Saturday, 6 August 2016

Atlantic Canada's Irish Immigrants: a fish and timber story

Today, 6 August 2016, is the official release date in Canada for Lucille Campey's most recent book, the first in her Irish series. It follows her series of books on Scottish and English immigration to Canada all of which focus on the period prior to Canadian Confederation. As the Irish made up the largest component of immigrants to the British colonies bordering the the Atlantic during the first half of the 19th century the topic should have substantial appeal.

The heart of the book is chapters on each of what are now the Atlantic Provinces, and one on emigration during the 1840s famine. There was major Irish immigration before the famine including, indirectly, Loyalists of Irish origin. Drawing on the immigrants own words the book looks at their experiences, origins in Ireland, the voyage, where they settled and how the lived afterwards. Being no expert in the topic I was surprised at the variation of their circumstances in the different areas which are documented in detail. Be selective, it's not material to read quickly. Don't assume the stories you hear about the situation in New Brunswick applied a few miles across the Northumberland Strait in Prince Edward Island. Experts in the field are likely well aware of that already.

The image of the "coffin ships" is one that haunts Canadian history. The chapter Sea Crossings makes the case that they were not the leaky hulks sometimes imagined. Evidence from Lloyd's is they were stout seaworthy vessels, typically adequately if not generously provisioned and usually well captained. Crowding and lack of ventilation provided an awful environment for the spread of diseases like typhus and smallpox picked up before embarkation.

As with her other books Lucille has included extensive reference material including 100 pages of listings of voyages that brought the immigrants from Ireland mostly for the first half of the 19th century, a mine of information for the family historian.

Ottawa born and bred, a long-time resident of England, Lucille has made a routine of coming to Ottawa to launch her books, which she will be doing with Atlantic Canada's Irish Immigrants on Sunday 11 September at the BIFHSGO conference.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to that book. Despite visiting Ireland earlier this year, and hunting for a over decade for evidence of my Irish great great grandfather and his family's arrival in Canada, I have never found one bit of firm evidence of how they came, or when ... just that they were there for the 1841 census, and various dates on land acquisitions. Most frustrating ....Cheers, BT