavery — which includes ancestors of other colonialists and slavers — their statement of intent says: “We are a new group composed of people whose ancestors profited from and supported transatlantic slavery and its many related industries.”