A Warm Welcome
County Wicklow extended a very warm welcome recently to His Excellency Ambassador Kevin Vickers – Canadian Ambassador to Ireland. Beginning with a tour and lunch in Wicklow’s Historic Gaol, the Ambassador was then formally received as a special guest by Wicklow County Council, and the day was completed with a trip to the set of the Vikings television series at Luggalaw.
Ambassador Vickers was born and raised in Miramichi, New Brunswick an area of Canada with deep Irish roots. The city of Miramichi calls itself “Canada’s Irish Capital” and is home every year to Canada’s Irish Festival. Indeed, according to Wicklow County Council’s Archives & Genealogy Service, Ambassador Vickers’ family hail from Arklow, County Wicklow! Ambassador Vickers was presented with his Vickers’ Family History and officially welcomed by the council as a Wicklow man. Commenting on a possible Vickers connection with County Laois, Cathaorleach John Ryan jokingly commented that if Offaly can claim President Obama, then Wicklow can claim Ambassador Vickers!
Canada and the Fitzwilliam Estate, Coolattin
The historic links between Canada and County Wicklow were emphasised on the occasion, where almost one thousand families left the Fitzwilliam Estate in Coolattin. County Wicklow during the Famine, assisted by their landlord to emigrate to Canada. These families mainly settled in the Ambassador’s home province of New Brunswick and it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Canadians and North Americans are descended from the Coolattin Estate.
New Fitzwilliam Estate Digitisation Project
Indeed, Ambassador Vickers was delighted to hear about a new and exciting project to digitise the records of the tenants of the Fitzwilliam Estate and make them searchable for their descendants in Canada and around the world. This project is headed by the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, which is in the heart of the former Coolattin Estate in partnership with Trinity College Dublin, the National Library of Ireland and the Wicklow County Archives Service.
Strengthening the links between Wicklow and Canada
As Wicklow County Council Chief Executive Bryan Doyle commented, it is hoped that this project will further strengthen the links between our two countries and that the descendants of the Coolattin estate in Canada and around the world will discover their family history in these records and perhaps visit beautiful County Wicklow to reconnect with the landscape of their ancestors where it all began! In fact, it is easer than ever for Canadians to visit Ireland with the re-establishment of regular direct flights between Ireland and Canada – due in no small part to the lobbying of the Canadian embassy.