Ireland-Canada Exhibition comes to Wicklow

Exhibition displayed at the Gathering event "Canada Come Home" Coolattin House, Wicklow September 2013

A fascinating exhibition charting the historic links between Ireland and Canada is currently on display in Wicklow County Buildings, Wicklow Town and will run until the 8th of April.  The exhibition, which was created by the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Canada will be visited by Loyola Hearn, the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland.  He will also visit the various locations around Wicklow Town with strong Canadian connections, especially those relating to Captain Halpin who laid the first transatlantic telegraph cable from Ireland to Newfoundland in Canada.

Two complimentary exhibits

One exhibit entitled, “In the Wake of the Dark Passage”, deals with the impact of the Great Irish Famine of 1847 which led 30,000 immigrants to New Brunswick, Canada. This display examines the nature of shipping in the 19th century and the rights and treatment of passengers aboard emigrant vessels. . The accompanying exhibit entitled, “An Honourable Independence – Irish Immigration and Settlement in New Brunswick, 1815-1855,” will illustrate the migration and settlement patterns of Irish immigrants in the province and their experiences and contributions to Canadian society. Historical photographs, documents, maps and census data, all drawn from the Provincial Archives, are showcasedin this display

The Irish Immigrant Story

“Together, these displays provide a comprehensive and detailed exploration of the Irish immigrant story in early New Brunswick,” Bruce Driscoll of the Irish Canadian Cultural Association of New Brunswick. explained. “Irish history and heritage has been a theme of wide interest in our province where over 38 per cent of our population is of Irish descent..”

“Canada Come Home” and the Gathering

Both exhibitions arrived in Ireland in September 2013 to be a focal point at ‘Canada Come Home’, one of the Flagship Gathering events in Co. Wicklow which attracted hundreds of Canadian visitors to the event in Coollattin House, former home of the Earls Fitzwilliam. ‘Canada Come Home’ celebrated the lives of all those who left Co. Wicklow for a new life in Canada and in particular the 6000 who were cleared from the Fitzwilliam Estate.

Commemorating the Great Famine

This is the third time that the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick has been called upon to help mark Irish history. In 1997, the Archives took part in the 150th anniversary of the Great Irish Famine which was the focus of several museum exhibitions in Ireland. Then, in 2006 as part of the first Celtic Festival by Sea, the exhibits were featured at the Inishowen Maritime Museum in Greencastle County, Donegal, The New Brunswick exhibit then moved to Derry, Northern Ireland and was at the Harbour Museum in time for the annual Colmcille Lecture. 

Jeannie Johnston

The complementary exhibits “An Honourable Independence” and “Dark Passage” touch on many themes such a human dignity/rights, contributions of groups and cultures to society, interdependence of groups within society and with the environment, and impact of decisions of government. The value of the existing exhibit for educational purposes was tested during the visit of the Irish immigrant ship, the Jeannie Johnston, to Miramichi in September 2003, when visited by over 800 middle school students.

“Dark Passage” has been featured by the Irish Society and PANB at a number of provincial functions, including a formal dinner to honour the President of Ireland, the Irish Studies conference, the Saint John commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Great Irish Famine in 1997, the NB Dept. of Transportation annual meeting, the annual meeting of Associates of PANB, and at all three NB venues for the Jeannie Johnston Visit. 

Next stop: Carrick on Shannon

The exhibit was also shown in Ireland at the National Famine Museum in Strokestown, the Derry Workhouse Museum, the Maritime Museum in Dun Leoghaire, and the Monaghan County Museum.  After Wicklow, it will travel to Carrick on Shannon and to several other venues around Ireland.

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