Diaspora, Famine & Rising

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Table of Contents

The Irish Diaspora and the 1916 Easter Rising
California and the 1916 Easter Rising
GAA 1916 Commemoration Show Sunday, April 24, 2016
The Irish Diaspora: The Great Hunger (An Gorda)
Chronology of The Irish (and Scottish) Diaspora


The Irish Diaspora and the 1916 Easter Rising

On April 24th, 1916, the Irish Revolution began with an event known as the 1916 Easter Rising, and on the actual 100th anniversary, April 24, 2016, the Irish government of Eire, welcomed ALL the descendants of the Irish diaspora that have settled in Europe, the Americas, Australia and New Zealand back for the Centenary Celebrations. Irish Gaelic, Spanish and French besides the various dialects of English were heard, as all share the same blood and history and came to share in the 100th anniversary celebration of the hard-won regaining of the Independence of the ancient mother land, Erin.


California and the 1916 Easter Rising

Did you know that California, and the Bay Area in particular, provided a significant amount of support for the 1916 Easter Rising, as well as for the Irish Revolution that followed?

There is a new short film, ‘California and the Easter Rising‘, which shows some of these connections. California and the Easter Rising was created and produced by Donagh Mc Keown funded by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs San Francisco Irish Consulate for the 1916 commemorations in California, researched by AmeriCeltic’s own Cecilia Fabos-Becker, Tony Becker as well as Elizabeth Creely and Valerie McGrew and featuring the song The Foggy Dew by Erin Ruth Thompson. To watch California and the Easter Rising Click this link.


GAA 1916 Commemoration Show Sunday, April 24, 2016

Croke Park Stadium, Dublin, Ireland

The Gaelic Athletic Association’s special commemorative event at Croke Park was a theatrical event of dance, song and poetry.

April 24th, 2016 was the exact day of 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, over 52,000 fans had gathered for the earlier National Football League finals at Croke Park. Post-match, the GAA staged their spectacular ‘Laochra’ (‘heroes’) commemoration, enraptured the fans of all Irish counties and colors with the best of Irish music, dance and theatre.

The stunning pageant recalled heroes old and new, nodding to both the association’s roots in Celtic culture as well as its community clubs, beginning with the epic tales of Cú Chulainn and the Táin Bó Cúailnge, more than 3,500 dancers, drummers and athletes kept the a full capacity crowd spellbound.
In the crowd, all smiled but few stirred. It was unprecedented to see fans in Croke Park so united in reverence, only breaking their silence to burst into cheers and thundering applause, and to join in with ending rendition of Ireland’s national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann.

Here is a link to our amateur video of the Laochra show.


The Irish Diaspora: The Great Hunger

Videos: The Irish in America: Long Journey Home:

The most famous cause for Irish emigration is the ‘Great Hunger’ of the mid-19th century. The Irish Famine is taken as the starting point for the 1998 Public Broadcasting Service Series of 90 minute videos The Irish in America: Long Journey Home ©1998. Here are links to the series on YouTube.
01 The Great Hunger
02 All Across America
03 Up From City Streets
04 Success


Chronology of The Irish (and Scottish) Diaspora

We have described the Celts and the different definable groups, especially the Irish. A quick reminder is that the Irish were not a unified people for many centuries, beginning before the conquest of England by Rome. There were four kingdoms of Irish, who were a melding of immigrant Celts and a previous, smaller, mostly dark haired people that they conquered. These four Irish kingdoms fought over a high king of all, a title and authority which only rarely existed.

Although the people spoke the same Gaelic language as the other four kingdoms in Ireland a fifth kingdom, Dalriada, looked not toward four central and southern Ireland kingdoms, but instead, eastward to the islands between Ireland and Scotland in the northern Irish sea and western Scotland. Dalriada was an “archipelago kingdom” that existed from about 500 BCE until the late middle ages. Irish Gaelic came to dominate the whole of Scotland through Christianization that began with Dalriada, and the original Pictish Gaelic, believed to be similar to Welsh, was lost.

Ireland changed during the reign of Henry II of England, when the eastern kings of Ireland began to use Norman-English mercenaries to fight over the kingships of their own four kingdoms as well as the high-kingship of all Ireland. The Norman-English mercenaries arrived with their minions and all intermarried with the older Irish families and became, ultimately, as Irish as the “natives.” This means they were also Catholic.

In the 1500’s the McDonnells, also known as O’Donnells, of northern Ireland, were in control of the Dalriada region. They were literally going back and forth between Scotland and Ireland, and had lands in each. They were also literally descendants of the old Dalriadic kingdom and its ways. A large portion of them and their own minions were forced out of Kintyre and other areas in Scotland in 1585, and increased their settlement in County Down and Donegal. Many were Catholic. They quickly came to consider themselves just as Irish as all others, including the O’Neills, with whom they ultimately allied to the O’Donnells’/McDonalds’ great misfortune.

The real troubles in Ireland began in the 16th century, when the recently converted Protestant kings and Queens of England, began re-asserting their political authority over the old Norman Irish families, and their subjects–and their lands. The Tudor ‘Crown’, and its Parliament, combined church and state and used that combined authority to decide Ireland must be made Protestant. The Tudor Crown and Parliament were willing to make that happen by war and reconquest, and new colonizations. The Irish, understandably, did not agree with this, and thus began about 370 years of nearly constant warfare and rebellion.

Worse for the English Crown, their colonization plans, generally, also backfired. They thought to recolonize the forfeited lands of three Irish earls who had reneged on agreements with the English Crown, and had invited in the Spanish, to add insult to intended injury, with English and Scots settlers from overpopulated areas. Few English of the 16th and 17th centuries wanted to settle in Ireland. Most who did were all or part Welsh. The great majority of settlers were Scots Presbyterians, and what we now call Episcopals–not Anglicans–who had their own serious arguments over religious freedom and tolerance with the English Crown. Many of these new colonists, speaking the same Gaelic as the older Irish families, had much sympathy for the Irish and often tried to continue to allow the older Irish families to retain some of their original lands in their original areas.

In the 1641 rebellion led by Phelim O’Neill, there were Scots who had been settling in Ireland since 1585, on BOTH sides. About half sided with the Irish rebels, and some had either always been Catholic, or had converted to Catholicism. This meant when the rebellion failed, and, under Oliver Cromwell, they all suffered the same fate, as the older Irish families.

After 1649, not only “native”, but also Norman Irish families were forced out of their homes and territories and literally transported to France and Spain, so were these Scots Irish families. Some moved on to the new colonies of North America and later to Australia.

In 1660, under the Restoration, many, but not all, of the roughly 17,000 families returned and had some, but not all their lands restored. Charles II walked a tightrope between his own background as a sometimes Catholic Stuart and the firmly Protestant English parliament who had the greater strength and military to offer and maintain his Crown. It was an uneasy truce that did not last and Ireland again fell prey to Parliament when the last of the direct line of Stuarts acceptable to Parliament as rulers, Anne, died without an heir. Anne already knew the end, and allowed the English Parliament to prevail in its hard-hearted will as early as 1705.

By 1707, the English Parliament had decreed no Catholic could own land in Ireland; convert, or suffer being a tenant, or get out. The Scots did not fare much better in the so-called “Act of Union” rammed down their throats. In 1715 Scots were the first to rebel, after these actions of Parliament, and the Earl of Mar had as allies, Irish lords. This was the first of several failed rebellions that had both Scots and Irish allied.

In 1745, the Scots rebelled again, and this fight culminated in the disastrous defeat at Culloden. The English made it clear to the Scots they’d had enough of them and allowed the Hanover’s son, the Duke of Cumberland, to sweep through Scotland with fire and sword and massacre many tens of thousands of Scots known, or suspected, to have participated in the 1745 rebellion. Several of the 13 lords who had sent a letter to Cardinal Fleury inviting Bonnie Prince Charlie to lead the 1745 rebellion, went to the executioner’s block. The rest were imprisoned for varying amounts of time with at least some of their lands also made forfeit.

In 1798, the Irish revolted. The rebellion was supported by most of Ireland’s people, high and low, Catholic, (or recently converted from Catholic to Protestant to be allowed to continue to own their own land), and old Protestant families. They had been inspired, by this time, by the American Revolution (1774-83), which had been successfully led and fought by mostly Scots and Irish emigrant families who had arrived in what became the U.S. from 1650 to 1746, as a result of all those previous failed rebellions. They were also inspired by the French revolution of 1789-93.

The 1798 Irish rebellion was very serious, widespread, and very bloody. It came close to success, but ultimately failed. This resulted in the first large-scale transportation of Irish to what became Australia, and many Irish and Scots Irish also, again, fled to Spain and France. The term “wild geese,” usually refers to the Irish who went into exile in Continental Europe at this time. However, there was also one other place they began to flee–still Spanish, and Catholic, Latin America, particularly Mexico and Argentina, as well as Spanish and Catholic California!

Then, after the famines of 1837 in Scotland and 1845-47 in Ireland, additional huge groups fled, and some, again, went to Mexico, not just the U.S. and Canada.

Today there are Mexicans of partly Irish or Scots Irish descent and the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day takes place in many areas of Mexico. There are also some celebrations in Argentina, and other Latin American countries now. Some more recent immigrants to what is now the U.S. from Mexico carry Irish heritage along with their Latin American heritage.

The diaspora of Irish and Scots Irish is much more than just the descendants of those who fled to what became the U.S.