Over the period 1845-1849, the fall in yield dropped between twenty five and thirty five percent. That famine led to this Great Hunger, and a great exodus from Ireland, as people sought refuge throughout the world, and particularly here in these United States.
Millions left. That story of the Irish in the west I think is fascinating one, because we think of those people who left – we think of the Irish who arrived in Boston, and New York – and their story is very important.
But as we read the history, we see that those people who landed on the east coast, those people who had the drive, the skills, and the energy – a lot of them went west. Because the west was a place of great hope: great hope for what could be achieved, when they were given a fair shake of the whip, a fair chance to do it.
The Irish came west in massive numbers, drawn by the discovery of copper, and gold, and minerals all across these western United States. They made a huge contribution.
I say to people here it is hard to find a region in the world in which the Irish had a more formative impact than in western America.
One such person who is illustrative of this is the great Nellie Cashman. An Irish born woman from Cork, who came out, born in 1845 at the start of the Famine, emigrated to the U.S. in 1850, into New York, and then came west.
She arrived in Tombstone in 1880. She set herself the first task of building the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tombstone. She was a founding member of that incredible business community that thrives today, and she has been inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame.
We are very proud of people like Nellie Cashman – very proud of all of the impacts, all of the positive impacts that many people who left Ireland and their descendants have made here in the west.
But we are equally proud that they did not forget Ireland. That they and their descendants took up the baton in their new homes – even though they were several thousand miles away – they retained and today still retain enormous pride in their Irish heritage and in their culture.