Newfoundland Irish - Irish Settlement of Newfoundland

Irish Settlement of Newfoundland

Seven English colonies were established by royal charter in Newfoundland between 1610 and 1628, and London-based mercantile companies used Celtic-speaking peasants to settle each one. The colonists were primarily Welsh peasants but there were also many Irish peasants who usually only spoke Irish. The language was commonly spoken in rural areas until the mid-20th century. There is evidence to suggest that as many as 90% of the Irish immigrants to Newfoundland in the 17th and 18th centuries only spoke Irish.

Court records show that defendants often required Irish-speaking interpreters, which indicates that the dominant language in many areas of the Avalon Peninsula was Irish rather than English. Ecclesiastical documents bolster this case; for example, in the mid-1760s a Methodist missionary named Reverend Laurence Coughlan converted virtually the whole North Shore to Methodism. Observers credited the success of his evangelical revival at Carbonear and Harbour Grace to the fact that he was fluently bilingual in English and Irish. The Roman Catholic bishops also realized the importance of Irish-speaking priests - in letters to Dublin, Bishop James Louis O'Donel requested a Franciscan missionary for the parishes of St. Mary's and Trepassey, indicating that it was absolutely necessary that he should speak Irish.

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