Irish emigrants on America’s shores


Sir, – In his review of the film “Black 47”(The Ticket,September 7th), Donald Clarke alludes to the difficultly in verifying the origins of the quote found in Joyce’s Ulysses that, “Soon the Celt will be as rare in Ireland as a Red Man on the shores of Manhattan”. Often attributed to the Times of London, the provocative line has not turned up in any archival search by this writer, among others.

However, readers might be interested in a later comment by the Times as cited in the Nation in May 1860 about what the paper saw then as the burgeoning threat to the British Empire posed by the hundreds of thousands of embittered Irish emigrants on America’s shores in the years after the Famine: “If this goes on . . . the United States will become very Irish . . . So an Ireland there will still be, but on a colossal scale and in an new world. We shall only have pushed the Celts westwards. Then no longer cooped up between the Liffey and the Shannon he will be spread from New York to San Francisco and keep up the ancient feud at an unfrozen advantage. We must gird our loins to encounter the nemesis of seven centuries of misgovernment.”

That substantial support in various forms for land reform as well as armed insurrection and constitutional change alike in Ireland would come in large part from the efforts of the Irish and their offspring in America would indeed mark that publication’s sentiments as prescient. – Yours, etc,