Irish Immigration in Liverpool
IT seems difficult to define 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. However large waves of immigration started only in the late 18th century. A writer in 1795 already noticed the great influx of Irish in the city.
first 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.
second 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 first 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 1849-1850, 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.
the late nineteenth and early twentieth 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 70s, 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.
|THE 'Scouse' 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 nineteenth century and shows that the new settlers were so numerous that they changed the very accent of the local people.
(Aughton, 2003, p.272)
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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.
Here, 200 years of migration to England.
National Library of Ireland. www.nationalarchives.ie
The History Place. www.historyplace.com/worldhistory
Ireland's story through three domains: History, Geography, Ireland today.
conducted and written by Alexia Wodli.
Research conducted in 2004.
Reporter and Liverpool Reporter are Trade Marks of Patrick Trollope.