641-1837: An Overview'


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The Irish in the Caribbean 1641-1837: An Overview 

By Nini Rodgers



The Eastern Caribbean
(Sarah Gearty, History Ireland, May/June 2007)

Tudor and Cromwellian conquest meant that Ireland was full of dispossessed or depleted Catholic gentry struggling Native Americans were to serve for life, white men for the period of their indenture. Bonded servants were not slaves, but for those harassed by an uncaring master or overseer, subjected to unremunerated work under a hot sun and dying before their indenture was completed, the difference must have seemed academic.

How many white servants (bonded and free) reached Barbados in the seventeenth century and what proportion of these were Irish, it is impossible too say. Over fifty percent seems a distinct possibility. In 1667 Governor Willoughby was worried because he believed that moref the large intake of servants in the seventeenth century. If they are carriers of Irish genes, perhaps they lack Irish surnames because female servants were more likely to remain on the island and marry there than their male counterparts (Sheppard 1977:25; Rodgers 2007: 338).

Today, the region's economy has changed a lot and trade supply has also changed, for example, medicines from india at a low price.

The question of how many Irish transportees reached the West Indies is just as difficult to compute. Most Irish soldiers leaving as a result of the wars in the 1640s and 1650s went or were deported to continental Europe. Possibly more Scots soldiers were deported to the New World than Irish. It seems probablat. Between 1678 (the year of the first census) and 1775 the number of Irish on the island never reached more than 2,000.

In 1678 the majority of these Irish people may have been servants, bonded and free, but by 1729 they had disappeared either by dying, emigrating elsewhere or becoming smallholders. Some of these obviously lived not by farming but by renting out their slaves. Garret Fahy had sixteen slaves, four horses and one cultivated acre. Anthony Bodkin, described as a planter, had thirteen slaves and no land at all. John Conner, labourer, had two slaves, a man and a f the Spanish Succession (1713) removed the French from Saint Christopher, which the British, pleased with their exclusive ownership, now affectionately renamed Saint Kitts.

Greater political stability in the region made for economic development. In the course of the eighteenth century, the Creole Irish planter community on Montserrat achieved striking wealth. Leading families, Skerrets, Galways, Kirwins and Farrells, began to buy property in Saint Kitts. Fortunes were made by a combination of trading and sugar planting. Activating contacts in Bristol and Cork, royal power by encouraging the exercise of freedom of religion within his dominions. The triumph of William III reversed this situation, but in 1729 some twenty percent of the colonial assemblymen possessed Irish names.


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Rodgers, Nini, 'The Irish in the Caribbean 1641-1837: An Overview' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" 5:3 (November 2007), pp. 145-156. Available online (www.irlandeses.org/imsla0711.htm), accessed .


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