27 August 2020

Book Review: Canada's Irish Pioneers: Their Story, by Lucille Campey


Ask a Canadian about the Irish in Canada and you'll hear tales about immigration of impoverished farm families in coffin ships escaping the potato famine. 

As Lucille Campey documents in her latest book, the final one in her Irish series, that’s just a small part of the story of Canada's Irish settlement, and while there was a lot of hardship the horrendous death rates associated with immigration mostly occurred in 1847. There's much more to the story.

Following the first overview chapter, Essential but Undervalued, the book's chapters move from east to west starting with early settlement in Newfoundland. The early chapters rehearse material covered in more depth in earlier books in the series Atlantic Canada's Irish Immigrants: A Fish and Timber Story published in 2016  and  Ontario and Quebec's Irish Pioneers: farmers, labourers and lumberjacks published in 2018.

As settlement occurred further west the story moves to the later years. Many of the Irish who had originally settled in eastern Canada joined the movement which saw a western population explosion. There are chapters for Manitoba to the west coast. In Alberta, I was surprised to learn of an influx of prosperous, well-educated and entrepreneurially-inclined Irishmen to Calgary in the 1870s, and settlement as ranchers in the Macleod District of former members of the North West Mounted Police, which was modelled on the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Canadians of Irish origin often ask about passenger lists for their ancestor's Atlantic crossing and are disappointed to learn that finding one is a rare exception. A 14-page appendix Selected Immigrant Ship Crossings from Ireland to Quebec, 1841–1850 compiles information from British Parliamentary Papers on the voyages: year and month of arrival, vessel name, departure port, and the number of passengers, and sometimes notes on the voyage. 

As with the previous books, there are comprehensive notes, a bibliography and an index. Inserted in the text are 26 outline maps by Geoff Campey and 14 tables including a few early lists of immigrants.

While Lucille Campey's previous books were published by Dundurn Press Canada's Irish Pioneers: Their Story is self-published on Amazon where the 391-page paperback edition is available for $25. There's a Kindle edition for an amazing $8 — within the budget and a feast for all but the most impoverished Irish immigrant descendant.


Anonymous said...

Her books are always worthwhile. Always. Cheers, BT

Penny said...

Thank you John. I've enjoyed Lucille's books, very professionally done. Working on my Canadian Irish line, so this is timely. In one of her Scottish books I found she referenced one of my Red River Settler ancestor's grave and there's a picture! What a coincidence!