The Palatines

After the Huguenots, the second wave of Protestant refugees were the Palatine Germans. In early May 1709, thousands of the inhabitants of the countryside of Hesse and Baden, near the city of Mannheim, were forced off their land by the wars between Louis XIV and a confederacy that included England. They made their way to Rotterdam and, from there, to London in English ships.

The English appear to have been ill-prepared to receive them, and over 800 families, more than 6000 people, were dispatched to Ireland between September 1709 and January 1710.

Initially, there was some difficulty in placing the Palatines; of 538 families first taken on as tenants by Anglo-Irish landlords, 352 were reported to have deserted their holdings, and a good number of these returned to England.

However, some of the settlements were highly successful, in particular that on the Southwell lands around Rathkeale in Co. Limerick in 1712. One hundred and fifty families settled here on very favourable terms, and within a few years were fully engaged in the production of hemp, flax and cattle.

A second successful, and sizable, settlement of Palatine families was carried out on the lands of Abel Ram, near Gorey in Co. Wexford around the same period. The distinctive Palatine way of life endured in these areas until well into the nineteenth century. Evidence of their eventual full absorption into the life of the country is found today in the geographical spread of the distinctive surnames of their descendants - Switzer, Ruttle, Sparling, Tesky, Fitzell.