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Irish Migrants in New Zealand, 1840-1937

Irish Migrants in New Zealand, 1840-1937: 'The Desired Haven'

Angela McCarthy
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 326
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  • Book Info
    Irish Migrants in New Zealand, 1840-1937
    Book Description:

    'I have at last reached the desired haven', exclaimed Belfast-born Bessie Macready in 1878, the year of her arrival at Lyttelton, when writing home to cousins in County Down. There was a huge amount of worldwide European migration between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, a phenomenon which this book examines. Making close use of personal correspondence exchanged between Ireland and New Zealand, the author addresses a number of central questions in migration history, including the circumstances of departure; why some connections chose to stay; how migrant letter writers depicted their voyage out, the environment, work, family and neighbours, politics, and faith; and the prevalence of return and repeat migration. Throughout, the book gives significant attention to the social networks constraining and enabling migrants. It also considers broader debates in the history of European migration, relating to the use of personal testimony to chart the experiences of emigrants and the uncertain processes of adaptation, incorporation, and adjustment that migrants underwent in new and sometimes unfamiliar environments.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-404-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-ix)
    Angela McCarthy
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Editorial notes
    (pp. xi-xii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-49)

    In 1878 Bessie Macready, a 28-year-old Belfast orphan, travelled for 79 days on thePleiadesto her maternal aunts, Elizabeth and Sarah McMain, residing at Governors Bay, near Christchurch. Shortly after her arrival Bessie wrote to her cousins in Ireland declaring blissfully, ‘I have travelled over about fifteen thousand miles of water and at last got to the desired haven’ (Ma 1).¹ Many Irish emigrants settling in New Zealand shared Bessie Macready’s initial rapturous view of the country as a south pacific paradise, an arcadia, a utopia. But did such favourable impressions linger?

    Three years after her arrival Bessie Macready...

  8. 1 ‘It is well to gain that shore’: Irish migration and New Zealand settlement
    (pp. 50-80)

    In 1886 William Gilmer found himself contemplating leaving Ireland. Gilmer, a member of the Church of Ireland who farmed sixteen acres at Mullaghanee in County Monaghan, was motivated to move by deteriorating local and national economic conditions. As he complained vociferously to his brother Robert in New Zealand, ‘Ireland is a very miserable place. We have not had more than 2 or 3 dry days at once all this summer. Harvest is ripe & no dry weather to cut it. The potato crop is a failure. Things are looking very bad indeed’ (Gr 2). Official reports confirmed that in Monaghan in...

  9. 2 ‘Very perfection of a letter writer’: An overview of Irish–New Zealand correspondence
    (pp. 81-96)

    Between 1886 and 1921 the Keane family of Clashmore, County Waterford, sent eleven surviving letters to their migrant sister Mary, who had settled at Wellington. These letters placed a range of obligations on Mary. Both Mary and another migrant sister, Bridget, residing in Otago, were clearly expected to communicate regularly with the family: ‘I hope Bridget will write and let us know how she is getting on & if she dont tis the most she can do as not’ (Ke 1). The consequences of Mary’s silence were also keenly felt. A friend ‘was very mad as you did not write to...

  10. 3 ‘Seas may divide’: The voyage
    (pp. 97-119)

    In 1876, 28-year-old John Gilmore and his 18-year-old sister Alice travelled from the Ards Peninsula, County Down, to Gravesend in Kent, where they prepared to embark as assisted passengers on theBebington. As they were listed as a labourer and domestic servant on the shipping registers, their fare of £16 each had already been paid by the New Zealand government. Altogether, 272 passengers prepared to make the voyage on the 17-year-old ship, with the Gilmores among 135 natives of Ireland.¹ The vessel’s immediate destination was Auckland, but John and Alice would eventually move on to Tauranga, where their brother Andrew...

  11. 4 ‘How different it is from home’: Comparing Ireland and New Zealand
    (pp. 120-144)

    Annie Dempsey, a migrant from Crecrin, County Carlow, arrived in New Zealand in approximately 1882 accompanied by her aunt, Ann O’Brien. The women initially settled with Ann O’Brien’s brothers at Greenhills, south of the Waihao River in Waimate, South Canterbury. Of the correspondence Annie sent to Ireland over the course of the next two decades ten letters are known to have survived. Her early letters, particularly, contain several striking contrasts between Ireland and New Zealand. Annie was initially struck with the colony’s climate, telling her younger sister Eliza, ‘there is great heat hear more so then the old country’ (De...

  12. 5 ‘No rough work here like at home’: Work in New Zealand and Ireland
    (pp. 145-165)

    In 1860 James and Hamilton McIlrath of Balloo, County Down, migrated to Melbourne and, after a brief stint on the goldfields there, voyaged on to New Zealand. Initially the brothers gravitated to the southern goldfields, before trying their hand at other trades. Hamilton McIlrath told readers at home in County Down that while his brother James found employment on a station, fellow migrant William James Alexander ‘has got nothing to do for his £70 per anum but milk the cows and drink the milk. I am with A whole sale wine and spirit merchant. I drive out grog and beer...

  13. 6 ‘Bands of fellowship’: Familial relations and social networks in New Zealand
    (pp. 166-189)

    In July 1857 Michael and Patrick Flanagan, sons of John Flanagan and Anne Maguire, and grandsons of Patrick Flanagan senior, travelled to Liverpool, and five days later sailed for Melbourne on theOliver Lang. Returned on shipping registers as Pat and ‘John’ Flanagan, labourers of 24 and 21 years of age respectively, they arrived in Australia on 16 October accompanied by a 22-year-old friend, Pat Mooney.¹ Their migration was probably spurred in part by the lure of the Australian goldfields to which they gravitated after arrival.

    Letters indicate that Michael and Patrick went their separate ways in Australia though they...

  14. 7 ‘I must have you home’: Return migration, home, and relationships in Ireland
    (pp. 190-209)

    In December 1869 William Lysaght wrote from his father’s farm at Knocknacarriga, County Limerick, imploring his brother Edward to return to Ireland:

    I am speaking against my own interest brother when I refuse to send you the money because it would be far cheaper for me to give you £150 where you are than to bring you home here. But I must have you home. Our name must not run out here. You know I am the last – the only remaining one of our family and it is with regret I say that there is no chance of my...

  15. 8 ‘Never denie your country’: Politics and identity in the Old and New Worlds
    (pp. 210-235)

    In November 1883, when his cousin Daniel departured from Lehinch, County Tipperary, John Strong proffered his advice:

    Dan never denie your country. Always help it to the best of your ability and according to your means, and never sit silent while your country or your countryment are misrepresented or slandered. Finally Dan shun evil company and everything evil but above all things beware of drunkeness that curse of Irishmen that follows them into every land degrading and debasing them. (St 2)

    John Strong’s guidance to his cousin raises two issues that are the focus of this chapter. First, what political...

  16. 9 ‘Out of darkness into light’: The importance of faith
    (pp. 236-261)

    In July 1897, 60-year-old Margaret Anne Kilpatrick recalled that she had been 22 years of age ‘when God called me out of darkness into light, in the midst of the great revival of 1859’. The event, she recollected vividly, took place on 5 July 1859 in the first Presbyterian church at Keady, County Armagh, under Dr Carson’s ministry. ‘I was trying to lead some to God’, Margaret later wrote, ‘when an old woman came & put her hand on my shoulder & said to me have you found Christ, yourself?’ At that point, Margaret claimed to have heard Christ’s voice and ‘I...

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 262-265)

    This book, incorporating letters spanning the years 1840 to 1937, records the diverse thoughts, feelings, and experiences of individual Irish correspondents who endeavoured to maintain intimate connexions with their separated kinfolk. Their alternating euphoric and restrained reflections, studied in conjunction with biographical details, illuminate the critical importance of family involvement at origin and destination in directing and sustaining Irish migration to New Zealand. These migrants, however, were not passive followers in established migration chains, but were active and deliberate movers, selecting their destination based on a range of information derived from their ‘global networks of communication’.¹ These connexions supplied significant...

  18. Appendix Letters
    (pp. 266-280)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 281-300)
  20. Personal name index
    (pp. 301-307)
  21. Place name index
    (pp. 308-309)
  22. Thematic index
    (pp. 310-314)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)