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    Canadian emigrants’ tales told in new book

    Monday, August 11th, 2008

    The publication of the oral histories of emigrants is a great little trend of late, with many community publications achieving prominence in their localities.  “A Story To Be Told”, the stories of emigrants to Toronto in Canada, looks likely to bring the genre to new prominence.

    The book collects the stories of 130 emigrants who arrived from 1940 to 1999. The stories were collected by Eleanor McGrath and William Smith, who have both worked in the Toronto Irish community for many years. Ms McGrath is the former Executive Director of the Ireland Fund of Canada. Mr Smith is a professional photographer who reports for the Toronto Irish News, among other outlets.

    The project will be launched this autumn at several events in Dublin, Belfast and Canada. The book is published by Liffey Press in Dublin and distributed in the US by Dufour Editions.

    Learn more on the project at the publication’s website.

    Emigration a strong theme in RTE’s upcoming programming

    Thursday, August 7th, 2008

    Several programmes in RTE’s fall lineup deal explicitly with emigration. The following will surely be of interest to many people interested in emigration. No doubt some of these will be available on the station’s website at

    The Great Escape – RTÉ One
    Following the fortunes of four families as they relocate abroad to pursue new lives and careers, The Great Escape looks at the challenges facing those wishing to relocate in these tougher times.

    J1 Summer – RTE Two
    What happens when a group of Irish students head across the Atlantic in search of work, adventure and more …? This lid-lifting observational-documentary follows the kids where their parents fear to follow.

    Living the Dream – RTÉ One
    Have you always dreamt of running your own business and creating a new life abroad? This new six-part series for RTÉ One, narrated by Bibi Baskin, charts six families as they test-drive their dreams. From a couple running a Michelin-starred restaurant in Manhattan to a Flotilla in Greece, from a campsite in Normandy to a boutique Hotel in Provence, Living the Dream goes global in 2008.

    Death or Canada – RTÉ One
    This new two-part documentary series for RTÉ Television explores a fascinating sidebar of the infamous Black ’47. When thousands of Irish emigrants were exiled en-masse by famine, the ensuing deluge almost swamped the new city of Toronto. Thirty thousand refugees invaded a city of 20,000 people, then just a decade old. This documentary follows the progress of a new archaeological dig as it reopens this forgotten story from the Great Famine.

    The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce – RTÉ One

    When an Irish prisoner in Tasmania in the 1820s was reduced by the prison colony experience to serial cannibalism, it was a story that rocked the Englishspeaking world in its day. This fully dramatised documentary, part of RTÉ’s acclaimed and multi-award winning Hidden History series, explores a shocking episode in the controversial history of Van Diemen’s Land.

    Aisling’s Diary – RTÉ Two
    Aisling’s Diary tells the story of a 16 -year -old girl who returns to live in Ireland with her Irish family after a period of 13 years living in Boston. The American way of life is all she’s known, so adjustment to south side Dublin life presents its challenges and difficulties. A child of the Riverdance age, she is a talented and innovative Irish dancer who brings with her to Ireland some flash moves and innovative steps – something that invites the jealousy and resentment of her school dance teacher. From the producers of the hit Bebo interactive series Sofia’s Diary, this will be a cross-platform teen series for TTV in the Autumn.

    The following, while not strictly emigration-related are also of interest.

    Blood of the Irish – RTÉ One
    Where did we all come from? Blood of the Irish tracks the origins of the Irish people from east Africa, through the Mediterranean basin and on to central Europe. Mingling history and cutting-edge genealogical science, this RTÉ documentary is presented by Diarmuid Gavin.

    Welcome to My World – RTÉ One
    This brand-new four part series for RTÉ One explores looks at what happens when immigrants bring home their significant other – be it a wife, a husband or a workmate – to their land of origin. How will they cope with the reality of life at home?

    New Balbriggan – RTÉ One
    A new four-part observational series based in Balbriggan will explore the reality of living in one of Ireland’s most multicultural towns through the eyes of a variety of its inhabitants.

    Where Was Your Family During the Famine? – RTÉ One
    Journalist John Waters, economist Eddie Hobbs and model Jasmine Guinness, set out to find the answer to a question lost in time: what happened to their families during the famine? Mixing genealogy with popular history, this ambitious production offers a dynamic new perspective on this most significant period in Irish history through the personal quest of our subjects.

    Who Do You Think You Are? – RTÉ One
    Where, and what, have we come from? Six Irish celebrities, with the aid of our specially chosen genealogy professionals, go back in time, tracing their roots. Ardal O’Hanlon, Charlie Bird, Joe Duffy, Dana Rosemary Scallon, Pamela Flood and Linda Martin are set for some surprises as they find out just who is at the bottom of their elusive family trees.

    A Light In The Window: Mary Robinson’s Struggle for Human Rights – RTÉ One
    To mark the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, RTÉ offers this revealing portrait of the former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. The doctor’s daughter from Ballina, Co Mayo, could have settled for a life of comfort and privilege, but instead, her beliefs, values and experiences have fuelled a lifelong passion for justice. She has battled relentlessly to give a voice to the voiceless and to safeguard the dignity of the world’s most vulnerable and powerless people, whether through her campaigns for free legal aid and contraception or by fighting for the rights of prisoners, asylum seekers, women and children. Today, she is one of The Elders, a group of elder statesmen and women, including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan and Aung san Suu Kyi, who aim to bring their experience and moral leadership to some of the world’s more intractable problems, from Darfur to the Holy Land. We follow Mary Robinson’s work within the group and accompany her to South Africa as the Elders gather for the 90th Birthday of Nelson Mandela.

    Member Publication: “Memories of the Past”

    Friday, August 1st, 2008

    Ottawa’s Irish Drop-In Group has created a wonderful miscellany called “Memories of the Past: Stories and Recipes from Ottowa’s Irish Drop-In Group”. The eclectic collection of reminiscences, poems, jokes, photographs and more is a splendid insight into the lives of the 40+ seniors in the drop-in group, which meets every week at Margaret Mary’s Church in the south end of the Canadian capital.

    Some of the contributions focus on individual stories of emigration and Irish and Canadian life, while others focus on the Irish history and heritage of the Ottawa area. Irish immigration to the area began in the early years of the 19th century, with sponsored immigration schemes; judging by this book, the Irish heritage of the area is rich and deep.

    The book also contains about 60 recipes, including such traditional favourites as barm brack, colcannon, champ, porter cake, beef stew, and many soda bread recipes. A treat!

    For more information, visit the website for the Irish Society of the National Capital Region.

    Pictures of the launch event are also available. (scroll down in the centre section until you see the link to the June 8 event.) You can also hear contributors to the book at The Gaelic Hour website.

    Would you like to share what your group is doing? Drop a line to and I’ll share it with Ean members.

    Summer roundup: From Galway to Turkey, exhibitions reveal emigrants’ lives

    Friday, August 1st, 2008

    Exhibition Roundup

    There are a number of interesting exhibitions that those interested in emigration might be interested in, no matter what part of the world you find yourself in this summer.

    Dublin: Strangers to Citizens: The Irish in Europe 1600-1800 is continuing at the National Library of Ireland through December 2008. It’s a fascinating look at a little-known aspect of Irish emigration history.

    Liverpool: Fis 2008 celebrates Irish culture and explores links between Ireland and Liverpool. It’s taking place at the Novas Contemporary Urban Centre on Greenland Street, and will last until 7 September. For more information, see the artinliverpool website.

    New York: Catholics in New York 1808-1946 at the Museum of the City of New York explores the social and political history of the establishment of the Catholic Church in the city. Much of the exhibition focuses on the experience of the immigration Irish and later generations. It’s on until December 31. See more at the museum’s website.

    New York: “To Love Two Countries: Ireland’s Greatest Generation in America” features photos taken in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia by John Minihan – a portait photographer better known for his work with people like Samuel Beckett, Edna O’Brien, Ray Charles, and Al Pacino. A book accompanies the exhibition, which runs through December 2008. This exhibition was opened by the Taoiseach on his visit to New York. See the Irish Arts Center website for more information.

    Galway: The Galway City Museum has two exhibitions of interest: a photography exhibition focusing on the experience of Irish emigrants in Britain, and another focusing on President John Kennedy’s ‘homecoming’ visit to Galway 45 years ago.

    Turkey: An exhibition focusing on one of Ireland’s most famous 20th-century emigrants, Samuel Beckett, is on display in Diyarbakir at the Diyarbakir Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It is part of a series of cultural events marking the 2008 European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. For more information, see the Turkish Daily News website.

    Boston: “Celebrating Celtic Prize Fighters: 1820-Present” is an eclectic collection of boxing photography and artifacts. Runs through September 2008 at the John J. Burns Library at Boston College. For more information, see the website.

    Website collects Irish-American stories

    Thursday, March 6th, 2008

    The stories of Irish-Americans are being collected online in an innovative project set up by a Dublin man who formerly lived in New York.

    Brian Reynolds says he set up to preserve the experiences of the last 150 years of Irish emigration to America.  He told the Irish Voice that it was when he was living in New York that he first began to appreciate the power of stories among the Irish-Americans there.

    He is welcoming stories about any aspect of the Irish-American experience – and will accept stories by post, so the project is not confined to those who can use the Internet.

    Visit the website at

     See the story in the Irish Voice.

    “Human Agency and an Irish Diaspora”: Centre for Migration Studies, January 2008

    Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

    The Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster-American Folk Park will host its annual MSSc in Irish Migration Studies Reunion Lecture on Saturday, January 26. Professor Don MacRaild of the University of Ulster will speak on “Human Agency and an Irish Diaspora”. Prof. MacRaild is the author of Culture, Conflict and Migration: The Irish in Victorian Cumbria, Irish Migrants in Modern Britain, 1750-1922, and Faith, Fraternity and Fighting: The Orange Order and Irish Migrants in Northern England, c.1850-1920.

    For more information see the Ulster American Folk Park website, or contact Christine Johnston at 028 8225 6315.

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