I can’t remember what it is like to travel without the aim of academic pursuit. Two undergraduate trips at SSU that took me to Western Europe and South Africa set a certain standard of travel that has me absorbed in learning about the history, culture, and social climate of every country I visit. Perhaps less of tourist, but also less of a vacationer! Now, a few years after my undergraduate degree, I am working on a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies–this academic venture has taken me across the Atlantic once again to a country in which I am a very obvious stranger: Ireland.
It has been one week of a four week trip–one day I am tourist, the next a student, and another, a representative for St. Stephen’s University and our extensive travel study programs.
Although my accomplishments my first few days merely involved staying awake after an extremely long red eye through London, I did have the opportunity to get acquainted with Trinity College in the heart of Dublin. Trinity College is the starting point of my research on Irish Catholic Immigration to Atlantic Canada. In learning the basic of TC library use, however, my suspicions were confirmed–most of the primary sources I need are scattered around Ireland at local history site (archives, libraries, museums, etc.). I didn’t imagine there were any sources Trinity College didn’t have as it contains over 4 millions books–copyright laws automatically give them a copy of every book published in England. I have more respect for a degree in Library Studies now more than ever…I can’t imagine having to catalog and organize all those collections! In fact, only about 20% of Trinity’s sources are on the shelves for public access–the rest are stockpiled or electronic.
I suppose some people are wondering (and the rare few maybe even interested) what I am actually studying here in Ireland. Well, this is all research for my classes at St. Stephen’s University and eventual Masters thesis. Specifically, while I am here, I am focusing on a research paper called “Cultural Transfer and the Irish Immigration Narrative in New Brunswick.” Of course I am looking at Irish settlement in all the Maritimes, but often New Brunswick (Saint John and St. Andrews) was an entry point for Irish immigrants.
Here is a short excerpt from my project proposal which i am using as an outline which may give you an idea of exactly what i am doing way over here across the Atlantic:
The Irish Diaspora is a compelling field of study in both Canada and Ireland. With the help of the Ireland Canada University Foundation, I plan to explore in depth the historical phenomenon of cultural transfer and the Irish immigration narrative in New Brunswick and Maritime Canada. Through the study of the Irish exodus and the eventual settlement of Irish Catholics in New Brunswick (1765-1850), Atlantic Canada as a whole will gain a clearer understanding of the Irish contribution to Canadian identity. This work will provide a detailed case study of early Irish settlement communities in the province of New Brunswick (particularly the Miramichi and Saint John regions) to determine what cultural traits and traditions were both left behind in the “Old World” and which were kept in particular “New World” settlements. To achieve this research objective, a thorough analysis of the cultural transfer of early Irish communities is essential. I plan to uncover the ideals of these early immigrants, how their expectations were met (or not met), how the economic and social status of the Catholic immigrants in particular affected their migration and settlement choices, which folk traditions were kept and which were lost, and finally how fully appreciating the Irish Diaspora in the Maritime Provinces will help preserve Irish culture and enhance Canada’s Irish identity.
The Irish Catholic settlement communities in New Brunswick remained unassimilated longer than other regions of immigration in the region. They still retain a vibrant Irish identity. As such, these communities can be used as a case study for both Irish and Canadian scholars alike. However, to be credible, this research initiative must have access to significant sources contained in the archives and libraries of Dublin; sources such as emigration and ship records, censuses, newspapers, and periodicals, as well as immigration and folk literature and related first-hand accounts. The Irish people in New Brunswick have much to offer both Canada and Ireland, but cultural transfer and the Irish immigration narrative needs deliberate attention and investment. As one scholar of Irish Diaspora Studies put it, “If Irish Diaspora Studies – and, indeed, Irish Studies – is to be anything more than a ragbag of predilections then we must make good scholarship our first aim.” (Patrick O’Sullivan, University of Bradford, 1997).
I plan to post regular updates about my experiences here in Dublin and beyond, so keep checking to learn more about my FASCINATING research topic, as well as some other cool pieces of information about life in Ireland. I am also using this time of study and reflection as a bit of personal pilgrimage so please keep me in prayer as I journey throughout the Emerald Isle.