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Merseyside Regional History Section

Irish Immigration to and from Liverpool (UK)
Click on the date below to go to that section.
  1503 to 1749   1830 to 1869   1900 to 1929     1960 to 2003
-8050 to 1490   1750 to 1829   1870 to 1899   1930 to 1959    
A quick guideline to dates:-  43 Romans; 450 Saxons; 793 Vikings; 1066 Normans; 1485 Tudors; 1603 Stuart; 1714 Georgian; 1837 Victorians; 1939 Modern...

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 1790, that they founded it's first overseas Consulate, in the City! Interestingly the Consulate remained on Paradise Street, Liverpool, until 1962 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 run.

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, p.272)

Date Line Historical Information

The 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 the City.  In 1841, 20% of the Irish living in England and Wales were found in Merseyside.


The 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.

From 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 society.

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.

Historical Reference Material

Related books

Related Organisations Sources

DALEY, Margaret (2003) The Irish in Liverpool: a select guide to printed sources in Liverpool Reco. Liverpool - the Author.

DENVIR, John (1892) The Irish in Britain from the Earliest Times to the Fall and Death of Parnell. London.

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.  
ISBN 0140171703.

LAMBERT, Tim (2002) A brief history of Liverpool. Liverpool - the Author.  
ISBN M0006292LV.

LAWTON, R. (s.n) Irish immigration to England and Wales in the mid-nineteenth century. - Liverpool - [s.n.]. 

ISBN M0006292LV.

Liverpool, a brief history.

Liverpool. Liverpool City Libraries. 1984   ISBN w9320692.

MILLER, Kerby A, (1985) Emigrants and exiles: Ireland and the Irish exodus to North America. New York - Oxford University.  
ISBN 0195051874.

SWIFT, Roger (ed) (2002) Irish Migrants in Britain, 1815 to 1914 - A documentary history. Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press.   ISBN 1859182364

Institute of Irish Studies, 1 Abercromby Square, Liverpool, L69 3BX:-  Study of Ireland in Britain

The Irish World Heritage Centre, 10 Queens Road, Manchester, M8 8UF.

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.
ISBN 1859361145

BRADY, LW (1983) T.P. O'Connor and the Liverpool Irish. London: Royal Historical Society.
ISBN 090105092X

CHANNON, Howard (1976) Portrait of Liverpool. 3rd ed. Robert Hale & Cie.
ISBN 070915575

KELLY, Michael (2003) The Irish connection- the story of some notable Irish people who helped in its creation. Blundell - Print Origination Ince.
ISBN 0903348535

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.

Useful Links

Moving Here, 200 years of migration to England. 

National Library of Ireland. 

The History Place

Ireland's story through 3 domains - History, Geography, Ireland Today.

Liverpool Museum., also see:-

Lost Liners.


Merchant Navy Association (MNA).

Wikipedia Links

White_Star_Line  also see RMS_Titanic

Research conducted and written by Alexia Wodli and Patrick Trollope.    Research conducted in 2004 and Patrick Trollope in 2015.


The section is being updated constantly, so if you have any photographs, documents or any other information that helps us to develop this section, please contact us via email:-