Waterford’s Canadian Connections

Waterford and Canada have had an unexpectedly close historical relationship that dates back almost 500 years.

The first record of a ship travelling from South East Ireland to Newfoundland dates as far back as 1534 and by the eighteenth century, boats were making regular journeys to Canada for the fishing routes. While at the beginning they would return home for the winter, later on they would start to “over-winter” in Newfoundland. Emigration to this part of the world peaked in the early 1800s, and as a consequence it is estimated that today over 50% of Newfoundland’s population is of Irish origin. Not surprisingly it has been called “the most Irish place in the world outside of Ireland”.

John Palliser picAs landlord of Comeragh House in 1853, John Palliser (seen opposite) had built a strong reputation as a Victorian adventurer from his travels to the Mississippi-Missouri river and across the Western Plains; which interestingly involved sharing a passage with Barnum Bailey Circus and General Tom Thumb.

In 1856, he began to get itchy feet and after garnering support from Dr Livingstone, he left the Comeraghs for a two year expedition to survey and map the Canadian North West. Over two years Palliser and his companions explored the entire region between Lake Superior and the Pacific Coast. They collected 460 species and some 60,000 specimens, some of which can still be found in the Botanical Gardens in London. They “discovered” and named many rivers and mountains such as Palliser’s River in the Rocky Mountains, the Bow River, Kananaski River and Pass, Fairholme Mountain, Palliser Range and most famous of all, Palliser’s Triangle which stretches for hundreds of miles.

The close relationship and cultural similarities of these two coastal communities do not go unacknowledged: with the annual Festival of the Sea held in Newfoundland and Ireland; a number of Trees of Honour were also recently planted in the Anne Valley, in memoriam to our Newfoundland-Irish ancestors and of course the solid presence of Canada Quay.

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