A single Irish immigrant would send back word that Saint John was a promising place to settle
By MAC TRUEMAN - Times Globe
SAINT JOHN - Irish settlement of Lower Cove began when one man, Terence Magee, arrived here on the brigantine Industry, in 1820.
Genealogist and historian Peter Murphy believes it was no coincidence that Mr. Magee's former neighbours in Ireland - James and Catherine Flannigan - set up home on the property next to Magee in South End Saint John.
Over the next 30 years, this chain of migration drew 250 people to the area of Sheffield Street (later Broadview Avenue). They all came from the same Irish community barely three square miles in area, which is now just a pasture. And they were the ancestors of nearly all the several thousand inhabitants of the tightly knit ethnic Irish community south of St. James Street which lasted until the neighbourhood was torn away by urban renewal in the early 1960s, Mr. Murphy said.
Chain migration was born from that part of human nature that told you that if you must emigrate to a foreign land, it's nicer to go where there are familiar faces waiting for you.
It resulted in each Irish village that sent people to Saint John in
the early 1800s having a specific neighbourhood, or a certain city block
or even a particular tenement building where its people went, said Jane Fullerton,
Some parts of the city became divided into a tapestry of tiny Irish communities that stood side-by-side but were distinct from each other, like the countries of Walt Disney World's EPCOT World Showcase.
Chain migration continued in Saint John until it was overwhelmed by the Famine, Ms. Fullerton said. But the unique communities that it formed remained mostly intact for more than a century.
The city's South End was the new homeland for families from County Louth, while York Point was the domain of Cork natives and their descendants. Several families from County Kerry clustered at Fort Howe. Prince Edward Street and Brussel Street area was associated in the same way with Tyrone and Donegal, Mr. Murphy said.
"My mother started school at St. John the Baptist in 1933, and in her Grade 1 class there were probably six or seven other students whose great-great-grandparents had come from the same village in Northern Ireland. And that was 1933.
Of the St. John the Baptist Fife and Drum Band that marched along Sydney Street in the 1927 parade marking the anniversary of Confederation, "I think 80 per cent of the members were the grandchildren of people from the same village in Ireland," Mr. Murphy said.
Mr. Murphy's work has provided the best-documented case of Irish chain migration in New Brunswick, says Professor Peter Toner, a historian at University of New Brunswick Saint John. But it's by no means the only case.
Professor Toner said his own research has uncovered "dozens and dozens of examples" of both Catholic and Protestant Irish neighbourhoods that were replicated on a smaller scale in this province - "enough to convince me that it was a very common phenomenon," he said.
It's what brought ancestors of the 14 or more Huggard families located between Saint John and Queen's County, he said. The Huggards came here from Tralee, County Kerry, following the trail blazed in 1826 by Joseph and Mary Huggard. The same with the Hartins, near Canterbury, York County, whose migration here started with one - probably Thomas Hartin in 1832, Professor Toner said while looking up details in his newly published compendium, An Index to Irish Immigrant in the New Brunswick Census of 1851.
"It was very much easier for people to migrate when they had someone to come to," he added.
Chain migration from County Louth is a feature of the New Brunswick Museum's Out of Ireland exhibit which will run at Market Square until the end of September. Mr. Murphy, as guest curator, was responsible for assembling the show. The exhibit focuses mostly on the Irish who arrived here before 1847 immigration peak of the Great Famine.
"A lot of people think that the Irish just arrived with the Famine," Ms. Fullerton said. "And they don't realize there are roots going beyond that."
Mr. Murphy has made pilgrimages to the field from which the Sheffield residents came. It's located on the Carlingford (or Cooley) Peninsula of County Louth, which juts into the Irish Sea from the east coast of Southern Ireland, just at its northern border.
The rocky hills sweeping into the sea, dotted with the occasional whitewashed stone farmhouse, are thought to be one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland - a scene which Mr. Murphy said reminds him of the mountains and sloping pastures that surround the New Brunswick village of Hampton.
In 1820, before famine and emigration took their toll, the peninsula was congested with houses. But by the time Mr. Magee, 27, set out for New Brunswick, some of these were already being torn down. The backyard potato plots of this fishing community were already making way for pastures to feed leather and wool to the British industrial revolution.
As the youngest son of a land-owning family, Mr. Magee stood to be left empty-handed by these land consolidations, Mr. Murphy said.
Drawn to the New World by promises of free land and plentiful fisheries, Mr. Magee walked to the nearest port - Newry in County Down.
The choice of where he would go from here followed automatically, because Saint John happened to be the North American port where ships from Newry came.
Like many Irish who came here, Mr. Magee may have been thinking of migrating to the United States. But Irish shipping agents in those days were advertising Saint John as being within walking distance of the American border.
Whether or not Mr. Magee intended to stay here, "he probably didn't have the means to move elsewhere, even if he wanted to," Mr. Murphy said.
Mr. Magee, who eventually married a widow in Saint John, was already married according to his petition for a land grant filed in 1821, although Mr. Murphy hasn't found record of the man's first wife in Saint John or Ireland.
Married men got preference in land grants, but Mr. Murphy added, "I'd hate to say he lied."