Manoir Les Gaillardoux - French gastronomy, wine, medieval architecture and history

The Irish

In this article, Sheridan Gilley looks at the rich history surrounding Irish immigration abroad.

The crowds which packed the exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite painting in the Tate Gallery last year saw Walter Howell Deverell's picture of 1853-4, 'The Irish Vagrants ', showing a pauper family beside an English road. One man is asleep, a second is sunk in dejection, a sleeping infant clasps a woman impressive and impassive in despair, while two half-naked children stand, one of them pleading for alms from an unheeding lady riding by. The painting is a Christian Socialist comment on a great natural calamity, the Irish pauper influx into Britain in 1845-51 in the wake of the Irish Famine. Yet that fight from starvation only hastened an existing trend: Irish immigration was a trickle in 1790s, a stream in the 1820s, a river in the 1840s, and a flood from the late 1840s as the Irish-born population of England and Wales rose from 291,000 in 1841 to 520,000 in 1851, reached its peak of 602,000 in 1861, at about 3 per cent of the total population, and fell to 427,000 at the end of the century.

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