A phrase heard often in Ireland that “everyone has someone in America!” – meaning that it’s rare the family that doesn’t have connections in the United States, be they first generation or earlier. The phrase is equally accurate for Newfoundland and Canada and in modern times, Australia.
Throughout the centuries, Irish people, young and old, have always left this island in their droves and for various reasons – oppression, famine, adventure, war and conflict, opportunity … it is interesting then to see the names of those Powers (and others, of course) that pop up in the pages of newspapers and journals, making their mark in one way or another, before the Internet and instant communication became ubiquitous.
There are some great online resources available, allowing us to delve into local (sometimes very local) US history – and when we find a subject – like the recent post on Sheriff John Powers of Nebraska – we take great pleasure in exploring a little bit more about the emigrant in question, trying at least in the broad sense, to add some social context and a sense of place to the individual and those they might have left behind on “the Ould Sod”.
An interesting snippet found its way to our keyboard recently, which perusing “The Daily Phoenix” of Columbia, South Carolina, from 1874.
The total number of emigrants from Ireland in the first six months of the present year was 45,781, of whom 25,163 were males and 60, 917 were females. As compared with the corresponding period of 1873, there was a decrease of 14,359. Since the 1st of May, 1851, the total emigration from Ireland has been 2,252,745.
Despite the inaccuracy in the sum of the first two figures, the last line in that article is simply nothing short of astonishing. Whole cities worth of people were moving lock, stock and barrel from Ireland during this time, and the figures quoted don’t even go back as far as 1847, when the Famine was at it’s height.
As a concept, Irish people of today readily acknowledge the Great Famine and all its terrible loss and suffering, but I don’t think we can equate today’s sense of space and freedom with just how many more people were on our island just 150 odd years ago.
And to sign off, and as was bound to happen, not all the Powers who made the journey managed to keep their noses out of strife !
PS : That’s a $4000 fine today !