Why the Irish migrated

Illustration depicting Irish emmigrants sailing to the US during the Great Famine (aka the Irish potato Famine), 1850.
Irish emmigrants sailing to America during the Great Famine, 1850

Thousands of families left Ireland in the 19th century because of rising rents and prices, bad landlords, poor harvests, and a lack of jobs. The Great Famine in the 1840s - a result of the potato disease that killed the crop most Irish depended on to survive - caused a million to leave Ireland, with many going to Britain and the USA.

Ireland was then a part of Great Britain, ruled from London. The majority of Irish immigrants came to work in the factories of the north west of England, especially Liverpool, which was easily reached by boat from Dublin and Belfast. Many families arrived in a poor state - hungry, weak and sick - and found themselves living in overcrowded, unhealthy ‘court dwellings’. Death rates were high as was evidenced by reports written by Liverpool’s Medical Officer of Health. However, conditions were much the same for the English working classes at that time.