A Book by James Lewis Farley.

James L. Farley: Author and Turkish affairs expert

In this week's Times Past, Jonathan Smyth looks at James Lewis Farley who had links to Mullagh and there's an extra piece on the Glan' cows encounter with some black and tans...

There have been countless books written on the history of the Turkish Empire. In the nineteenth century, an author named James Lewis Farley became a prolific scholar on the subject of Turkey and to this day many of his books are still in print. Farley’s ancestral roots can be traced to the townland of Meiltra, Mullagh, Co Cavan, where his father Thomas owned a farm. James was an only son to Thomas and he was born in Dublin City on September 9, 1823.

Having passed through school, James then studied at Trinity College Dublin where, after he had finished his studies, he looked set to have a glowing career in the legal world. That ambition ended when he developed a strong interest in Turkey and ‘the East’.

After the Crimean War had ended and the peace agreement of 1856 was signed in Paris, a group of British capitalists came together and formed the Ottoman Bank where Farley, who had played a major role in establishing the bank, accepted a job as chief accountant of its Beirut branch. He then wrote a book on ‘The Massacres of Syria’, which was published in 1861. This work warmly defended the Syrian Christians and states in its opening preface: When the Janissaries, those fanatical tyrants who made and unmade sultans, were totally destroyed (June 15, 1826), Mahmoud II exclaimed, ‘Henceforth I shall recognise the Moslem only in his Mosque, the Christian in his Church, and the Jew in his synagogue.

He then added, ‘but the precepts of the Koran are held more sacred by the Mussulmans than a hatti-humayoun, or imperial rescript, and the benevolent intentions of that wise and far-sighted monarch never have been fulfilled’.

Farley having lived for ‘some time’ in Syria, felt qualified enough to discuss the nature of its people and the massacre of the Christian people between July 9 and 11, 1860. The massacre by the Druses with their calls for ‘the blood of the Christians’ caused the murder of ‘20,000 Christians, and the destruction of 380 Christian villages, 560 churches and 40 Monasteries’.

The killings carried out were so intense that the bodies were left ‘in heaps like the corn on the threshing-floors’. Farley pleaded for governments around the world to intervene and warned them that soon there would be no Christians left in that part of the world. There are sadly still echoes of the same story in our world today.

James Farley later moved to Constantinople where he was appointed accountant general to the ‘state bank’ of Turkey in 1860: eventually this bank became the Imperial Ottoman Bank.

His overriding belief was that Turkey could take her place alongside the leading European nations, that was, if she were to receive careful financial backing. In 1863, Farley wrote the book, ‘Banking in Turkey’, in which he makes references to a previous book, he wrote, ‘The Resources of Turkey’, where he discusses all of Turkey’s investment opportunities from the ‘formation’ of railways, to the horse tram-roads ‘from the interior to the coast’, the silk and cotton production, the ‘adaptation’ of water-power for industrial use, mining, drainage of marshes and the growth in international exports.

But, as successful as Turkey had become, none of these activities were destined to succeed unless they received proper investment. Farley wrote that Turkey lacked ‘capital and industry’ and, if it were not for branch banks ‘founded on foreign capital’, these initiatives would fail. Outside investment was ,he believed, the only means by which they would thrive.

Farley’s dedication to the promotion of Turkish interests did not go unnoticed. In 1870 he received recognition for his work when he was chosen to act as ‘consul in Bristol for the sultan of the Ottoman empire’. He held this position for 14 years. Other honours awarded to him, include ‘the knight gold cross of the Servian order of the Takovo’ and becoming ‘a corresponding member of the Institute Egyptien of Alexandria and a fellow of the London Statistical Society’.

Farley retired to London in the 1870s and died on November 12, 1885. More information on James Lewis Farley, can be found in a fascinating biographical account written by Patrick M. Geoghan for the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

Books written by James Lewis Farley include: Two years in Syria; The massacres in Syria (1861); Resources of Turkey (1862); Banking in Turkey (1863); Turkey (1866); Modern Turkey (1872); Decline of Turkey (1875); and New Bulgaria (1880).

Cows are among the most esteemed of living creatures and nowhere is this to be found more so, than amongst the followers of Hinduism in India, except that is, if we were to go to Glangevlin, in Co Cavan, where fact and folklore sometimes collide. Legend has it too, that a famous Glangevlin cow once provided milk for three quarters of the whole of Ireland.

Glangevlin’s sacred animals also had other special qualities, which a party of black and tans to their dismay discovered in 1920. An extract from the Capuchin Annual recalled: ‘in later and more sophisticated times its kine are still famous’ and ‘strangers are warned not to leave bicycles within reach of their jaws’.

One informant, told the Annual, they had lost a brass ring when a cow ate it, and then there was the true story about the black and tans who arrived by motor lorry and abandoning it they went off to drink in a public house. The Capuchin Annual, ended its report as follows: ‘Presently arrived a herd of these nationally minded cows who made short work of the vehicle, and the sight of the grisly skeleton nearly provoked the raiders to mass homicide’.


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