The Great Irish Famine remains one of the most lethal famines in modern world history and a watershed moment in the development of modern Ireland – socially, politically, demographically and culturally. In the space of only four years, Ireland lost twenty-five per cent of its population as a consequence of starvation, disease and large-scale emigration. Certain aspects of the Famine remain contested and controversial, for example the issue of the British government’s culpability, proselytism, and the reception of emigrants. However, recent historiographical focus on this famine has overshadowed the impact of other periods of subsistence crisis, both before 1845 and after 1852.
This volume examines how the failure of the potato crop in the late 1840s led to the mass exodus of 2.1 million people between 1845 and 1855. They left for destinations as close as Britain and as far as the United States, Canada and Australia, and heralded an era of mass migration which saw another 4.5 million leave for foreign destinations over the next half-century. How they left, how they settled in the host countries and their experiences with the local populations are as wide and varied as the numbers who left and, using extensive primary sources, this volume analyses and assesses this in the context of the emigrants themselves and in the new countries they moved.
Table of Contents
Part 1. The Exodus. 1. Petition from Margaret Cassidy to William Stewart Trench, dated April1846 (PRO,NI, Shirley Papers, D3531/A). 2. Report from Belmullet, Co. Mayo of emigrants leaving on the Unity bound for North America citing the reasons they were leaving, Mayo Telegraph, 22 April 1846. 3. Petition from the labourers from the Rattibarren barony, Co. Sligo to the government outlining their poverty. Appendix to Minutes take before the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Colonisation, HC 1847 (737 – ii) vi, p. 197. 4. Letter of James Prendergast in Milltown, Co. Kerry to his son, Thomas, in Boston. Shelly Barber (ed), The Prendergast Letters: Correspondence from Famine-Era Ireland, 1840-1850 (Amherst & Boston, 2006), pp 130-32. 5. Newspaper account of the large-scale emigration from Ireland in 1849 and the opportunities that exist in the United States for emigrants. London Times, January 1849 6. Labourers in Co. Mayo contribute to a general emigration fund. Galway Mercury, 17 April 1852. 7. Report members of the Achill Church Mission Society Colony leaving for North America. Galway Vindicator, 17 May 1854. 8. Report from County Kerry of people emigrating who were forced the families to leave. Kerry Examiner, 27 June 1854. Part 2. Support for Emigration as a Solution to Famine 9. Pamphlet from John Robert Godley and signed by 83 Irish noblemen calling on the British Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, to implement a scheme of colonization of pauper Irish families to North America. Appendix to Minutes of Evidence before the Select Committee on Colonization from Ireland, HC 1847-8 (737-ii), xl. 10. Correspondence between Adam Ferrie and Joseph Kincaid in relation to emigrants that were sent out from Lord Palmerston’s estate from Co. Sligo to Quebec in 1847. Papers relative to Emigration to the British Provinces in North America, HC 1847-8 (932), xlvii, pp 35, 42. 11. Correspondence and report in relation to Irish emigrants to New Brunswick in 1847. Papers relative to the Emigration to the British Provinces in North America, HC 1847-8 (932), xlvii, pp 49-55. 12. Suggestions as to how emigration should be put in place, especially that of tenants who were assisted by their landlords. Limerick Reporter, 12 September 1848 13. Attempts to encourage emigration by landowners and the gentry, and in particular to influence government officials, especially after 1847. NLI, Monteagle Papers (Ms 13400 (2) (Letter from Lord Monteagle to Lord Clarendon, dated 21 October 1848). 14. Meeting in Cavan in September, 1849 to promote emigration to Australia, Nation, 8 September 1849. 15. Speech by Lord Monteagle in the House of Lords on the emigration provisions in the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill. Hansard, Louse of Lords Debates, vol. 107 (dated 13 July, 1849), cc 312-3. 16. Suggestions to intending emigrants to North America from Thomas D’Arcy McGee. Armagh Guardian, 23 April 1849. 17. Attempts to encourage the Irish to emigrate to Peru, Sligo Champion, 27 October, 1851. 18. Attempts to encourage Irish paupers to emigrate to Argentina, Limerick Reporter and Tipperary Vindicator, 4 March 1850. 19. Correspondence between R.A. Duncan, Poor Law Inspector for unions in county Limerick, and A. C. Buchanan, Emigration Agent in Quebec, in relation to workhouse pauper inmates sent to Canada in 1852. Papers Relative to Emigration to the North American Colonies, HC 1852-3 (1650), lxciii, pp 23-8. Part 3. Attitude in the Colonies to the Emigration. 20. Evidence of Lt Col. Edward MacArthur to the Select Committee on Colonization from Ireland that the sending of Irish workhouse women to Australia would be a great benefit to the colony as there was a major shortage of girls as marriage partners. Minutes taken before the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Colonisation, HC 1847 (737 – ii) vi, pp 310-324. 21. Sir Randolph Routh to Sir Charles Trevelyan objecting to the proposal that two million people be sent from Ireland to Canada over a two year period, arguing that the colony was not in a position to absorb such numbers. Appendix to Minutes before the Select Committee on Colonization from Ireland, HC 1847 (737-ii), pp 34-5. 22. Report from the Emigration Agent at St John’s, New Brunswick on the tenants sent out by Sir Robert Gore Booth from his Co. Sligo estate on the Aeolus and the Yeoman. Papers relative to Emigration to the British Provinces in North America, HC 1847-8 (932), xlvii Part 4. Experiences of the emigrants on the Atlantic Crossing. 23. Letter of Rev. Bernard McGauran to Archbishop Joseph Signay outlining the condition of the Irish Famine emigrants who arrived at Grosse Isle in May 1847. Marianna O’Gallagher and Rose Masson Dompierre (eds), Eyewitness Grosse Isle, 1847 (Quebec, 1995), pp 50-51. 24. Account from the wife of Captain Purdon of the Yeoman which sailed from Sligo to New Brunswick in June 1847 bringing tenants from Sir Robert Gore Booth’s estate. Second Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lord on Colonization from Ireland, HC 1847-8 (368), xlvii, pp 262-3. 25. Legislation enacted by the New York legislature regarding the entry of emigrants to the port of New York, and the conditions under which ship owners and masters could bring such passengers. Further Papers relative to Emigration to the British Provinces in North America, Part 11, HC 1849 (593-ii), xxxviii, pp 78-81. 26. Account of the condition on board the Lady Dombrain that sailed from Killybegs to St. John, New Brunswick in 1848 from officials in St John. Papers relative to Emigration to the British Provinces in North America, HC, pp 132-4. 27. Account of tenants sent from Colonel Wyndham’s estate in Co. Clare to Quebec on the "Governor" from Limerick in 1848. Papers relative to the Emigration to the British Provinces in North America, HC 1847-8 (971), xlvii, pp 1-3. 28. Debate in the Limerick Board of Guardians on how the female paupers from the workhouse who were sent to Australia were treated by the shipping crew on the sea voyage. Limerick Reporter, 31 July 1849. 29. Complaints by Quebec officials about the brig St. John which carried emigrants from Galway port in 1849. Further Papers relative to Emigration to the British Provinces in North America, pt II, HC 1849 (593-ii), xxxviii, pp 5-8. 30. Debate in the House of Lords on the treatment of passengers on board the ships traveling to Australia. Hansard. Louse of Lords Debates, vol. 108 (dated 15 February, 1850), ccs. 810-14. 31. Vere Foster’s account of conditions on board the Washington which sailed from Liverpool to New York in October 1850. Letter from Lord Hobart on Vere Foster’s statement regarding passengers on the "Washington" going to New York, H.C, 1851 (198) xl, pp 2-7. 32. Account of emigrants on the Berlin, which sailed from Westport and arrived in St. John, New Brunswick in 1851. Papers relative to Emigration to the North American Colonies, HC 1852-3, (1650), lxviii, p. 42. Part 5. The Famine Emigrants Experiences Abroad 33. The position of Irish Catholic emigrants in Liverpool before the famine as indicated by Paul Cullen. Paul Cullen to Tobias Kirby, dated 25 June, 1842, Dublin Diocesan Archives (Cullen Papers, 1842). 34. Account of how famine emigrants from the West of Ireland arrived in Liverpool in such a poor state with little or no money. Nation, 14 November 1846, Reprinted from the Liverpool Times. 35. Fear in 1847of the large numbers of Irish emigrants flooding into Britain and in particular the ports of Liverpool and Glasgow. Manchester Guardian, 20 January 1847. 36. Report on the medical condition of emigrants in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Papers relative to Emigration to the British Provinces in North America, HC 1847–48 (932), xlvii, pp 126-8. 37. Parliamentary debate in the House of Commons on the impact which the large number of Irish pauper immigrants had on the city of Liverpool. Hansard Parliamentary Debates, xcii, (dated, 7 May 1847), cc. 424-7. 38. Influx of vast numbers of Irish poor fleeing famine put pressure on the poor law system in many towns and cities in England and Wales as seen by the situation in Manchester in December 1847. Manchester Guardian, 11 December 1847. 39. Manner in which emigrants in Liverpool were swindled. Galway Vindicator, 5 April, 1848 40. Letter from the Henigan family who left Co. Sligo in 1847 and settled in St John’s, New Brunswick before moving to and settling in Maine. Appendix to Minutes of Evidence before the Select Committee on Colonization from Ireland, HC 1847-8 (737-ii), xl, pp 122-32. 41. Some emigrants’ experience was positive and were prepared to acknowledge the support they had been given as with tenants from Lord Monteagle estate. NLI, Monteagle Papers, (Ms13,400 (2), Letter from P. Danagher, Melbourne to Lord Monteagle, dated 20 March 1848). 42. Warning from the Irish Emigrant Society of New York to those who were considering coming to New York. Armagh Guardian, 1 May 1848. 43. Newspaper account of a post mortem carried out in York in July 1848 of the McAndrew family from Co. Sligo and who had died in the city from Famine Fever. The York Herald, 10 July, 1847. 44. Report of Irish Famine emigrants in Edinburgh indicating many were diseased and the appalling living conditions they endured. Edinburgh Medical Journal, 69 (1848). 45. Letter from Margaret McCarthy to her father, Alexander McCarthy and family, who was assisted, from the Crown Estate at Kingwilliamstown, Co. Cork. Eilish Ellis, Emigrants from Ireland, 1847-1852: State-Aided Emigration Schemes from Crown Estates in Ireland (Baltimore, 1993), pp 64-7. 46. Account of how Irish emigrants fared in the large American cities. Galway Vindicator, 30 July 1853. 47. Advertisement notifying the establishment of an emigrants’ home in Liverpool in July 1851. Nation, 12 July 1851. 48. Report of Irish people who had been resident in England for a long period being sent back to Ireland when they became destitute. Nation, 2 September, 1854. 49. Report from the Chester Board of Guardians on the removal of Bridget Molloy, a widow and her six children, all born in England, who were returned to Ireland under the Act of Settlement. Evidence of J. Trevor, Chairman of the Chester Board of Guardians, Report of the Select Committee on Poor Removal, H.C 1855, p. 270. 50. Letter of H. Shire who had settled in South Africa to his brother in Shanagolden, Co. Limerick informing him of his life in Natal and the prospects for emigrating to the colony. Seventh Report from the Select Committee on the (Poor Laws) Ireland, together with minutes of evidence, HC 1849 (237), xv, pp 134-7. 51. How the forty girls sent out from Sligo workhouse on the Lady Kennaway in 1848 under the Female Orphan Scheme to Australia fared in Australia. Seventh Report from the Select Committee on the (Poor Laws) Ireland, together with minutes of evidence, HC 1849 (237), xv, pp 134-7. Sligo Journal, 30 November 1849. 52. Letter from an emigrant in Australia who had been assisted by Lord Monteagle to emigrate. NLI, Monteagle Papers (Ms 13400 (2) (Letter from Michal Martin to Lady Monteagle, dated 28 August 1850. 53. Letter from a pauper assisted by the Sligo Board of Guardians to the United States and who settled in Connecticut. Sligo Champion, 17 May 1851. Part 6. Where to go to 54. Letter from Vere Foster to the newspapers advising potential emigrants as to the best places in the United States to settle and proposing that Illinois as the best destination for emigrants. Nation, 9 August 1851. 55. Letter from Vere Foster calling for subscriptions to help single people to emigrate, especially young females (Vere Foster Papers, PRONI). Part 7. The Poor Law and Emigration 56. Memorial from the Kilrush Board of Guardians to the Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, advocating emigration from the workhouses as a solution to Ireland’s problems. Clare Journal, 26 November 1846. 57. Materials used in the fitting out of the 38 females sent from Ballinasloe workhouse to Australia in August, 1848. Western Star, 19 August 1848 58. Letter from Bishop T. Murphy, Chairman of the Children Apprenticeship Board to the Colonial Secretary, regarding the female workhouse paupers that had been sent out on the "Roman Emperor" in 1848. NAI, CSORP, 1848/0.3081 (Letter from Bishop T. Murphy to Lord Grey, dated, 21 November 1848). 59. Letter from Australia, 12 Jan. 1849 from Ann Kelly to her mother who lived in Donegal. NLI, Monteagle paper (Ms 13400 (2) (Letter from Ann Kelly to her mother, dated 12 January 1849). 60. Evidence of E. Senior to the Select Committee on the Poor Law, recommending emigration of young workhouse female paupers to the colonies. Third report from the Select Committee on the Poor Law (Ireland), together with minutes, HC. 1849 (137), xv, pp 113-5. 61. Proposal in the Skibbereen Board of Guardians to send female workhouse paupers to North America. Galway Vindicator, 20 December 1848. 62. Evidence of the R.J.T. Orpen to the Select Committee on the Poor Law urging that emigration be used as a panacea to the overcrowding in the workhouses. Third Report from the Select Committee on the Poor Law (Ireland), HC 1849(93) xv, p. 168. 63. Report on the females orphans who sailed from Plymouth to Australia on the Thomas Arbuthnot in October 1849. Mayo Telegraph, 20 November 1850. 64. Discussion in the Tuam Board of Guardians in October 1851 regarding contributing towards helping paupers to emigrate. Tuam Herald, 25 October 1851. 65. Names of the fifty girls sent from Mountbellew workhouse to Montreal on the Primrose in July 1853. Minutes of Mountbellew Poor Law Guardians, week ending 5 March (Galway County Council Archives, Mountbellew Poor Law minute book, November 1852-May 1853) Part 8. Opposition to Emigration. 66. Letter from Bishop Edward Maginn of Derry condemning emigration from Ireland and those who advocated it. Nation, 17 April 1847. 67. Newspaper editorial opposing emigration, 1849. Galway Mercury, 5 May 1849. 68. Statement by Mr Horsely, a Tralee Poor Law Guardians, denouncing the sending of workhouse girls to North America. Kerry Examiner, 9 May 1854.
Professor Christine Kinealy, is the Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University, USA. Professor Kinealy has published extensively on nineteenth-century Irish history.
Dr Gerard Moran, European School Brussels. Dr Moran is author of many books and articles on Emigratin from Ireland.
Dr Jason King, Moore Institute, Galway University. Dr King has published extensively on Irish emigration to Canada.