The ethnoculture identity of the Irish Saskatchewanian is a cherished part of the province of Saskatchewan. The Irish expression in the province encompasses settlers from the early 1900s, as well as Saskatchewan commmunities with Irish naming. No history of the Irish in Saskatchewan is complete without paying tribute to those notable Irish pioneers who have contributed to the growth of Saskatchewan as a province. More recently, history is repeating itself with a push to introduce a new Irish immigration settlement wave to Saskatchewan.
In 1911, the Irish comprised about 12.2 per cent of the population in the province of Saskatchewan. According to Michael Cottrell, “the Irish nevertheless possessed certain advantages Early arrival, white skin, Christian adherence, proficiency in the English language, familiarity with the democratic process, and the ability to exploit a wide range of economic opportunities all presaged success.” On the 2001 census, 8 per cent of the Saskatchewan population claimed Irish origin, and over 90 per cent declared Irish ancestry.
The first wave of Irish immigration to Canada was between 1800 and 1840 before the Irish famine, and many of these Irish pioneers settled in eastern Canada. The Ontario Irish settling in the Ottawa valley during the great migration of the Irish famine 1843-1849) again migrated in response to homestead opportunities in Saskatchewan between 1900-1912 After the 1840s to 1920 Irish settlement in North America was mainly in the United States.
Sinnett was home to an Irish Ethnic Settlement bloc founded by Father John Sinnett who brought Irish settlers from both Eastern Canada and Ireland. Sinnett is currently classified as an unincorporated area within the Rural Municipality of Leroy No. 339. According to Bill Barry, St. Ignatius Church, Loyola School district No. 1910, McGuire Post office, and the Tipperary telephone company were all within this “Irish Colony.”
Zenon Pohorecky also reported in his book Saskatchewan people:
a brief illustrated guide to their ethnocultures that in the early 1900s Marengo, Sturgis, Scott, Simpson, Wilkie, and Young also saw Irish migrants.
The communities of Connaught, D’Arcy, Davin, Enniskillen district, Erinferry, Limerick,Meath Park, McGee, Shaunavon, and Wynyard all have names of Irish origin, or honour notable Irishmen. These communities, however, were not known as large Irish ethnic bloc settlements.
These notable people hail from the Emerald Isle and have had an impact on the development of Saskatchewan and its transformation.
Captain John Palliser (January 29, 1817 – August 18, 1887) was born in Dublin, Ireland, and is noted for his explorations of the North West Territories in 1857 and 1867. His reports identified a belt of fertile land bordering on an area of semi-arid land which he claimed was an extension of the American desert “which can never be expected to become occupied by settlers.” This portion of the prairies is now termed the Palliser Triangle.
William Francis Butler (1838–1910) an Irishman out of Ballystateen, Golden, Co. Tipperary is renowned for his exploration between Quebec and the Rocky mountains undertaken in 1870-1871. Butler’s recommendations to establish a mobile police force in the area were followed up on. In the spring of 1873, the North-West Mounted Police were established. He reached the Pacific Ocean on his second journey across North America in 1873. The Great Lone Land, The Wild North Land and the adventure tale Red cloud;the solitary Sioux (Néall dearg) describe his treks.
Nicholas Flood Davin (January 13, 1840 – October 18, 1901) born at Kilfinane, Ireland is known for establishing the first newspaper (1883) in the Assiniboine Provisional district, North-West Territories, the Regina Leader. As well, he authored the book The Irishman in Canada (1877). Davin, a captivating orator also proposed that the NWT should receive provincial status.
Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton (c.1850–1931) born to Irish parentage was an international traveler and merchants. In 1904 his travels brought him to Lipton, Saskatchewan setting up a company town. Lipton, owner of ranches, and packing plants across America, plantations in Ceylon and India is known for establishing a chain of grocery stores and printing presses for advertising which were the forerunners of the famous “The Lipton Tea Company bringing tea “direct from the tea gardens to the tea pot” to everyone.
Dr. Maurice Macdonald Seymour M.D., C. M., D. P. H., (July 7, 1857 – January 6, 1929), of Irish ancestry established the Saskatchewan Medical Association, the Anti-Tuberculosis League and the sanitorium at Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.
Premier Brad Wall and Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration Minister Rob Norris traveled to Ireland in March of 2012 recruiting Irish workers as part a Saskatchewan immigration policy. “We look forward to telling our story in Ireland. Immigration is helping sustain our economic momentum and enriching our cultural diversity,” Wall stated.
“The great famine of 1843-1849 forced many to flee Ireland, and now 500 emigrants leave the Emerald Isle every week due to a dire economy. Norris said “we welcome these newcomers to discover the Saskatchewan advantage.”
An Old Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
For more information:
Couglin, Jack. “The Irish colony of Saskatchewan”.
Lochleven Publishers. 1995. Scarborough, Canada. ISBN 0969930003.
Shamrock History Book Society. “Harvest of memories: R.M. 134 and Shamrock“. Shamrock History Book Society. 1990. ISBN 0919781519, 9780919781511.
Quinn, James (November 2009). Chapter Butler, William Francis. d’Alton, Ian (November 2009). Chapter Lipton, Sir Thomas Johnstone. “The Dictionary of Irish Biography“. In James McGuire and James Quinn (digitised online). Cambridge University Press and the Royal Irish Academy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN:9780521633314. Retrieved 2012/03/27.
Cottrrell, Michael (2004). “Encyclopedia of the Great Plains“. In David J. Wishart. digisited online by google books. U of Nebraska Press. p. 236,237. Retrieved 2012/03/27.
“Government of Saskatchewan Supports Labour Recruitment Mission to Ierland“. Government of Saskatchewan. February 6, 2012.
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