The churches and emigration from nineteenth-century Ireland

The book knits together two of the most significant themes in the social and cultural history of modern Ireland - mass emigration and religious change - and aims to provide fresh insight into both. It addresses the churches' responses to emigration, both in theory and in practice. The book also assesses how emigration impacted on the churches both in relation to their status in Ireland, and in terms of their ability to spread their influence abroad. It first deals with the theoretical positions of the clergy of each denomination in relation to emigration and how they changed over the course of the nineteenth century, as the character of emigration itself altered. It then explores the extent of practical clerical involvement in the temporal aspects of emigration. This includes attempts to prevent or limit it, a variety of facilitation services informally offered by parish clergymen, church-backed moves to safeguard emigrant welfare, clerical advice-giving and clerically planned schemes of migration. Irish monks between the fifth and eighth centuries had spread Christianity all over Europe, and should act as an inspiration to the modern cleric. Tied in with this reading of the past, of course, was a very particular view of the present: the perception that emigration represented the enactment of a providential mission to spread the faith.

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The clergy and emigration in practice

readers, whether they wished to be or not. As one priest told Parliament when asked if ‘this kind of benevolent commission business’ took up a considerable amount of 68 Roddy_Population_Printer.indd 68 15/09/2014 11:47 The clergy and emigration in practice time: ‘No doubt of it; and it gives me a vast deal of ­annoyance’.52 Through this practical facilitation, parish clergymen smoothed the path of many an emigrant. Nevertheless, as the volume of emigrants increased from the Famine onward, it became clear that there were also larger problems of migrant welfare to be

in Population, providence and empire
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asked that question surely knew they would. Emigrants had been reminded, nonetheless, of the gravity of the decision they were making – a point which clergy felt could sometimes be lost in the headlong ‘mania’ of chain migration – and had had it affirmed that religious observance in their new homes would require considerable personal effort on their parts. The most the Irish church could do in practical religious terms was endeavour to ensure that those who left would and could make such an effort. Organised welfare measures, designed to stave off the worst of

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historians have hypothesised that a concern for the religious welfare of the departed may have coloured clerical condemnation of the exodus, there has been little substantiating analysis of the pastoral response of the Irish Catholic Church to the mass out-movement of their congregations.33 Examination of what the Freeman’s Journal termed ‘priests for the emigrants’ has instead been the almost exclusive preserve of ecclesiastical historians, often moonlighting clergy, who have arguably treated the subject of the pastoral response of the Catholic Church with excessive

in Population, providence and empire
The pastoral responses of the Irish churches to emigration

accepted by the Irish churches, if they acted upon it, and whether they were they successful. It is important, firstly, to determine whether and to what extent the Irish churches themselves felt responsible for the safe-guarding of emigrants’ religious welfare once abroad. Most accepted the reports of apostasy and indifference at face value. The wrongness of his calculations notwithstanding, the testimony of a figure like Bishop England understandably held immense weight. As one priest argued pro hominem: ‘that Dr England should note with sorrow, as he has done, the

in Population, providence and empire
Emigration and the spread of Irish religious influence

wishing to go – I could say nothing to them’.114 He also worried for their welfare once abroad: Lynch’s circular appeared genuinely to touch him, and, unsurprisingly, he deemed that the Fenians had ‘done great harm to the poor Irish workmen and servants in England’, who were being turned away from work on account of their outrages.115 In any case Cullen was clearly not the originator of the idea that Irish emigrants were the agents of a providential mission, contrary to O’Leary’s hazy, probably second-hand recollection. It is difficult to pinpoint who was. While

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The clergy and emigration in principle

scheme was to be taken at face value, held similar pro-emigration opinions.153 However, he quoted from their letters rather selectively, leaving out any statements against emigration, and most priests seemed more concerned about the welfare of individual emigrants than any broader notions of lessening an excessive Irish population in preparation for economic recovery.154 For evident geographic reasons, few Presbyterian clergymen corresponded with Foster, but contemporary periodicals confirm that the notion of a surplus population found supporters in some corners, and

in Population, providence and empire
Emigration and sectarian rivalry

. In fact this dismay was simply an alarming symptom of the primary malaise. Arnold Schrier has suggested, following Cusack and others, that fears over emigrants’ faith were of much greater concern to priests than loss of dues.34 Measured by print acreage alone, that might well be borne out. Worries over emigrant welfare of one kind or another dominated most public clerical commentary on the subject. However, as we have seen, the action following on from this powerful rhetoric left something to be desired. It was arguably, therefore, a more general, usually privately

in Population, providence and empire
The canadianizing 1920s

who subsequently ‘flocked to the colours in Canada during the war’ was used as evidence by government officials of the good citizenship promoted by the scheme. 21 In the 1920s, however, the IODE began to question the scheme, raising doubts about the conditions for children. The IODE’s criticisms of child migration were influenced both by its connections to the new welfare organizations and by the

in Female imperialism and national identity
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Crossing the seas

There exists a moving photographic record of West Indian emigrants arriving in British cities in the 1950s, first by steamship and steam train, then later, by the end of the decade and into the 1960s, by plane. We still see, in our own times, these images of men and women who, for all their apprehensions, were stepping across the threshold into new lives, bringing with them a certain

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain