Page 3, 25th June 1948

25th June 1948
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Page 3, 25th June 1948 — HOW FAR IS BRITISH CATHOLICISM IRISH?
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HOW FAR IS BRITISH CATHOLICISM IRISH?

by JOHN PEARMAIN

IT is a hundred years since 1848, and therefore not an entirely inappropriate moment to com ment on the lack of real knowledge, to say the least of it, of those who still may be heard saying "The Irish Immigration or Invasion ... mainly, of course, 1845 to 1848. . . yes, 1 suppose you could say the bulk of it finished in 1848 . . . end of the pottito famine, and all that !"

The plain facts are that there was Irish immigration long. long before 1845, and long after 1848, and that it continues every year. Doubtless rnost Irish people in Ireland regret it, and regret the causes of it, but its contribution to the Catholic Revival in England can hardly be overstated.

The Beginnings The Penal Laws reduced the number of Catholics in England to its lowest ebb in the first. half of the eighteenth century, but even then the ebb was being stemmed to some extent by some measure of Irish immigration; Hasbach, in his English Agricultural Labourer, quotes from Marshall's Northern Department to the effect that by 1787 five thousand Irish settled in Manchester in a single year. Elsewhere he claims that Irishmen were to be found in almost every county by 1794, even as far south and east as Hertfordshire and Norfolk; its the rural counties they found work on the farms, because of the beginnings of the drift to the industrial towns.

Trevelyan says that Irish immigration helped to account for the rise of our population from 51 millions in 1702 to 9 millions in 1801; he adds his opinion that the Irish were exploited by low wages, and that as the industrial Revolution to under weigh, the Irish also gravitated increasingly to the towns, where they were often pushed into the worst of the slums; the wonder is that they reared the large and healthy families that they undoubtedly did; and many of their great-grandsons are now honoured members of our priesthood. Trevelyan adds that the yearly Irish immigration throughout the 19th century gave tile Catholic. Church a very much more important place in English life at the end of Victoria's reign than at its begin ning. He is supported with figures by Charlotte Waters' Economic History, which tells us that by 1826 there were 30,000 Irish in Manchester alone, almost a quarter of the then population of about 130,000: it would be interesting to have comparable figures by a census to-day.

Archbishop David Mathew's Catholicism in England is an invaluable source of information. He tells LIN that eighteenth-century Irish immigration did much to recruit Catholic strength in London, Bristol, and Liverpool, where by 1821 there were 12,000 Irish Catholics; that the tide of immigration was running strong long before 1845 is indicated by the fact that in eleven years, from 1821 to 1832, the Liverpool Irish Catholics grew from twelve thousand to as many as sixty thousand; and a Stonyhurst manuscript says that by 1840 they had reached 80,000, more than one-third of the then population of 220,000; by that time there were already eleven Liverpool Catholic parishes; and the size of the immigration flood of the 1840's is indicated by the enormous growth of Liverpool from 224.000 in 1841 to 376,000 in 1851. In those ten years also thousands of Irish reached towns like Bradford, where they dated their new streets at that time, and where hundreds of them bear the

significant date " 1845 and many others hear adjacent dates up to 1854.

The Catholic Revival The major part of our 24,000 miles of railways was constructed between 1840 and 1860, with pick and shovel making enormous cuttings, embankments, and viaducts; this colossal task could never have been completed in so short a time but for the great army of Irish workmen; it would almost seem that providence arranged the railway boom to coincide with the Irish potato famine ! And this coincidence undoubtedly contributed to the rapid spread of the Catholic revival, for not only did the Irish build the railways, hut the work brought them good money, which enabled them also to travel on the railways, to Newcastle and Middlesbrough, and a thousand other places. their wives and families following them across the country by railway to the places where they were absorbed into the

industrial revolution. Mr. Knox has remarked on how many of the churches built at that 'time arc down by the station." where opposition to the railways often made land inexpensive.

it is surely not fanciful to see in 11sis consbinanon of circumstances. that we have just outlined. factors, which. under God. hastened the restoration of tlte Hierarchy in 1850 ? Rai for lli frisit, is if of all like/a' Mai ii svoaid have crone .so soon ?

Archbishop Mathew toils us that in 1841 the numbers of the Irishborn population in England stood at 224,128; in' 1851 this figure had risen to 419,256. In 185t1 Sir James Stephen stated that between 1847 and 1855 nearly 2,000.000 Irish emigrated; many went to America, where their great-grandsons are New. York policemen to-day! But reliable historians have estimated that at least as many came east as went west; Liverpool was so much nearer than New York, and it is recorded that at times the fare was as low as half-a-crown, and once even as low

as fourpence ! There were other factors, of course; anti-British feeling, stories of American prosperity, and so on. but many maintain that a full million Irish came to Britain between 1847 and 1855. • Between February and July. 1847, no fewer than 300,000 landed at Liverpool.

The Immigration Continues

Archbishop Mathew reminds its that after the famine years normal immigration went on, and recruited the new industries on Tees-side and Tyneside, the shipbuilding and the steel works. .Cardinal Manning's part in the building of the new town Catholicism can never be exaggerated, and he was no doubt well aware that there were many Irish among the dockers to whose aid he hurried in 1889, though in his 82nd year.

In 1893 the Royal Commission on labour attested the fact that between 1867, when its survey began, and 1893, in Derbyshire and Cheshire agriculture would have come to a standstill not once, but many times, but for the Irish labour. The Commission also records the fact that the development of our commercial brewing trade would have been impossible but for Irish hop-pickers. By way of review, it is significant to compare the population of Ireland in 1841. when it was 8,175,124, and in 1941, when it was only slightly over 4,000,000.

Recent figures are summarised in Walshaw's Migration. which tells us that from 1891 to 1900 89 per cent. of Irish emigrants went to America, 4 per cent. to the Dominions, and at that time 7 per cent. to Great Britain; but American immigration restriction laws since 1921 have produced a very different picture. The 1924 Act restricted immigration into 1../.5.A from Eire to 28,567, and in fact the figures, probably for psychological reasons, fell steadily in the following years, until they reached their lowest point in 1932, when only 300 Irish went to the US.A.; from 1931 to 1938 Irish emigrants to U.S.A. never exceeded 1,000 in any one year. These trends gradually diverted the main stream of Irish migration to Britain: The Board of Trade figures for migration from Eire to Great Britain read as follows: 1924, 18,000; 1925, 8,800; 1926, 11,400; 1927, 7.500; 1928, 5,500: 1929, 7,900; 1930. 8,600; 1931, 9,800; 1932, 13,200: 1933, 11,300; 1954, 16,400; 1935, 22,100; 1936, 32,300; 1937, 30,600; 1938, 28,300. The later years show a decrease in the numbers of Irish entering Scotland. The increase into England in the later 1930's was no doubt influenced by rearmament. Between 1924 aud 1938 45 per cent. of Irish immigrants arrived in the 1 iverpool area, and the percentage of Irish emigrants coming to Britain rose from five in 1911-1913 to 94 in 1931l937. Figures are not yet available for the war years, but it has been unofficially stated that over 300,000 Irish came to Britain during the war, and one saw and visited hundreds of hostels where Irish munition workers, Irish farm workers, and Irish camp builders lived, while they made an invaluable contribution to the war effort; they led to the setting up of hundreds of Mass centres, like their fathers who, a generation ago, built the great Bradford Nidderdale reservoir, and led to the building or our tine church at Pate-Icy Bridge. Walshaw points out that in spite of emigration the Irish population is holding its own, and shows signs of a considerable natural increase: he rejoices that increasing prosperity is leading to earlier marriage.

[The facts given in the above article are the subject of comment in the leading article on page 4].




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