War Torn to Land of Prosper;
Who Would I Be Without Immigration?
Growing up, I was always very well informed about the tales of my families' pasts, thanks to my open communication with my grandparents on my mother's side. With heavy British and Northern Irish accents, it was hard to miss that my grandparents were recent immigrants. I knew quite a bit about my Nanny's (grandmother) past as well as my Granddad, but it was the minute push and pull factors that I have been really interested in. What made them leave their entire families to sail the Atlantic for months, with just a few pennies and one suitcase? Was it the tears in Ireland or the prosperous view shone on Canada?
These push and pull factors guided my research, along with my desire to know more about my Northern Irish roots. Without the immigration of my mother's parents, I would most likely be living in Londonderry, Northern Ireland with other members of my grandmother's family.
Northern Ireland, commonly mistaken as part of the Republic of Ireland, is actually part of the United Kingdom. This is mostly due to the vast majority of dwellers being of Protestant religion, like that of England, Wales, and Scotland.
My grandmother, Joan Walker, was born November 8, 1927 in Londonderry, Londonderry, Northern Ireland. First child born into a Anglican family that would soon have a total of 7 children, the Walkers were below middle class. According to my interview with her, she left school at the age of 13 to work in a factory that made uniforms for the war effort. Not only did she live and work through all of World War II, but she also served in a "Wren" devision afterwards in aid of the servicemen in the forces, according to both her interview and that of my mother Rosemary.
Prior to the birth of my grandmother, and following the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921), in 1922 Ireland went through a full blown civil war. The Irish Republican Army, or IRA, were of Roman Catholic descent and wanted all of Ireland to unite as a freestanding country from the UK. Northern Ireland, as seen below in pink and purple, was almost completely Protestant in religion, and still had strong ties with Britain. Civil War waged until May 1923 when the "South" established themselves as the Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland) and were their own entity from the United Kingdom, while the North remained true to England (Cotrell, 21).
This sets a backdrop to what life was like for my grandmother growing up. As a post-civil-war torn country, Northern Ireland was very poor economically, and their living standards were low. This progressed further into the Great Depression of the 1930's, and then the start of World War II in 1939.
Not only was World War II in full swing, but Northern Ireland itself was still going through horrific political strife. Despite the civil war being over for close to 20 years, tensions were still high between the Irish of different religions. Discrimination was not common, but considered necessary to those of a different religion. My Nanny Joan had to work at a young age to keep her family from going bankrupt while also raising her siblings like they were her own children.
I completely understand why leaving Londonderry was a good choice, although it did take a lot of convincing from my Granddad, Albert David Marchant. They were married young, and finding a place of work in Ireland or even his home country of England was close to impossible.
The year of emigration was 1954 according to the records, and it just so happens that this was the same time that the IRA began to make a comeback, with the successful arms raid of Gough Barracks in Armagh, which was a signal of more political strife to come after several years of hiatus.
With economics and politics as a great pushing factor, Canada and Australia both had pull factors that my grandparents saw as desirable. Not only was the economy much greater in both countries, but they both had a few friends who had already immigrated to both "lands of prosper". "What won Canada over Australia? " was my main question to my Nanny, with the response of "the language was the same, the boat trip was much shorter, and we must've forget about the climate" with a chuckle on both of our parts. Also, my granddad promised that once resources allowed, Nanny could return home and visit her family annually. Yes, Canada was close to home in the way of culture and climate, not to mention the difference in the length of the journey, as seen below:
|UK to Australia by Sea Vessel|
|UK to Canada (specifically Montreal, the port my grandparents used) by Sea Vessel|
But what if the call to home was too strong for my grandparents and they stayed in Northern Ireland?
Well, I know I would have a bit of a funnier accent...
My serious research on the other hand, tells me that my life In Londonderry, Londonderry would be very similar to how it is in Orangeville, Ontario, but there is actually a chance I would be wealthier.
According to my research, the wage gap between males and females in Canada is much greater than that of Northern Ireland. As well, the cost of living in Londonderry is 17% lower than Canada, as well as the lowest living costs in all of the United Kingdom (Stats-Canada, Stats-Ireland). Furthermore, 21% of the Northern Irish population is below the age of 16, meaning there is much more opportunity for teenage jobs as well as recreation. Education is one of the most valuable resources in the United Kingdom, and post-secondary education is paid for by the government, meaning I would not have to deal with student debt like I will have to in Canada. Also, the unemployment rate is only 5.9% compared to Canada at 7.1% (Trading Economics), verifying that I am more likely to have a career after university in Ireland.
With the many push/pull factors of Northern Ireland and Canada during the time of my grandparents, it is obvious as to why immigration was the best option for their well being. With the statistics today though, would immigration back to Londonderry, Northern Ireland be a good decision? For my grandparents, not entirely, as their life is set in Canada now, but the pull factors of Ireland could be outweighing the holding factors of Canada for youth such as myself.
Would I be willing to leave my family behind for a more bountiful life in a foreign country? I'm sorry to say that I am not quite as brave as my Nanny Joan in that aspect, but it is fascinating to picture how different my life would be if I grew up in her home country instead of the true north of Canada!
Johnston, Wesley. "Distribution of Protestants in Ireland, 1861 & 1991."
Wesley Johnston. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2016.
Marchant, Joan. Personal interview. 14 May 2016.
Godin, Rosemary Joan. Personal interview. 14 May 2016.
Hopkinson, Michael (1988). Green Against Green. Gill and Macmillan. p. 179. The Republican garrison had converted this part of the Four Courts into a munitions factory with the cellars underneath being used to store explosives. The Free State bombardment caused a fire which reached the cellars and the consequent explosion destroyed priceless historical records and documents, some of them dating back to the twelfth century
Cottrell, Peter The Irish Civil War, 1922-23, London: Osprey, 2008 page 21.
Economics, Trading, ed. "Economics of Northern Ireland." Trading Economics.
N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2016. <http://www.tradingeconomics.com>.