Far from the homes of their fathers : Irish Catholics in St. John's, Newfoundland, 1840-86

Lambert, Carolyn (2010) Far from the homes of their fathers : Irish Catholics in St. John's, Newfoundland, 1840-86. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Despite being the first substantial Irish Catholic settlement in British North America, little work has been done on the Irish Catholic community in St. John's, Newfoundland in the second half of the nineteenth century. Much of what has been written by historians has focused on the migrant generation, their settlement patterns and adaptation. There is little understanding of the development of the multigenerational Irish ethnic group after 1840. This study addresses this lacuna, examining the Irish Catholic ethnic group in St. John's between 1840 and 1886. There are many reasons to undertake such a case study. St. John's was not only the political, economic and social center of the colony, it was also the most populous area with the largest number of Irish Catholics. It provides an opportunity to study the evolution of an Irish Catholic group that was unique in North America in that it formed the majority of the city's population during that period. Demographically, St. John's was also distinctive because Catholics were counterbalanced by a Protestant population that was of English rather than Irish descent. This makes the context of study different from other urban areas of British North America, where Catholics formed a minority and Irish Protestants formed a large portion of the population. Lack of large-scale Irish migration to Newfoundland after the 1830s allows for an examination of the development of a Catholic group that was established in the pre-Famine period and that was majority Newfoundland-born by 1857. -- As the first detailed account of Irish Catholics in St. John's between 1840 and 1886, this study chronicles their political, religious and social evolution through an examination of the Catholic Church, education, associations, politics and support for Irish nationalism. As a community study viewed through the lens of ethnicity, it traces the evolution of the identity of the multi-generational community. The findings are placed within the context of the wider North American diaspora to illuminate how the Irish Catholic experience in St. John's compares to other regions. -- Catholics in St. John's did well compared to other urban areas in North America. By 1886, they were an integral part of the fabric of St. John's at all levels. The Catholic community of the late 1880s was confident, politically involved, and socially active due to the leadership of the Catholic Church and an expanded middle-class elite. Greater resources allowed the Church to assume control over education and associational life, which reinforced religious devotion and allowed it to impose its moral code upon the community. Catholics continued to have a say in the running of the colony as they dominated electoral politics and maintained a strong political voice. Politics became less divisive and less ethnically and religiously-based. By the 1880s, the growth of Newfoundland nationalism superseded that of Irish nationalism. For native-born Catholics and their political leaders, far removed from the everyday struggles of Ireland, local political issues and concerns became paramount. -- Between 1840 and 1886, the Catholic community in St. John's evolved from a largely immigrant one defined by an Irish ethnic identity and world view, to one where Catholicism and not ethnicity became the basis of community solidarity. Members identified primarily as Newfoundland-born Catholics, and it was their religion that provided them with an essential link to their Irish past. Although a romantic attachment to Ireland remained, they were far from the homes of their fathers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/9184
Item ID: 9184
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 395-416).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 2010
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador--Avalon Peninsula--St. John's
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Catholic Church--Newfoundland and Labrador--History; Catholics--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John's--History; Irish--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John's--History; Religion and politics--Newfoundland and Labrador--History; Ethnicity--Newfoundland and Labrador--Religious aspects; Newfoundland and Labrador--Politics and government--19th century

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