March 17this Saint Patrick’s Day, the patron saint of Ireland. There is nothing new I can say about either Saint Patrick or Saint Patrick’s Day. So, I thought I’d honor my Geography background and do something a little different, the demographic of Irish immigration over time. In other words, where did all those Irish men and women go after they left Ireland?
Recently I read a quote that called into account the phrase, “Luck of the Irish.” Basically the quote said that given all the hardships the Irish have undergone, they are not really that lucky. True enough, they have been a conquered and oppressed people. They suffered tremendously from The Great Potato Famine of the mid-nineteenth century. However, that famine forced them to emigrate in huge numbers to other lands. A dominantly Roman Catholic population, they had huge numbers that needed to relocate. The US was the number one destination for that migration.
Today Over 34 million Americans claim Irish ancestry as of 2013 (U.S. Census Bureau). That’s 10.5%of our total population. To put that in perspective, 8.7% of the population claims English ancestry; 8.3% claim Scots ancestry; 10% claim Scots-Irish; and 17% claim German. In other words, people of Irish heritage are a significant part of the European contingent of the population. And we were here long before the potatoes in Ireland starting rotting in the fields. My own family showed up in the 1780s, and didn’t come through Boston or New York, but through Charleston. Maybe not so lucky back in Ireland, but that Irish heritage has diffused around the world, and the fact that they had some place to go when they needed to leave Ireland was lucky. The idea that they have had such a huge impact on the American culture, that was lucky.
So, celebrate your heritage and on Saint Patrick’s Day, celebrate the Irish in you, or in someone you know, because I assure you, you know someone who has a bit of “the Luck of the Irish” in them.