This week I was given a really good genealogical book on Kerry (and West Limerick) emigration to Canada. The Book is called The Kerry Chain, The Limerick Link* and it is by Carol McCuaig. Carol has conducted painstaking research in both Canada and Ireland, and it basically tells the story of the chain migration of more than 200 people who came to Canada from County Kerry between 1825 and 1875. My copy of the book is on loan from John Pierse of Listowel, I looked it up on Amazon now and it is available, but currently costing $145. If you are interested in North Kerry migration or you are Canadian/Irish, you should try your local library or bookshop for a copy.
Carol gives the background to the initial assisted passages. While the British Government gave the impression that they initiated the scheme to alleviate the distress and poverty, which at that time was mainly due to the collapse in wheat prices, ongoing land issues and the rapidly increasing Irish population, the real reason was the need to have in place in Canada, settlers who would be ‘loyal to the Crown’ (?) in order to stave off any incursions across the border, that might occur, from the Americans who had won their independence only twenty years previously, and who may have had ambitions to add Canada to their territory. . Whatever the story, Peter Robinson was appointed to oversee the experiment. He visited Ireland seeking prospective settlers. He got Parish Priests to announce it and local magistrates were asked to recommend respectable families. More than 50,000 applied to go in 1823, but in that year, just 568 were accepted but by 1825, more than 2000 had set sail for Canada under the scheme. 113 people, mostly from Listowel completed the voyage in 1825 and settled in Ennismore township. They were families of Brick, Cahill, Collins, Costello, Foley, Galvin, Hegarty, Keane, Kelliher, Mahoney, Popel, Shanahan, Stack and Sullivan.
The really interesting part is not so much those who went on those early assisted passages. It was the chain that was set up where settled families sent back for their relatives still in Ireland, to join them in Canada, where they intermarried and where they almost all settled in the same area in Eastern Ontario. An Enright family came from Ballylongford to the same area of Renfrew County at the time of the Famine, they were inter related with other Ballylongford Enrights, with McElligotts, Hollys, Sullivans and Hedicans. There is a section of Admaston which is still knows as the Enright Settlement. It is this history of familes, relations, neighbours joining those already in this area, that gives a fascinating overview of what could be called part of the Kerry diaspora.
While many of the people originated in North Kerry, from such places as Ballylongford, Ballydonoghue, Listowel and Newtownsandes. Another group came later from Sneem and Cahirciveen districts.
*Carol McCuaig, The Kerry Chain, The Limerick Link, [Renfrew, Ontario 2003,]