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    Ireland marks National Famine Commemoration Day on Sunday

    Friday, May 14th, 2010

    Ireland’s second National Famine Commemoration day will take place this Sunday, 16 May, with a wide range of events marking the day.

    The main event in Ireland will be a formal State ceremony at the National Famine Memorial in Murrisk, Co. Mayo. The event will include the National flag and military honors, and wreath-laying ceremonies. There will also be music, readings and prayers, tree planting, a candle-lighting ceremony, and a minute of silent reflection. Everyone is welcome.

    This state event has been complemented by a week of activities organised by the Murrisk Development Association and Mayo County Council. Events are aimed at both paying tribute to those who died or suffered during the Great Irish Famine,and also with raising awareness of the plight of those suffering the effects of famine globally now.

    The week-long series of events included literary and musical programmes and lectures. Monday’s event was “Writing the Famine in Fiction and Song”, with Brendan Graham speaking in Holy Trinity Church, with special guest singer Cathy Jordan and Feargal Murray on the piano. On Tuesday, Michael Gibbons spoke on “The Legacy of the Famine on the Landscape”. Catherine Marshall spoke on visual representations of the Famine on Wednesday. Today, Professor Peter Gray will be in the Museum of Country life speaking on religion and the Great Famine, while tonight William Henry will speak on “The Horror of Famine”.

    Tomorrow, Bronach Joyce will lead a historical walking tour highlighting aspects of famine in Westport and Clew Bay. John O’Shea of GOAL will speak tomorrow night on countries afflicted by famine today.

    Today, students in schools across the country had a one-minute silent reflection on the Famine and hunger worldwide. An information pack for schools has been produced by Trocaire and Gorta for teachers who want to explore the links between Ireland’s famine and famine in the modern world.

    In addition, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has written to all sporting organisations asking them to mark the commemoration by holding a one-minute silence at all events. Minister Pat Carey said,

    “I understand that this was a great success last year and had a real impact on both participants and spectators alike.  Sport holds such a strong and respected position in Irish society and I would encourage all sporting organisations to use their influence to pay tribute and acknowledge the losses suffered in Ireland as a result of the famine.  Unfortunately, famine is not unique to Ireland and many countries across the globe still suffer from famine and hunger today.  It is important that in acknowledging our own history we continue to raise awareness of the plight of these people?.

    For more information, visit the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs National Famine Commemoration Day website.

    The Catholic Bishops have also issued a statement marking the Famine Commemoration Day. Visit the CatholicBishops.ie website for more information.

    New York is supposed to be the site of a parallel event but I’ve been unable to dig up any information on that – I’ll post that if I find it.


    First Irish history of Missouri available on audio download

    Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

    Following my post mentioning the first history ever written on the Irish of Vermont, I received a note from Mike O’Laughlin, an accomplished Irish-American genealogist and historian, who informed me he’s the author of the first book on the Irish of Missouri.

    Missouri Irish began life as a hardcover but is now available as an audiobook from IrishRoots.com.

    It looks particularly interesting as the history begins in 1770; eighteenth-century Irish immigration to the US is a story too infrequently told. Here are the notes from the table of contents:

    Part One
    1770 – 1804. Irish Settlers in the Spanish Regime…
    Indian Mounds and Tara Hills.
    Immigration…Religious Ties and Conflicts…
    West vs. East …
    The First Irish-American Settlement in the Bois Brule Bottom.

    Part Two
    1804 – 1900. The First Irish Americans
    Pioneer Journalists … Mexican War … Steamboat Irish … Indian War
    …The Famine Irish … Murphy’s Wagon replaced by the
    Railroad … Slavery … Civil War Irish.

    Part Three
    Irish Immigration and Distribution
    Irish Settlements in Missouri … City vs. Farm .. Population by County
    … Irish Settlements …O’Fallon Missouri … Donnybrook …
    Moving on from Missouri

    Part Four
    The Irish in the Cities.
    Saint Louis… Brady & McKnight … O’Connor… Mullanphy ..
    The Kerry Patch … Kansas City…. First Newspaper …
    Father Bernard Donnelly … The first Irish in Kansas City …
    The History of the St. Patricks Day Parade …
    The Shamrock Society … A.O.H. St. Joseph and Buchanan County…
    On the overland trail

    Part Five
    The Irish Wilderness Settlement
    Rev. J.J. Hogan … Lifestyle … Chillicothe … Brookfield … Ripley
    and Oregon Counties … Iron Mountain Railroad.

    Part Six
    My Irish American Heritage.
    The Sullivans, Donahues, Buckleys, Irish American Development.

    I hope that this is a trend and we’ll see histories of the Irish in all fifty states of the US!

    Visit IrishRoots.com – host Michael O’Loughlin has been working on Irish family history and genealogy since 1978!

    Government to help Irish in Barbados?

    Friday, January 29th, 2010

    Will the Irish government come to the assistance of the so-called “Red Legs”, the descendents of Irish (as well as English and Scottish) people transported 400 years ago to Barbados to act as slaves? As many as 50,000 Irish people were transported to Barbados as slaves and indentured servants during Cromwell’s time; the community that survives numbers about 400, and suffers from poverty and ill health.

    Their plight was the focus of a written question in the Dail, which has appeared on KildareStreet.com. The Q and A is below. In it, Minister Martin notes that Irish Abroad Unit officials have met with representatives of the community, and expresses and openness to funding projects as part of the normal emigrant support funding round.

    This kind of outreach is yet another sign of the Irish government’s innovative commitment to strengthening and developing its relationship with the Irish diaspora. How many countries are working to re-establish relationships like this one between Ireland and this small community, which was  so cruelly severed four centuries ago?

    Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
    Question 674: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has assisted the Redleg people of Irish slave decent in Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada and other Caribbean states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1475/10]
    Micheál Martin (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
    The Irish Abroad Unit within my Department maintains a keen interest in all aspects of the Irish experience of emigration, both forced and voluntary, and has active programmes aimed at strengthening our links with Irish communities overseas; including in the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, Europe and Asia.
    While we have no active programme in the Caribbean at present, officials from the Irish Abroad Unit have held a number of exploratory meetings since 2008 with representatives of the descendents of those Irish people who were deported by Oliver Cromwell to Barbados in the 17th Century. During these discussions, the group were encouraged to maintain contact with the Government and to reflect further on the most appropriate way to recognise this unique community within the Irish Diaspora.
    Representatives of the community are welcome to submit an application for funding under the Emigrant Support Programme when the 2010 grant round is launched in March by my Department.

    Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)

    Question 674: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has assisted the Redleg people of Irish slave decent in Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada and other Caribbean states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1475/10]

    Micheál Martin (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)

    The Irish Abroad Unit within my Department maintains a keen interest in all aspects of the Irish experience of emigration, both forced and voluntary, and has active programmes aimed at strengthening our links with Irish communities overseas; including in the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, Europe and Asia.

    While we have no active programme in the Caribbean at present, officials from the Irish Abroad Unit have held a number of exploratory meetings since 2008 with representatives of the descendents of those Irish people who were deported by Oliver Cromwell to Barbados in the 17th Century. During these discussions, the group were encouraged to maintain contact with the Government and to reflect further on the most appropriate way to recognise this unique community within the Irish Diaspora.

    Representatives of the community are welcome to submit an application for funding under the Emigrant Support Programme when the 2010 grant round is launched in March by my Department.

    It was, presumably, a recent TG4 programme  that highlighted the plight of this deprived outpost of the Irish diaspora and prompted Mr Varadkar’s question. The Irish Times also has a great article on this community.

    Related websites:

    First history of Irish in Vermont published

    Monday, January 11th, 2010

    The first-ever book on the history of the Irish in Vermont has been published, authored by historian Vincent E. Feeney. “Finnigans, Slaters and Stonepeggers: A History of the Irish in Vermont,” examines the Irish experience in the state from the 1760s through the twentieth century.

    Feeney says the Irish stayed in their ethnic ghetto for over a century, before the community assimilated in the later years of the twentieth century. The Times-Argus carries a review.

    (Images From the Past, 2009, 250 pages, $19.95 paperback)

    Related web pages:

    Emigration pageant for Derry City of Culture bid?

    Friday, December 4th, 2009

    An interesting emigration-themed idea proposed for Derry’s bid to become the UK City of Culture in 2013:

    From Shore to Shore: A specially-commissioned pageant focussing on arriving planters and departing emigrants, to be performed (May-June) on some of the north-west’s most picturesque beaches from Hervey’s Downhill to Red Hugh’s Rathmullan. This would feature the stories of northwest immigrants such as John Dunlap (Strabane), who went on to print the American Declaration of Independence, and William Massey (Limavady), who became Prime Minister of New Zealand. There would also be an international tie-in with Scotland, Liverpool and Newfoundland.

    The idea is one of many cultural offerings dreamed up by a group of arts workers who wanted to beef up the city’s application as it enters the second round. It’s a great example of how focusing on Ireland’s emigrant heritage strengthens international links as it showcases the achievements of the Irish abroad – as well as providing exciting platforms for innovative cultural happenings.

    See the full article by Garbhan Downey in the Derry Journal: Culture 2013 bid must be special.

    Surfing film highlights Irish role in origins of sport

    Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

    The role of Irish-American George Freeth in establishing the modern sport of surf-boarding is explored in a film now playing in movie theatres. Waveriders tells the story of Freeth, who had a Hawaiian mother and an Irish father. He brought the sport of surfing from Hawaii, where it had nearly been eliminated by missionaries, to California, where he initiated a revival of the sport. Freeth also set up the first lifeguard unit in California and introduced the sport of water polo to the state.

    The film, which won the audience award at the Dublin International Film Festival, also highlights the role of Irish-Americans in establishing the sport in Ireland.

    Related sites:

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