The Irish immigrated and formed a community in Greenock. Knowing why the Irish were drawn to this city, may help you in finding your ancestors.
The fares from Ireland to Greenock were relatively inexpensive, making it a destination place even prior to the Potato Famine. The Famine years in 1846-7 saw immigrants flood to Scotland in general. Immigration consisted of both Irish Catholics and Protestants. The “Mother Parish” for Roman Catholics was St. Mary’s which can be traced to 1808, and the Famine swelled its numbers. Protestants had any number of Presbyterian and non-conformist churches to choose from.
Greenock is in the historic county of Renfrewshire. It is a seaport, and major industrial area. Under the Act of Union (1707), Greenock became the main port on the West Coast, where it prospered through trade with the American Colonies, especially through importing and processing sugar from the Caribbean.
Historically, Greenock was a center for shipbuilding, sugar refining and wool manufacturing. The Irish worked in all these industries. It’s the sugar industry that most researchers do not associate with the Irish. Sugar refining began in 1765. Fourteen refineries operated in the city, and by the end of the nineteenth century, about 400 ships a year were transporting sugar from the Caribbean to Greenock for processing. The 1851 Census showed that 44.3% of the female textile workers were Irish women. The Irish took jobs such as this because many were less skilled, lacked education, and often only spoke Gaelic. This with local prejudice kept them under represented in more skilled trades.
As a major historical port, Greenock provided the jumping off point for many Irish elsewhere around the world. Don’t be surprised if you find that your Irish immigrant family spent time in Greenock for a short time or for several generations.
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