Irish Immigration to and from Liverpool
THE City of Liverpool, located on the
river Mersey, on the North West Coastline of England, has long been a
destination for Irish migrants. It is difficult to define just how long
the Irish have been crossing the Irish Sea to settle in Liverpool. Muir
(1907, p.304) notes that there were already Irish names among the
Liverpudlian Citizens as early as 1378. A writer in 1795 already noticed
the great influx of Irish in the UK City. However large waves of
immigration started only in the late 18th Century. By far the greatest
influx of Irish people to live in Liverpool itself came during the years
of the Great Famine in the 1840's. But this connection to the Irish
migrants would lead the Port of Liverpool to become the most important
staging post for Irish migrants on their way to North America or
settling in England.
Irish migrants gave Liverpool other hidden benefits, making it the birth
place of the 'cruise ships', who are better known as
Liners. Plus the Port was to become so important to America that the
then fledgling United States, in
that they founded it's first overseas Consulate, in the City!
Interestingly the Consulate remained on Paradise Street, Liverpool,
and the building still exists today. In fact many of the buildings that
can be found came in and around Liverpool can be dated back to the
trans-Atlantic steamship trade. This trade lead to the formation of
massive shipping names, that where founded in Liverpool and operated
from the Port. One of these shipping companies was Cunard. Cunard in
2015 celebrated it's
175th Anniversary on the River Mersey with an amazing home
coming. Liverpool was also the port that the White Star Line's Titanic
was registered to. This British passenger liner that sank in the North
Atlantic Ocean after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage
from Southampton, UK to New York City, US, in the early morning of 15
April 1912. Its loss claimed many Irish migrants and their families.
Another famous Liner to be lost was Canadian Pacific's Steamship Empress
of Ireland. She had been sailing on the Liverpool-Quebec City run,
keeping a connection transcontinental railroad in Canada and Liverpool
in the UK when when disaster struck on 29 May 1914. At around 2am local
time, She was involved in a collision with the Norwegian collier SS
Storstad and quickly sank under the ice cold Saint Lawrence River. The
loss of this Ocean Liner lead to the deaths of 1,012 of the 1,477
persons. Sadly, they say that disasters come in threes and just a year
after the Liverpool's shipping firms had another. Cunard's Lusitania was
heading back from the US when, on 7 May 1915, a single torpedo fired
from the German U-boat U-20 slammed into the starboard side of the
Lusitania. This happened during the start of World War 1 off the
Southern Coast of Ireland. The ship listed and sank in just 18 minutes.
While 761 of those on board were rescued, most were not so fortunate.
This devastating loss combined with the effects of the other losses was
to lead to the beginning of the end of Liverpool’s Edwardian heyday as a
Liner Port and its influence on Irish migration. Added to the effect of
World War 1 was to have a devastating effect on the port in the long
Another Irish connection to Liverpool is the
accent known as 'Scouse'. This accent is well known
to be very specific of Liverpool's City and different from the
surrounding part of Lancashire and Cheshire. Some language experts
have been able to identify a hybrid of Lancashire and Irish. The dialect
is a relict of the great influx of Irish immigrants in the 19th
Century and shows that the new settlers were so numerous that they
changed the very accent of the local people. (Aughton, 2003,
1st important influx started after the rebellion
of 1798. This marks the beginning of an unceasing
immigration until it was relieved by the beginning
of mass emigration to America. By the year 1800,
the population was already approaching 80000;
doubling in less than 20 years and poor and
immigrants were crowded in the old part of the
City. At this time Liverpool was also in full
expansion benefiting of the industrial revolution
with its seaport, and thus needed people. As
Ireland belonged to the United Kingdom, its people
could move to Britain and especially Liverpool
very easily, in the same way that the Scottish or
the Welsh. They rapidly hive together in specific
area of City especially around Scotland Road and
Vauxhall Road. This quick expansion contributed to
the development of the unsanitary situation -
building could not follow and in the absence of
legislation, new housing did not respect the basic
rules of hygiene, being built back to back,
without water supply. From this time, with the
growth of the Irish population, Irish people
started playing an increasing role in the
economic, political, social and religious life of
In 1841, 20% of the Irish living in England and
Wales were found in Merseyside.
2nd and bigger mass influx resulted from the
Irish Potato Famine, which touched Ireland by the
mid-1840s. Millions of desperate Irish people
crossed the Irish Sea on dodgy vessels called:-
'coffin ships'. Very often these overloaded ships
reached Liverpool after losing a third of their
passengers to disease, hunger and other causes.
Liverpool was for a lot of them only a stage
before emigrating to North America. In 1846
280,000 people entered Liverpool from Ireland of
whom 106,000 moved abroad. During the first main
wave of famine emigration from January to June
1847, about 300,000 Irish refugees sailed in the
city and 130,000 emigrated. These one who stayed
crowded in cellars and houses still in Vauxhall
and Scotland Road area in particular unsanitary
situation, contributing to aggravate Liverpool's
problem of poverty and misery. It was calculated
that in 1847 there were 35 000 people, mainly
Irish, living in cellars, while some 5341
inhabited cellars described as 'wells of stagnant
water'. Typhus, dysentery, cholera and other
fevers were back. Dr Duncan, the 1st public
health officer was rapidly overwhelmed by these
waves of immigration and estimated that in the
town as whole, 60,000 caught the fever and 40,000
contracted dysentery. Liverpool authorities could
not cope with this influx of mouths to feed, which
crippled and impoverished the City. In June 1847,
under the new Poor Law Removal Act, about 15,000
Irish were deported back to Ireland.
the end of 1847, the effects of the Famine were
les felt, the waves of immigration decreased in
number and in size. Despite the end of the Famine
around 1849 to 1850, most of the Irish remained in
Liverpool and carried on integrating with the
local life. They were ready to accept any job,
especially in the newly expanding seaport, working
as dockers and seamen. By the end of the century
they were even not restricted to unskilled labour
anymore, rising to the rank of artisans,
shopkeepers, merchants and professional classes.
In the late 19th
and early 20th century, T.P. O'Connor belonged to these
important Irish personalities who played a major role in the
development of Anglo Irish relation in Liverpool but also in
Britain, as he was the chief spokesman for the Irish in Britain,
he also was the first Irish Nationalist MP. And until the
partition of Ireland in 1921, numerous Irish Nationalist
Councillors followed one another in Liverpool.
However the Irish presence in Liverpool remained
an issue as show it an article of 1931 in the paper The
Liverpool Review saying about Irish immigration:- "there
is abundant evidence … that a very grave injury is being done to
the prosperity of Merseyside and to its population". In
1939, the Irish Immigration Investigation Bureau opened in
February 6th in order to tackle the unrestricted entry of
immigrants from Ireland into Liverpool and their abortion into
insurable occupation shortly after their arrival. At this time,
the need for legislation was strongly felt.
During the two world wars, many Irish paid with
their lives their integration in the British
Still in the 70's, Channon noticed that still a
lot of girls arrived from Ireland with little
money and no experience of big City life. But
associations and organisations existed then to
protect them from the moral hazards of the
waterfront. He also added that without the
annual influx of girls from the other side of
the Irish Sea, Liverpool Hospital would have
been critically short of nurses under training
and domestic staff.
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Reco. Liverpool - the Author.
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DONNOLLY, James S (2002) The great Irish Potato Famine.
Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing.
FOSTER, RF (1995) Paddy and Ms Punch - connection in Irish and English History. London: Penguin.
LAMBERT, Tim (2002) A brief history of
Liverpool. Liverpool - the Author.
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Liverpool, a brief history.
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- Oxford University.
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to 1914 - A documentary history. Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press. ISBN
Institute of Irish Studies,
1 Abercromby Square, Liverpool, L69 3BX:- Study of Ireland in Britain
The Irish World Heritage Centre, 10 Queens Road, Manchester,
Saint Michael's Irish Centre, 6 Boundary Lane, West Derby Road,
Liverpool, L6 5JG - A community centre for the promotion of cultural and social activities for the Irish community in Merseyside.
AUGHTON, Peter (2003) Liverpool, a people's history. Carnegie Publishing.
BRADY, LW (1983) T.P. O'Connor and the Liverpool Irish. London: Royal Historical Society.
CHANNON, Howard (1976) Portrait of Liverpool. 3rd ed. Robert Hale &
KELLY, Michael (2003) The Irish connection- the story of some notable Irish people who helped in its creation. Blundell
- Print Origination Ince.
LAWTON, R (1959) Irish Immigration in Ireland and Wales in the mid-nineteenth century. Irish Geography, Vol.4, n.1, pp.45-54.
MUIR, Ramsay (1907) History of Liverpool. London
- Williams & Norgate.
RAVEN, Canon Charles E. (1931) Irish Immigration into Merseyside. Liverpool Review, vol. VI, n.8, pp.268-271.
Here, 200 years of migration to England.
National Library of Ireland.
The History Place.
Ireland's story through 3 domains - History, Geography, Ireland
Merchant Navy Association (MNA).
White_Star_Line also see
conducted and written by
Alexia Wodli and Patrick
Research conducted in 2004 and Patrick Trollope in 2015.
The section is being updated constantly, so if you
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