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Irish Emigration to Canada: The Directive Role of William Hutton

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 08, 1992


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by C. J. Houston, W. J. Smyth

"For much of the first half of the nineteenth century the Irish constituted the largest immigrant group in Canada, outnumbering the English, Scottish and American settlers. In the post 1855 period the significance of the Irish waned amongst the migration stream and they became a scarcely identifiable minority.

However, in that critical first half of the century the Irish settlers laid firm bases for settlements that were to retain for many generations, the distinctive cultural identity transplanted from Ireland.

The nature and identity of these Canadian-Irish settlements varied in response to both the composition of the Irish immigrant community (be they Protestant or Catholic), and varied also in response to the environmental challenges posed by the different geographical regions of the huge country.

Thus, for example, in Newfoundland a largely Catholic Irish community supported for the most part by fishing emerged early on, whereas in neighbouring New Brunswick the emphasis was on farming and part-time forestry.

The rich agricultural lands of Ontario sustained Irish communities that were characterised by large­ scale commercial farming, and further west, the mountains of British Columbia attracted gold miners, foresters and ranchers. No single stereotype of the Irish in Canada is applicable."

This article looks at the life of William Hutton - farmer, writer, administrator and emigration propagandist.