Home ° 2017


° Ireland: ° Belfast ° Giant's Causeway ° Bristol ° Cork ° Dublin ° Fallmore and Blacksod ° Galway ° Limerick ° Londonderry ° Queenstown ° Rosslare ° Waterford
° Home Rule in Ireland ° Irish in America

Irish in America

The Irish in the South, 1815-1877Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
David T. Gleeson
University of North Carolina Press

The majority of Ireland's Catholics lived in poverty. Ireland endured two major famines, and barely avoided several more, in the eighteenth century. Outbursts of agrarian violence were common and occasionally substantial. Escape to the New World in the eighteenth century did not provide the opportunities that it would in the nineteenth century.

Emigration Office. Cork

Emigration Office. Cork.

Those who ended up in the American colonies usually had not chosen to go there. According to Kerby Miller, approximately 100,000 Irish Catholics "emigrated" to the British American colonies in the eighteenth century.

Quickly finding themselves handicapped by "poverty, bond service and the recruiting sergeant," Irish Catholic colonials tended to work as indentured servants, to be convicts, or to serve as members of the British armed forces. They usually "toiled in obscure places for hard taskmasters" and lived rather "brutish lives." Miller believes that these emigrants were "rootless" in "familial and cultural" terms, because they usually emigrated as individuals rather than as family units. They were dispersed throughout the colonies, and by necessity English became their public language. Their families at home in Ireland, however, continued to speak Gaelic. They also lost their Catholicism. Having left an Ireland with a very weak church structure for the colonies, where Catholicism barely existed, migrants who wanted any religious solace had to become Protestant.

Irish Emigrants.
Irish Emigrants on board a
steamship for America

Nineteenth-century Irish clerics who came to the South determined not to let contemporary immigrants go the way of their eighteenth-century predecessors. Because of the previous cultural breakdown and resulting disappearance of their relatives and friends, the Irish conceived of America as a dark place of exile where loved ones were never heard from again.

A second group of Irish people perceived America differently. They did not take as long to become enamored with North America. The Protestant residents of the northern part of Ireland, whose ancestors had come from Scotland and England and who had been "planted" (i.e., settled on land seized from the native Irish by the English Crown) in the province of Ulster since the early 1600s, saw America more as an escape than an exile. These Ulster folk, known in popular terms as the "Scots Irish," were predominantly Presbyterian.

Ireland, 1861.
Ireland, c. 1861
Alexander Keith Johnston

Their religious dissent led the Anglican-dominated Irish parliament to discriminate against them, despite the Dissenters' crucial role in King William's victory in Ireland. The Anglican rulers of eighteenth-century Ireland saw the Ulster Presbyterians as a serious threat to their power and influence, because, unlike the disfranchised Irish Catholics, Dissenters remained a vociferous political force.

The authorities passed a series of laws that withdrew official recognition of Dissenter marriages and made nonattendance at Anglican services and nonrecognition of Anglican episcopal authority prosecutable offenses. In 1704, the Test Act stated that all public officeholders had to take sacraments in the (Anglican) Church of Ireland. Despite the passage of the Toleration Act in 1719, Church of Ireland clergy and politicians continued to discriminate against Presbyterians.

Evictions in Ireland Heart-rending Scenes.

The Rev. Patrick Malone, priest of Belmullet, Mayo, in a letter to the London Times, says .

On the 12th of August the Sub-Sheriff of the county, with a large escort of police, proceeded to the town lands of Fallmore and Blacksod the property of the Rev. W. Palmer, distant about fifteen miles from this town, and commenced to evict under a writ for non-title. The work of demolition continued until forty-eight families had been left houseless and homeless, the bare walls only of their little houses being left to stand. It is impossible to describe the whole scene as it occurred. When the several little articles of furniture were flung out upon the streets and the roofs came tumbling to the ground, the cries and the screams and the frenzied exclamations that rent the air are more easily imagined than described.

The Eviction, Ireland, J. T. Foley, 1871.
The Eviction: Ireland
Published by J. T. Foley, 1871

The poor people had to take shelter in ditches and in the old ruins of a neighboring churchyard. Their condition up to this moment is most deplorable. One poor woman, the wife of Dennis Murphy, under the exposure of the night, was seized with the pangs of travail, and was compelled to seek admittance to a cabin where eighteen others had taken shelter also. These unfortunate creatures are now constructing huts for themselves on the most novel sites and plans that intellectual beings could think of. Through the kindness of a neighboring tenant they are permitted to use the wild, rocky shore of the Atlantic for that purpose. There a line of " shanties" has been erected, and I am thoroughly convinced that the next equinoctial gales, should they come from the southwest, will cause them to be washed away by the angry breakers, which are wont to roll in upon the shore at all times.

The Irish and America.

The following will give you an idea of these curious buildings. I visited the place on the 23d, in company with a gentleman from London, and what I state is the result of actual observation made on that occasion. Pat Gaughan, with five in family; Mary Gaughan, with five in family; Anne Gaughan, with three in family making in all thirteen live in one cabin, the dimensions of which are seventeen feet long, seven feet broad, and five feet high (the top of the roof). Samuel Walker, seven in family; house thirteen feet long, seven feet wide, five feet high; height of door, three feet. John Carduff, five in family; James Walker, six in family; both live in the same cabin of fourteen feet long, seven feet broad, and five feet high; door three feet high. Owen Lavelle, four in family; house nine feet by nine, and five feet high; door three feet high. Such is the character of the dwellings these poor creatures intend to use during the Winter. They are, moreover, made without mortar, and none of them has a door. You may judge how I and my friend had to observe a sitting posture while under the roof of each of them. They all seem totally destitute of comfort, not having even the appearance of a bed or bedding.


March 1, 1851, Atlas, Middlesex


Roofless Cabin in Ireland during Evictions.
Roofless Cabin During Evictions in Ireland

East and west there flows a deep and seemingly unassuageable flood of Irish emigration. No condition of things at home appears to have much effect upon it. After a period of famine and convulsion, indeed, the stream runs more turbid and hurriedly; but neither plentiful harvests, political calm, nor commercial activity can ever cause the channel to become dry. In the latter direction the normal current that sets in towards the American shores has averaged 250,000 persons for some years past, with an occasional "freshet" after scarcity or rebellion. Towards England the emigration assumes a more intermitting form. The tide may even recede at intervals. But in the long-run there is no doubt that vast masses are impelled hither with never find their way back. Mr. Cobden almost ventures to calculate the period when Lancashire will become a colony of Ireland. And that manufacturing county affords an asylum to but a tithe of the refugees who either settle in the island, or make it an outlet to other scenes of enterprise.

But although the absorbing powers of England and America may, on the whole, be pretty equal, the hopes and the fate of the exiles from Irish homes to depart in one direction or another are strikingly different. Let us look back at the pregnant instances which occurred only within the past week, and were published in the daily papers within a few hours of each other. It is a picture that might well cover an Englishman with sorrow and shame, if it did not prompt him to an endeavour to remove the sources of so mortifying a parallel.

Eviction Duty in Ireland.
Eviction Duty in Ireland: Galway with
Military and Police Forces
The Illustrated London News. 1886

On Tuesday last an inquest was held on the body of an infant, aged four weeks, which had died on board the Pelican steamer, while on the passage from Ireland to London. The evidence brought forward left with the jury no doubt that the wretched babe had perished from cold and exposure. Its mother, a woman named Ann Connell, had paid 2s., raised by pawning her clothes, for a deck passage to London; and on the deck she and her child remained for three days and nights without any covering but the air, exposed to the tender mercies of a February sky. It speaks well to the mother's tenderness that her child lived until the steamer had nearly arrived in port. On arriving in London, however, it was taken to an infirmary, where the nurse, who was examined upon the inquest, declared that she received it a corpse, though in "plump condition," and evidently having been a healthy, well-cared-for infant. The scene on board the steamer, of which the evidence adduced upon the inquiry over Ann Connell's babe gives us an accidental glimpse, is lamentable enough. "Seven hundred and fifty men, women, and children," we are told, were passengers upon the deck of the Pelican on that single voyage. They were all "huddled together."

"We were so closely packed," pursues the witness, "that we could scarcely move. The rain came down several times, and the passengers were unable to get under any covering." The deck was wet and dirty, and was washed on Saturday while the crowd remained packed together. On the same deck were a number of cattle, who appear to have been much better off than the human passengers, many of whom throughout the three days and nights of the voyage had "scarcely any food."

This, be it observed, is recorded as no extraordinary incident, commanding notoriety through its intrinsic interest. It is the common "log-book" of a passage performed weekly and daily, to which we obtain access in a perfectly incidental and circuitous manner. If Ann Connell's infant had endured the cold and exposure but a few hours longer, and died in the infirmary instead of on the deck of the Pelican, not a word would have been said of the horrible three days and nights that witnessed the transit of the population of two Irish villages from Cork harbour to the Thames.

Emigration to America. 1860. Antonie Volkmar.
Emigration to America, 1860
Antonie Volkmar

Nor is it of those horrors that we wish to speak. Three days and nights, though their lingering hours pass amid cold, and wet, and hunger, nevertheless do pass. But what of the arrival?

Seven hundred and fifty persons land out of one vessel on the Rotherhithe Wharf; -- what is their welcome and destination? It is not too much to predict that out of the whole number nine in every ten came over with no other purpose or profession than beggary. And these are but detachments of the great army. Every week sees the arrival of two or more steamers, as crowded as the Pelican, though we hope after a more prosperous passage, and crowded with the same class of emigrants. The authorities in Ireland, whom the law calls "guardians" of the poor, help forward the melancholy process. Mr. John Gardener, the summoning officer to the jury at the inquest, declared that he had known as many as 1,000 brought over at one time, at the rate of 1s 6d. or 2s. a-head, for the greater part of whom the parochial authorities had found the passage money. Well might the witness wonder what Government long ago had not found means to "put a stop to it." Turn we to the American side of the picture. In a letter from the Rev. Sidney Godolphin Osborne, published with the last few days, we are told:

Within these few weeks between 100 and 200 of the peasantry have left one neighborhood, in the county of Galway, as emigrants. It will be, I think, some matter of surprise to most of us to learn how quickly the being who at home has the character not merely of being most miserable, but most helpless, abroad becomes comparatively a man of wealth; the late starving dependent upon the law's extorted charity is transferred into a liberal agent of good to those who are yet in that condition. A young man who only left the employ of a friend of my own, a most benevolent English settler in Connemara, last spring, has already sent through the said employer's hands 16l. for his aged parents. Several who left in the summer have send 4l. or 5l. each. Two young men, who left Ireland last September, and sailed to New Orleans, and thence 500 miles up the Mississippi, have each already sent 4l. for their relations at home. The instances I have quoted might be multiplied to an extent I could hardly expect your readers to believe. There surely is good stuff in the character of these people if it was turned by judgment to a good purpose.

In England the Irish emigrant casts himself adrift upon the stray charity of London streets, or the country highways -- thinking himself lucky if he can keep beyond range of the policemen and the parish officers.

In America he becomes industrious and independent. Travelling eastward, he takes to begging -- travelling westward, to work. Can there be any doubt of the point of the compass to which policy would direct him? Napoleon wrote "To England" on every sign-post in the north road of France. In the famishing districts of Ireland we would write in the boldest of characters, "To Canada."

The Seven Celtic Nations

The Celtic Tree Oracle. Liz and Colin Murray.The seven original Celtic Nations:

  • Eire (Ireland): Ireland is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island in the world. A Norman invasion in the Middle Ages gave way to a Gaelic Resurgence in the 13th century.
  • Galicia (Spain): Galacia is in northwest Spain, and descends from one of the first tribes of Celtic heritage in Europe. The name Galicia comes from the Latin name Gallaecia, associated with the name of the ancient Celtic tribe that resided above the Douro river.
  • Kernow (Cornwall): Cornwall forms the tip of the south-western peninsula of Great Britain. It was occupied in the Iron Age by Celts. Cornwall was a division of the Dumnonii tribe—whose tribal centre was in the modern county of Devon.
  • Mannin (Isle of Man): The Isle of Man is located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. It began to be influenced by Gaelic culture in the AD 5th century and the Manx language, a branch of the Gaelic languages.
  • Breizh (Brittany): Brittany occupies a large peninsula in the north west of France. Its land area is 34,023 km² (13,136 sq mi). After the Neolithic period, Brittany became home to several different Celtic tribes.
  • Alba (Scotland): Alba is the Scottish-Gaelic name for Scotland. It occupies the northern third of Great Britain and it includes over 790 islands. Groups of settlers began building the first known permanent houses on Scottish soil around 9,500 years ago, and the first villages around 6,000 years ago.
  • Cymru (Wales): During the Iron Age and early medieval period, Wales was inhabited by the Celtic Britons. A distinct Welsh national identity emerged in the centuries after the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, and Wales is regarded as one of the modern Celtic nations today.
Celtic Cross.

The history of the Celtic cross goes back to a time before the Christian conversion of Scotland, Ireland and Wales. It’s believed by some that the four arms of the cross represents the four elements, earth, air, fire and water. They also represent the four directions of the compass, North, South, East and West. And finally the four parts of man, mind, soul, heart and body. The horizontal line of the cross symbolizes earth and the vertical portion symbolizes heaven.

Sources: The Celtic Crier, Gaelic Forge

Irish Orientalism: A Literary and Intellectual History (Irish Studies)
Joseph LennonIreland.
Irish Orientalism.Centuries before W. B. Yeats wove Indian, Japanese, and Irish forms together in his poetry and plays, Irish writers found kinships in Asian and West Asian cultures. This book maps the unacknowledged discourse of Irish Orientalism within Ireland's complex colonial heritage. Relying on cultural and postcolonial theory, Joseph Lennon examines Irish impressions of Asia and West Asia, understood together as the Orient in the West. British writers from Cambrensis to Spenser depicted Ireland as a remote border land inhabited by wild descendants of Asian Scythians--barbarians to the ancient Greeks. Contemporaneous Irish writers likewise borrowed classical traditions, imagining the Orient as an ancient homeland. Lennon traces Irish Orientalism through origin legends, philology, antiquarianism, historiography into Irish literature and culture, exploring the works of Keating, O'Flaherty, Swift, Vallancey, Sheridan, Moore, Croker, Owenson, Mangan, de Vere, and others. He focuses on a key moment of Irish Orientalism--the twentieth-century Celtic Revival--discussing the works of Gregory, Casement, Connolly, and Joyce, but including Theosophist writers W. B. Yeats, George Russell, James Stephens, and James Cousins.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

Kindly Kindly Donate.


DALevy @


Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

Please inform us if you link from your site. Please do NOT link from your site unless your site specifically relates to immigration in the 1800s, family history, maritime history, international seaports, and/or California history.