The Famine Irish in Liverpool from the Strokestown Park Estate in 1847


The Story of Famine Irish emigrants from the Strokestown Park estate of Major Denis Mahon (now home of the National Famine Museum) who were forced to emigrate to Liverpool in 1847. An extended excerpt from the Liverpool Irish documentary by Roger Appleton (Brightmoon Media) and Greg Quiery (Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee) for the Great Famine Voices Roadshow.


Great Famine Voices Liverpool Irish Festival


Witness Famine and migration accounts of Liverpool’s Irish community, recorded for the Great Famine Voices Roadshow as part of an ongoing partnership between the Irish Heritage Trust, the National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park, and the Liverpool Irish Festival. The Great Famine Voices Liverpool Irish Festival short film features interviews with members of Liverpool’s diverse Irish community, many of whom are of Famine Irish ancestry.


Liverpool: A Famine Frontier


Professor Christine Kinealy reflects on the Famine Irish legacy in Liverpool as part of the  The Famine Irish in Liverpool Digital Symposium (May 2, 2020). Also watch Professor John Belchem’s Irish Fever: Famine and the Liverpool Irish here.


Teresa Hill reflects on her mixed Irish and west African descent (Sierra Leone) and the diversity of Liverpool’s Irish community. She traces her ancestry to Famine era emigrant Luke Bernard who left Dublin for Liverpool in 1840. She recalls that she was brought up to be very proud of both her Irish and African origins. “I feel I have come from two great races of people who have been pushed down — put into slavery, starved — but they keep coming through,” she notes . “I think that is what give me my pride of my heritage”.


Michael Boyle, former university lecturer at the University of Liverpool, recalls his Black and Irish roots from Dublin and County Mayo, West Africa (Sierra Leone), and the West Indies. His grandmother’s McHale ancestors from County Mayo were Famine Irish emigrants who arrived in Liverpool in the mid-1840s. He is very proud of his mixed heritage which he notes is typical of the melting pot or salad bowl effect of people of all different races rubbing shoulders with each other in the area of the “emigrants’ houses” to be found in southern end of the city.


Roz Gladden pays tribute to her grandfather William Dermody whose father Patrick Dermody and mother Margaret Ryan both migrated from Limerick to Newcastle-under-Lyme during the Great Famine. They both died in the workhouse while William was an infant. He was left orphaned and separated from his two siblings. He left the workhouse at the age twelve when he was sold into the mines in Wigan. He married, had six children, and then took his life on the anniversary of his mother’s death in 1865.  She pays tribute to those who survived against the odds during the Great Hunger and feels a responsibility to tell his story and his family’s story. She honours the Famine Irish legacy of resilience.


Greg Quiery (Chairperson of the Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee) reflects on the Great Famine Voices Liverpool Irish Festival interviews he conducted that showcase the diversity of the city’s Irish community and its multiracial Famine Irish ancestry.


Sonia, Roma, and Lisa Fong reflect on their Chinese and Irish ancestry that brought their grandmother from Galway and grandfather from a small village outside Canton to Liverpool. They attribute their sense of humour, work ethic, ready acceptance of others, and strong faith to their mixed heritage. They show a family heirloom of a sculpture that is part of a chapel dedicated by their father in Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral.


Gerry French recalls her maternal Liverpool Irish ancestry and her family origins in Castlblaney, County Monaghan. She recollects the famine like conditions that her grandmother Mary McAdam suffered in Ballybay, County Monaghan, where she survived on cups of oats and lost a baby. She emigrated to Liverpool and never returned. French also notes that her Irish great grandparents were illiterate but found upward social mobility for their descendants in leaving Ireland. In tracing their journey, she realized how the stories of migrants repeat themselves again and again in relation to other groups. She also discovers a family connection with George Harrison, whose ancestor was a French from Ferns in County Wexford.


Great Famine Voices Roadshow Liverpool Gallery


Edward Egan recalls his Famine Irish ancestor William who is buried in an unmarked grave in Clonmel, County Tipperary. His son James Patrick Egan joined the British Army and served in the First World War, never returning to Ireland. He settled and married in Liverpool, but became estranged from his family and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Jim Finn recounts that his great grandfather Patrick was born in Thomastown, County Tipperary, in the parish of Golden in 1842. He notes that they migrated to Lancaster during the Great Famine and appear in the 1850 census. He notes that he inverted his name from Patrick James to James Patrick because of the persistent anti-Catholic discrimination in Liverpool in his youth.

Paul Cooper recalls his grand mother Catherine Cooper who emigrated from Castlebar, County Mayo, in the 1860s to Glasgow and then Liverpool. She married Paul’s grandfather David Cooper, who was orphaned as a young boy. She went into service and had to contend with anti-Catholic discrimination. His father worked in the docks and helped educate fellow Irish labourers. Paul Cooper notes that he and his siblings grew up as Liverpudlians, but their Irishness was also another very important layer in their identity.

Paul Barry recalls his great grandfather John Barry from Limerick who walked to Dublin seeking work. He then migrated to Liverpool and lived in a boarding house. His ancestor Hugh O’Donnell left Newport, County Mayo, in the 1850s fleeing the Great Famine for Liverpool. His maternal ancestors Michael Doherty and William Ormsby also fled famine-stricken Mayo for Liverpool in the 1840s. He feels that Brexit has made his sense of Irish ancestry more pronounced. He also contends that the Liverpool Scouse identity was shaped by Irish influences and the lingering effects of the Great Hunger migration.

Patrick Reynolds offers wide ranging recollections of his Irish ancestors from the mid-nineteenth century settling in Birkenhead, and especially Oak Street, where he grew up. He notes the Garibaldi Riots in Birkenhead in 1862 and lingering Irish factional tensions.

Tricia Mackin recalls her Famine Irish and more recent ancestors Patrick O’Hara from Armagh who migrated to Liverpool.