One advantage Protestant and Catholic Irish immigrants shared in coming to Canada was fluency, or at least some familiarity, with the English language. This allowed them to participate more immediately and more directly in Canadian society than many other non-English-speaking immigrants(16).
The social cohesiveness of Irish Catholics was of great benefit during their re-settlement. Years of oppression had made the Irish very close-knit. They'd developed mutual aid societies to help one another. This independence of the state and natural generosity was underscored by a strong religious conviction that you were your brother's keeper. It was this kindness that helped soften a nation and made it more decent.
The descendants of Irish immigrants today comprise more than ten per cent of the Canadian population(17). Well known Irish in Canada have included:
Edward Blake, barrister, businessman, politician, statesman and dominant figure of the Liberal Party during the first twenty years of Confederation and the opponent most feared in debate by John A. Macdonald(18).
Timothy Eaton, who emigrated to Canada in 1854 with 100 pounds and in 1869 opened a little store on the south-west corner of Yonge and Queen, which became the foundation of a great retail organization serving all of Canada(19).
Nellie McClung, an activist and prominent campaigner in the drive for female suffrage in Manitoba and Alberta. McClung is a nationally known feminist and social reformer. Sixteen books and numerous articles made her one of Canada's best known authors(20).
Francis Michael(King) Clancy grew up in Ottawa and went on to become a legend in the sport of Hockey. King was a star defence man in the National Hockey League, a coach, a referee and finally, the vice-president of the Toronto Maple Leaf's hockey club(21).
Other notables include John Joseph Lynch, D'Alton McCarthy, John O'Connor, Eugene O'Keefe, Michael Sullivan, Timothy Sullivan, Edmund Burke, Sir Guy Carleton, Benjamin Cronyn, and Brian Mulroney, former leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister of Canada.
Perhaps the earliest Irish Canadian statesman was Thomas D'Arcy McGee. First and foremost McGee was a champion of the rights of the Irish. He emigrated to the United States at the age of seventeen in 1842, but returned to his homeland during the Famine years and led the fight for Independence. In 1848, disguised as a priest, he made his way onto a ship bound for America.
From then on he was driven by the dominant concern of his life: the condition of the Irish in the United States and Canada. His efforts were directed through his pen; he circulated pamphlets and edited various newspapers. In 1857 he focussed his attentions on Canada and made the transition from journalism to politics. McGee was elected as a member of parliament for Montreal and was instrumental in establishing the right of Catholics to funds for separate Catholic schools(22).
By this time, Father Bernard McGauran was continuing his own humanitarian efforts for the Irish. McGauran had survived the miserable summer of 1847 at Grosse Isle, despite his own bout with typhus. After his work was done for the Famine Irish, Father McGauran established Saint Brigid's Home, a shelter for destitute Irish immigrants, widows and orphans. Saint Brigid's still exists today as a senior citizen's residence and carries on with McGauran's legacy. The home has moved and grown over the years and now stands on a lot beside St. Patrick's cemetery, the burial place of Father Bernard McGauran(23).
16 - The 1998 Canadian
& World Encyclopedia 23 - Saint Brigid's,
16 - The 1998 Canadian
& World Encyclopedia
23 - Saint Brigid's,
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