Irish History - Immigration vs Emigration
What is Immigration? Immigration occurs when a person permanently moves from their native country to settle in another country. What is Emigration? Emigration occurs when a person settles in another country which is not their native home. Immigration comes from the Latin word 'immigrare' which means “to go into” whereas emigration comes from the Latin word 'emigrare' which means “to move”. Immigration and Emigration mean the same thing, different words are used depending on the perspective being discussed, i.e. whether a person is entering or leaving!
Irish History - Origin and History of the Irish Immigration
The potato famine of 1847 had a huge impact on the people of Ireland, not only did it affect the people at the time but it is one of the main causes of immigration from Ireland which resulted in the Irish people leaving their homes and families, some never to return. The Irish fled to England, Scotland, America, Canada and Australia to find work and begin a new life. They left behind their mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters. Some never reached their destination, others built successful lives and second, third and forth generation family members still consider themselves to be Irish and are very proud of their heritage. Thousands of people visit Ireland each year to trace their family history and learn about their Irish ancestors, the Irish culture is of great interest to return emigrants and their descendants who are keen to find out as much as they can about how their family lived and their reasons for emigrating.
Effects of the Irish Immigration
The great potato famine also known as the potato blight reached its peak in Ireland in 1847 and has a huge impact on the history of Ireland. It caused death and mass emigration mainly to America. The famine of the 1840's was not the first potato famine in Irish history, the famine if 1741 and 1822 killed hundreds of thousands of Irish people who relied on the potato as their main food source.
Irish Immigration - Coffin Ships
Emigrants left Ireland in search of a better life, unlike the Ireland of today which has several International airports and many other regional airports, the Irish emigrants had to travel by sea. Ireland exported a wide range of goods, particularly grain and it on these ships that many of the Irish emigrants left their native shores in search of a better life. Many took ships to England first and then boarded boats to America and Canada, others boarded boats from Ireland to America.
The 'Famine Ships' or 'Coffin Ships' were given their respective names as they were used by people trying to escape from famine struck Ireland and unfortunately for many of the emigrants who never reached their destination due to starvation, fever or other diseases, they were their coffins. Many emigrants died on the journey and were buried at sea, many more died while waiting to receive clearance from Ellis Island in America or Grosse Isle in Quebec, Canada, indeed Grosse Island in Canada has a memorial for the Irish Famine victims where over 5,000 people are buried.
Irish emigrants on the Mersey - Pictorial Times June 6, 1846
Irish Immigration - Potato Blight - 1845
The potato blight first affected crops in 1845 when half of the crop was affected, in 1846 the following year the whole crop was destroyed. This blight also affected other countries, in 1844 Canada was affected and then in 1845 the blight also affected the United Kingdom. On initial inspection, the potatoes appeared normal, however once boiled and cut the inside of the potato was black and sometimes brown in colour. The leaves of the plant were not initially inspected as most people were more concerned with the root of the tuber - the potato itself. Farmers then noticed that there were brown spots on the leaves of the affected plants. Sometimes only certain parts of a field would be affected.
The following passage taken from An Illustrated History of Ireland by Mary Frances Cusack published in 1868 explains the heartache caused by immigration and how the families who were left behind mourned the emigrants as if they had died, they knew they would never see their loved ones again:
"Of all the peoples on the face of the globe, the Irish Celts are the most attached to their families and to their lands. God only knows the broken hearts that go over the ocean strangers to a strange land. The young girls who leave their aged mothers, the noble, brave young fellows who leave their old fathers, act not from a selfish wish to better themselves, but from the hope, soon to be realized, that they may be able to earn in another land what they cannot earn in their own. I saw a lad once parting from his aged father. I wish I had not seen it. I heard the agonized cries of the old man: "My God! he's gone! he's gone!" I wish I had not heard it. I heard the wild wailing cry with which the Celt mourns for his dead, and glanced impulsively to the window. It was not death, but departure that prompts that agony of grief. A car was driving off rapidly on the mountain road which led to the nearest port. The car was soon out of sight. The father and the son had looked their last look into each other's eyes—had clasped the last clasp of each other's hands. An hour had passed, and still the old man lay upon the ground, where he had flung himself in his heart's bitter anguish; and still the wail rung out from time to time: "My God! he's gone! he's gone!"
Image of an Emigrant Leaving Ireland
Irish Immigration Facts
The father of Henry Ford, the founder of the famous motor company was born in County Cork. He left Queenstown (now called Cobh) in County Cork and sailed to Canada to flee the famine in Ireland.
The Irish fleeing their native land for a better chance of survival travelled to America and Canada on Coffin ships. They were named coffin ships due to the harsh conditions on board and the poor chance of survival for the passengers. Many of the passengers didn't even have fresh water let alone food for the long and stormy Atlantic crossing. As a result many of the emigrants never reached their destination and their bodies were thrown overboard.
The Famine reached its height in 1847, the Irish left in their thousands in search of a better life. England, America and Canada were the most popular destination for Irish emigrants
Hibernian Football Club in Scotland was founded by Irish immigrants in 1875. The Classical Latin name for the island of Ireland is Hibernia
Celtic Football Club in Scotland was formed to feed the poor Irish famine immigrants in the East End of Glasgow, it is also a celebration of Scottish and Irish Heritage
The Famine was a natural disaster but was made worse by the actions of the British government led by Lord John Russell
Image of Abandoned Irish Home due to Immigration
Irish Immigration - Today!
Although many Irish still leave their homes today to travel and work in countries all over the world, they tend do so out of choice and plan to return regularly. Many are determined to raise their families in Ireland due to the good quality of life. People from many different countries all over the world are also choosing to emigrate to Ireland! Ireland is part of the EU and many workers and visitors for other EU countries particularly Eastern Europeans from countries such as Poland, Latvia and Lithuania are moving to Ireland in their thousands. People from a wide range of countries outside the EU are also choosing to come to Ireland to work, while others seek religious and political asylum. The Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (INIS) was established in 2005 and now hold citizenship ceremonies where those wishing to become Irish citizens take an oath of fidelity to Ireland and receive their certificate of naturalisation.