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    A reminder of the Irish in Barbados

    Monday, March 23rd, 2009

    An Irish Independent article on property investment in Barbados also reminds us of the dark days of the sugar plantations of the seventeenth century.

    Many of the Irish arrived there after Oliver Cromwell took them off their land and sold them into slavery or indenture to British planters. Estimates of the numbers of Irish transported in this way range from 12,000 to 60,000, according to a Yale University web page.

    The article says:

    The historic plantation houses and old churches like St John’s, which holds the graves of some of the many Irish who helped build the sugar trade, offer something very different from the usual sun, sand and sea. . . and a stark reminder of just how far both countries have travelled since the dark days of slavery and colonisation.

    Read the whole article: Barbados: Mix history with sun, sea and sand for perfect holiday home

    Related web pages and resources:

    Of course, there were a smaller number of Irish who benefited from the slave trade in the Caribbean; historian Donald Akenson’s If the Irish Ran the World tells the story of an Irish colony that  participated in imperialism.

    Dunbrody ship to become centre for emigration history

    Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

    The Dunbrody Visitor Centre will be transformed into a new national emigration history centre, thanks to a 1.88 million-euro grant under the National Development Programme.

    The New Ross Standard is reporting that the funding, provided by the Department for Arts, Sport and Tourism, will be used for the provision of additional exhibits and functions, including:

    • a genealogical facility
    • an exhibition of Ireland in the Famine times
    • a reconstruction of a New York streetscape
    • an Irish-American Hall of Fame

    The Dunbrody ship was a nineteenth-century three-masted ship that brought emigrants from Ireland to North America during and after the Famine. A replica of the ship was built and dedicated in 2001, and is now moored at the New Ross quay.  The visitor’s centre currently offers a recreation of  the emigrant experience. The webiste also offers a searchable migration database featuring information from ships’ records.
    Commenting on the funding, Seán Reidy, JFK Trust CEO told the paper:

    Fáilte Ireland considers Dunbrody to be an iconic flagship attraction of the highest international standards and on this basis are willing to further invest in the project to bring it to an even higher level, making it a national centre celebrating the amazing achievements of the Irish diaspora.

    See related websites:

    Exhibition on Irish in Europe opens

    Friday, December 14th, 2007

    “Strangers to Citizens: the Irish in Europe, 1600 – 1800″ has opened at the National Library’s Genealogical Office on Kildare Street in Dublin.

    The exhibition tells the story of the Irish who went to continental Europe from the time of the Flight of the Earls. It shows that the Irish left for a variety of reasons and had a myriad of experiences:

    Following the wars at the end of the 16th century, the Irish began to migrate to continental Europe in a pattern which continued over two hundred years. Soldiers, students, priests, professionals, and merchants, were among the many thousands who emigrated, to Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, and Sweden, and elsewhere. Over time migrants formed communities and eventually integrated into their host societies.

    The exhibition features a number of images from institutions across the Continent, as well as original manuscripts illuminating the Irish experience. Digital installations allow visitors to explore topics in greater depth and also to look up individuals who served in the French and Spanish armies of the 18th century and who studied at Irish colleges in Paris, Leuven, or Toulouse.

    The exhibition, which celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Flight of the Earls, will be open throughout 2008. Admission is free.

    See the National Library website.

    John Boyle O’Reilly Summer School: September, 2007

    Saturday, September 1st, 2007

    The Flight of the Earls is the subject of this year’s John Boyle O’Reilly Summer School, hosted by The Old Drogheda Society. Speakers will include Dr Patrick Fitzgerald of the Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, who will speak on “The Flight of the Earls and the Origins of Modern Diasporas”.

    Other speakers include Dr John McGurk, Senior Research Fellow in Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool, whose talk will be “The Flight or Escape of the Earls: Why and with what results”. Dr John McCavitt, noted historian and author of the website, will speak on “The Flight of the Earls and County Louth”.

    The event takes place on September 9 in the Boyne Valley Hotel.

    Visit for more information.

    Journalist who chronicled emigration’s losses honoured

    Friday, July 20th, 2007

    The author of a seminal work on Irish emigration will be honoured by having a road named after him in his hometown. Journalist John Healy was a crusading journalist who wrote “Nobody Shouted Stop” (also called “Death of an Irish Town”) in 1968; the work details the losses suffered by Charlestown, Co Mayo in the middle of the last century, as unemployment and emigration took its toll. Healy wrote for local Mayo newspapers before moving to the Irish Times, where his work helped keep the problems of his native region in national focus.

    The town of Charlestown has fared well in the ensuing years, with a population of around 1,700, up from less than half that in the 1960s. While the economic boom that lifted Ireland’s fortune brought prosperity to the town, it was also aided greatly by Knock Airport – a development championed by the journalist.

    The N5 Charlestown Bypass will be named “The John Healy bypass”, pending final approval by a full meeting of Mayo County Council in September. The move was proposed by Cllr Joe Mellett, who said, “He’s a guy that we can associate with especially in bad times. He made the rest of the country aware of what was happening then, but he would be delighted if he saw what was happening today. All Charlestown is proud of him, as are the people of Mayo”.

     The 18-kilometre stretch of road is due to open in October.

    Flight of the Earls commemorated

    Friday, January 12th, 2007

    The four-hundredth anniversary of the Flight of the Earls, one of the seminal events in the early history of emigration from Ireland is being commemorated this year. The Flight of the Earls, of course, marked the end of the old Gaelic aristocracy. Hugh O’Neill and Rory O’Donnell, fearing arrest by the new Lord Deputy of Ireland, fled to the Continent along with ninety of their followers. They set sail from Rathmullen, Co Donegal, and their departure cleared the way for the Plantation of Ulster.

    The men intended to go to Spain, where they hoped to gain support from the King and then return to liberate Ireland. They never returned. Many of the men became officers in the Spanish Army, while Rory O’Donnell and Hugh O’Neill both died in Rome – O’Donnell in 1608 and O’Neill in 1616.

    The Flight of the Earls is enormously important for those interested in emigration history. Dr John McCavitt says in his Flight of the Earls website:

    Perhaps the most important aspect of the Flight of the Earls for people of Irish descent, and for countries that the Irish migrated to, is that the Flight effectively inaugurated the Irish diaspora. The early seventeenth century witnessed Irish men and women dispersed as far afield as the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Newfoundland, even the Amazon (O’Briens). As a direct result of the Flight, Irish soldiers, the original ‘wild geese’, saw service in Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Russia.

    The official website for the commemoration was launched in Donegal last night. Events will include a conference in February; the production of “Making History”, Brian Friel’s play about the flight; a history conference in May; a summer school and more.

    See the Flight of the Earls Commemoration website.

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