“Emigration is continuing to go on still to a fearful extent.”


May 14, 1863

Emigrants Leave Ireland by Henry Doyle.

Emigrants Leave Ireland by Henry Doyle.

On  May 14, 1863 John Murphy, from the Copper Works, Brass and Bell Foundry  in Dublin wrote to Bishop John Thomas Mullock, the R.C. Bishop of Newfoundland to acknowledge receipt of payment for bells crafted for the Roman Catholic Cathedral in St. John’s (now Basilica).

John Murphy was a Coppersmith who established his business at 109 James’s Street, Dublin, in 1837. Murphy was one of the best at his craft.  His bells were awarded prizes at the Dublin and London Exhibitions and First Prize in 1900 at the Paris Exhibition.  Many of these bells found their way to Newfoundland.

Ordinarily a receipt payment would not garner much attention but with this receipt Murphy included a note to the Newfoundland Bishop that inferred  that the economy of Ireland  was such that the Irish were having to leave their home land for other parts of the world. Murphy wrote:

 “Sorry to tell you that trade is very quiet in Dublin and all over Ireland. At present the clergy are not disposed to get many bells as the people are not in good spirits from the manner particularly that the government is hurting the poor farmers by not giving them some security in their land. Emigration is continuing to go on still to a fearful extent.”

The 1850’s and 60’s were difficult economic times in Ireland and many of the Irish artisans in order to sustain a living had to sell their work to the emerging church in the new world or emigrate.

Almost 153 years to the day hard times have once again visited upon Ireland. Emigration numbers have accelerated sharply since the start of the downturn in the Irish economy in 2008, when an estimated 31,300 left the country.

Encouraging emigrants to return home to Ireland is a central part of the Irish Government’s first diaspora policy, published in March, 2015. The hope expressed at the launch, was that by 2016 the number of Irish returning would outnumber those leaving, after seven years of high emigration.

The figures for returning Irish have been falling as the numbers applying for permanent residency and citizenship abroad in such places as Canada have risen. In the 12 months to April 2014 just 11,600 Irish returned home, down from 15,700 the previous year and almost half the figure from 2008.

Canada  has been actively trying to lure the young Irish. In 2013 Canada  increased  the length of work visas for young Irish and doubled the quota of those who may arrive through the International Experience Canada (IEC) program.

Some of  these young  Irish  were  like their ancestors  were making their way to the shores of  Newfoundland and Labrador, but like Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador  over the next few years may be looking at emigration as well.

Archival Collection: Type Irish in the key word search bar:  http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?ClientSession=16a80abc:154b2cdf7b9:-7fd2&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355

Exhibit at The Rooms:  Come and explore Talamh an Éisc: The Fishing Ground on Level 4.  This exhibition introduces you to the Irish who have been here since the late 1600s while exploring the communities they built and celebrating the contributions they made to life here in Newfoundland.

Recommended to watch:  ‘The Forgotten Irish’ is a community of Irish people living over two thousand miles from Ireland on the beautiful Cape Shore of Newfoundland.  We welcome all of you new Irish!!   http://www.rte.ie/archives/exhibitions/1378-radharc/355628-the-forgotten-irish/