The Caribbean Irish Team?


Sir, - While Ireland will not have a team in the World Cup in France this year there is, however, a team at which all Irish "oles" could, with justification, be directed. I refer to Jamaica, Ireland's twin of the Caribbean.

Ireland's connections with Jamaica are both historical and genealogical though unfortunately not quite so recent as to allure us to invoke the "granny rule" and have these champions of the Caribbean play in the green of Ireland. Nonetheless the connections are many.

The merchant tribesmen of Galway city, with names such as Lynch, Blake, Bodkin and Skerrett, were active in trade and shipping there from as early as the mid 1600s. Names such as Kelly, Daly, Browne, Concannon and Bourke featured prominently among 17th, 18th and 19th-century plantation owners. But the greatest settlement of Irish people in Jamaica occurred during the Cromwellian confiscations in Ireland when hundreds of men, women and children were deported there as indentured servants to work alongside the African slaves. Later still in 1841 some 127 people from Limerick emigrated there, much to the disgust of Daniel O'Connell, who declared the scheme which encouraged them to go was nothing more than white slavery. A Mayoman, the astronomer, mathematician and botanist Dr Patrick Browne, achieved great fame in 1755 for his publication, The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica.

But perhaps the greatest contribution made by an Irishman to the history of Jamaica was by Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquess of Sligo form Westport House. This seventh great-grandson in descent from Ireland's great Pirate Queen, Granuaile, was appointed Governor General of Jamaica in 1834. Enshrined in the history of Jamaica as the "Emancipator of the Slaves", Howe Peter took on the might of the plantation owners and powerful elements in the British government, to oversee emancipation there. The first "free village" in the West Indies, Sligoville, was named in his honour. He was the first to free the slaves in his own plantation inherited from his grandmother, Elizabeth Kelly, daughter of Dennis Kelly, Lisduff, Co Galway, Chief Justice of Jamaica.

Both Ireland and Jamaica share another connection in that both countries produced women pirates of great fame. Ireland's Pirate Queen, Granuaile's career preceded that of the two infamous Jamaican pirates, Ann Bonny (born in Cork) and her companion, Mary Read.

Today an abundance of Irish names abound in Jamaica, many still preserving the O and Mac of their originators. Names such as Irishtown, Connemara, Brownestown, proclaim their Irish origins. Like the Irish, informality, a sense of humour music and dance, the lilt in the speech, further affirm the connections. So instead of bemoaning the absence of our team in France this summer, we Irish should raise a collective cheer for the black, green and gold of our blood-brothers of the Caribbean. - Yours, etc., Anne Chambers

Brighton Avenue, Rathgar, Dublin 6.