Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Tag: Waterways Ireland

Christine Kinealy: The Famine Queen at Carton House

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visit Carton House 1849 watch tenants dancing

Tenants in Costume Perform for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Carton House

On the fifth day of the walk, the walkers toured the Carton House estate of Lord Leinster near Maynooth, where the “Famine Queen” Victoria and Prince Albert visited in 1849.

Christine Kinealy portrait

Professor Christine Kinealy, founding Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, writes about Queen Victoria’s visit to Carton House.

Queen Victoria remains a controversial figure for her role during the Great Famine. The widespread belief that she made no financial contribution to assist her starving subjects in Ireland meant that she is widely remembered as ‘the Famine Queen’.   The reality is more complex as Victoria did intervene in a number of ways to assist Ireland between 1846 and 1852, mostly though, at the prompting of the Prime Minister, Lord John Russell.

In 1845, when the potato blight first appeared in Ireland, Queen Victoria was aged only 26, married with four young children. She had never visited Ireland and showed little interest in doing so, which was in strong contrast with her love for Scotland. The second failure of the potato crop in 1846 meant that Ireland became a major concern of the British government and its nominal head, the monarch. This was evident in the Queen’s Speech marking the opening of parliament in January 1847, when she stated that ‘the loss of the usual food of the people has been the cause of severe sufferings, of disease, and of greatly increased mortality among the poorer classes’. In the same month, she issued a ‘Queen’s Letter’ calling on Anglican churches throughout the United Kingdom to donate to Ireland, and to observe a day of special religious services to pray for forgiveness.  The latter action reinforced the idea that the potato blight was a punishment from God.  This providentialist interpretation of the potato failure was prevalent amongst a number of politicians and relief officials, notably Charles Trevelyan of the Treasury. Privately, however, the Queen believed such actions to be irrational and had only called for a day of fast at the request of her Prime Minister.

On a more practical level, at the beginning of 1847 Victoria donated £2,000 to the newly formed British Relief Association, with a promise of more if necessary. Other members of the Royal family also donated to the Association.  Additionally, the appeal by the Queen to the Anglican churches had been successful, raising almost £172,000.  A small portion of this money was used to help the poor in Scotland who had also lost their potato crop.  In October 1847, when it was evident that a third year of famine was inevitable, a second Queen’s Letter was issued, but it raised only £30,000, indicative of the onset of compassion fatigue in regard to helping Ireland.

In 1848, the potato crop was again struck by blight, although it was most severe in the west. At the beginning of the following year, the British government made a small grant to Ireland on the understanding that it would be the final one, regardless of the suffering still evident in the country. In June, as disease and death were showing no signs of abating, the Queen and a number of her ministers made small donations, but the amount raised was pathetically inadequate given the extent of the distress. Around the same time, it was announced that Victoria was going to undertake her first visit to Ireland.

The Queen’s visit in early August 1849, was carefully choreographed. She, accompanied by her husband, Prince Albert, and their children, only visited the east of the country, and they travelled from Cork to Dublin, and Dublin to Belfast, by yacht. For the most part, her public reception was warm, but it also proved divisive, with the Archbishop of Tuam, John MacHale refusing to put his name to a welcome address from the Catholic Church hierarchy.  The Queen, however, seemed genuinely pleased with how she was welcomed, writing to the uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, ‘Everything here has gone beautifully since we arrived in Ireland, and our entrance to Dublin was really a magnificent thing … Our visit to Cork was very successful … the enthusiasm is immense.’

Victoria’s only inland visit came when she was in Dublin, staying in the Vice-Regal Lodge in Phoenix Park, the home of the Lord Lieutenant. On Saturday 11 August, she visited Carton House and Estate, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Leinster.  Wearing a dress trimmed with Limerick Lace, she travelled there in an open barouche, along the banks of the Liffey.  People, included large numbers of the ‘Irish peasantry’ lined the route.  When she reached Maynooth, the students of the seminary lined the streets, dressed in their college regalia and cheered as she passed.  Thousands of other people had come to the town by train, carriage or on foot.

The Queen entered the estate through Kellystown Gate. Shortly afterwards the royal party and about 40 guests, including the President of Maynooth College, the Rev. Renehan, sat down to ‘partake of a magnificent dejeuner’. While they ate about 160 people were given refreshments ‘of the most varied and costly kind’ in tents erected in the grounds of the estate. At the Queen’s request, a large number of locals including ‘numbers of peasantry’ had been invited to observe her walking about estate. Following the walk, the guests were shown ‘a real Irish jig, which was danced to the music of an Irish piper by a number of the Duke’s tenants and their wives and daughters’.  The bagpiper was Sheridan from Kilcock. The press reported that the Queen ‘laughed most heartily at the performers and the royal party seemed to be highly pleased with them’. After visiting a thatched cottage on the estate, the Royal party left for Dublin. Contrary to popular lore, she did not spend the night in Carton House.

Victoria arrived back in the Phoenix Park shortly after 5.00pm, only staying for about thirty minutes. When she left, she travelled to the railway station in Westland Row, taking the train to Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) where the royal yacht was docked.  Again, the route was packed with people, and the bay was filled with vessels, with everybody appearing delighted to catch a glimpse of the Queen. Any disgruntlement that existed was eclipsed by the cordiality of the majority of the people.  John Mitchel, who at that stage was thousands of miles away, on a prison ship and therefore unable to witness the occasion in person, nonetheless wrote about the royal visit and attributed the warmth of the welcome to the natural kind-heartedness of the Irish people, together with the Lord Lieutenant’s careful precautions to render any dissent invisible.

The Queen’s visit to Carton House in 1849, and the feasting and festivity that accompanied it, gave no indication that, simultaneously, a famine was still raging in parts of the country. Regardless of her interactions with Ireland during these years, Queen Victoria reigned over  a government that increasingly turned its back on Ireland, which resulted in the most lethal and devastating event in Irish history that continues to have repercussions today. In that sense, she truly was the Famine Queen.

Christine Kinealy

 

Queen Victoria.pngQueen Victoria, pilloried in folk memory as the ‘Famine Queen’ who only donated £5 in famine relief, in fact donated £2,000 to the British Relief Association in January 1847, making her the largest single donor (multitext project).

Like Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the famine walkers visited the Carton House estate’s Tyrconnell Tower, which was refurbished in the nineteenth century, in folk memory as a famine relief project.

Tyrconnell_Tower_Carton_Maynooth_Ireland.jpg

 

 

Deplorable Accident on the Royal Canal

Famine walk 2015 74.jpg

On the final day of the walk, the walkers passed the spot at Clonsilla bridge where sixteen people lost their lives at the onset of the Famine when the Dublin to Longford passenger boat capsized on 25 November, 1845. This deplorable accident and inquest are described in the Cork Examiner and Pilot below.

Cork Examiner Headline

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The Pilot headline

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The Strokestown Park Famine Archive and New Research

Ciaran Reilly 5

On day five of the walk, the walkers met with Dr Ciarán Reilly who gave them a tour of the Carton House estate near Maynooth. Dr Reilly is the leading expert on the Strokestown Park Archive and one of the most distinguished scholars in the field.  His book Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine (Four Courts, 2014) combines incisive analysis of the records in the archive with high quality reproductions of some of its most important documents.

Ciaran Reilly 4Ciaran Reilly 1

Ciaran Reilly’s book Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine is:

‘The most in-depth study of the effects of the Famine on a landed estate and its community … With the help of this book, we are brought deep inside the actuality of life during the Famine era. Some of our preconceived ideas of what actually transpired during that appalling era are challenged. Highlighted too is the important role played by the Irish National Famine Museum at Strokestown’, from the foreword by Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland.

Strokestown Famine Archive 3

The Strokestown Park House archive is one of the largest Irish estate collections in existence, with more than 50,000 documents comprising rentals, leases, accounts, correspondence, maps, drawings, architectural plans and photographs. Of particular importance are the papers that relate to the Great Irish Famine. This book aims to introduce the reader to the archive and to provide a fascinating and detailed insight into the many and varied experiences of the Famine for those who inhabited the estate in the 1840s.

http://www.fourcourtspress.ie/books/2014/strokestown-and-the-great-irish-famine/

In Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine, Reilly traces many of the 1490.  In his own words:

While the Strokestown Park archive provides a fascinating insight into people who emigrated during and immediately after the Famine, their fate afterwards is more difficult to track. For the vast majority we are offered only fleeting glimpses of their lives after leaving Ireland. An example is John Coleman, one of ninety-nine emigrants who left the townland of Curhouna during the assisted emigration programme of 1847. Having survived the crossing, Coleman made his way to New Orleans where by 1851 he was listed as being a patient in the city hospital. One of 1,100 men and women, including over 20 Roscommon natives, who sought medical treatment in the hospital in 1851 alone, the ultimate fate of Coleman is unknown. Likewise, Margaret Flynn, aged 24, and her son John, aged one, who were described as “destitute”; having survived the voyage on board the Virginius in July 1847, they made their way inland to St John, New Brunswick, where they found shelter in the city’s almshouses in 1851 (139-142).

More information about Margaret Flynn and her son John can be found here:

http://archives.gnb.ca/Irish/Databases/Almshouse/ImageViewer.aspx?culture=en-CA&mode=s&record=23605&fond=MC2700&series=MS2A3

http://archives.gnb.ca/Irish/Databases/Almshouse/ImageViewer.aspx?culture=en-CA&mode=s&record=23604&fond=MC2700&series=MS2A3

Ciarán Reilly has also co-authored Women and the Great Hunger  with the Famine walkers Christine Kinealy and Jason King (Cork and Quinnipiac University Press).

Ciaran Reilly 3.png

http://www.corkuniversitypress.com/Women-and-the-Great-Hunger-p/9780990945420.htm

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/women-and-the-great-hunger-review-new-takes-on-an-irish-tragedy-1.2982060

Ciarán Reilly has also published The Famine Irish: Emigration and the Great Hunger (History Press, 2016), which includes Jason King’s chapter about the 1490 entitled “Une Voix d’Irlande: Integration, Migration, and Travelling Nationalism Between Famine Ireland and Quebec in the Long Nineteenth Century”, 193-208.

Famine Irish Emigration and the Great Hunger.png

 

The Strokestown Park Famine Archive and the 1490

Strokestown Emigrant list graphic

The story of the 1490 is one that has been reconstructed from the treasure trove of documents found in the Strokestown Park Archive.

Strokestown Famine Archive Image Two

An extract from the Cloonahee Petition, 1846, Strokestown Park Archive.

The leading scholars in the field attest to its significance:

Ciaran Reilly 4

The archive is one of the largest collections of famine documents in the world ……….most of these documents have not seen the light of day since they were generated almost 170 years ago’

Dr Ciaran Reilly, Maynooth University, Ireland

Strokestown Famine Archive Image One.png

Christine Kinealy portrait.png

‘The Strokestown Park Archive represents a jewel in famine studies, and one that has great significance beyond Roscommon and the island of Ireland’.

Professor Christine Kinealy,

Director, Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT

Mark-McGowan

“The archive at Strokestown Park House is a treasure trove for social historians intent upon reconstructing life on an Irish estate in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Equally important is the rich deposit of records from the Irish Famine period, which when viewed in the context of other collections available to the public in Ireland, ranks as one of vital importance to historians of the Great Hunger. Moreover, manuscripts generated by the Pakenham-Mahon family provide valuable links to other landed families in Ireland and to larger Imperial and diasporic networks. Thus the archive is not just of local or Irish interest, but provides potential research projects for scholars across the globe.”

Dr Mark G. McGowan

Strokestown Famine Archive 3

The collection containing over 55,000 documents is of international significance in relation to the Famine period and also a complete record of economic, social, and estate history over a 300 year period.

A dedicated environmentally controlled archive room has been created above the stables and a study centre within the stable wing is being created.

Documents from the Strokestown Park House Archive are also being digitized and made publicly available on the Great Famine Voices website:

 http://www.greatfaminevoices.ie/

 

 

 

Mullingar Famine Graveyard

Mullingar Robinstown Famine Graveyard entrance

The Famine walkers began the fourth day of their journey at the Robinstown famine graveyard in Mullingar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=WM&regno=15309019

Description:

Former union workhouse graveyard on irregular plan, used between c.1840 and c.1860. Now out of use. Cut stone gateway to the southwest side having a pair of wrought-iron gates. Located to the north of the former Mullingar Union Workhouse complex and to the north of Mullingar.

This graveyard largely contains the marked and unmarked graves of victims of the Great Famine (1845-9) and acts as a poignant reminder of this traumatic event in Irish history. The good quality cut stone gateway to the southwest adds a touch of dignity to this otherwise largely neglected site.

 

 

 

Mullingar Workhouse

Mullingar workhouseAt the end of the third day of the Famine walk the walkers reached Mullingar and visited the Mullingar workhouse. According to Seamus O’Brien, the “Mullingar poor law union was one of the largest in the country. The union workhouse, which was situated on the northern outskirts of Mullingar, admitted its first paupers in December 1842. Designed to accommodate 800 inmates, it struggled to cope with double this number at the height of the Famine” (Carn, Killare: A Forgotten Westmeath Famine Village (Rathlainne Publications, 2000, 9).

The Mullingar workhouse is described in detail by Peter Higginbotham at:

http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Mullingar/

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Mullingar workhouse site, 1914.© Peter Higginbotham.

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Mullingar workhouse site general view, 2000. © Peter Higginbotham.

Mullingar Workhouse 4

Mullingar entrance block, 2000. © Peter Higginbotham.

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Mullingar workhouse entrance and date-stone, 2000. © Peter Higginbotham.

Famine Village Ruins at Carn hill, County Westmeath

Carn hill site of famine village

Carn hill Famine village ruins.

On the third day of the walk the walkers past through the more remote parts of Westmeath along the Royal Canal. In Famine & Community in Mullingar Poor Law Union, 1845-1849. Mud Huts and Fat Bullocks (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1999), Seamus O’Brien notes that the villages in the Killare area along this stretch of canal were particularly devastated by the Famine, and that “throughout the union generally the appearance of the population was wretched. Their clothing was in rags” (24). “The biggest losses here occurred,” he adds, “in the southwestern districts of Castletown and Killare where 53 and 40 percent of their respective populations either died or emigrated between 1841 and 1851” (48). Near the Royal Canal are “the ruins of the Famine village on Carn hill and the now fossilized lazy beds which supported it” (56).

Carn famine village fozzilized potato ridges

Carn Famine village fossililzed potato ridges.jpg

In his book Carn, Killare: A Forgotten Westmeath Famine Village (Rathlainne Publications, 2000), Seamus O’Brien this authentic famine ruin. In his own words:

This area of Westmeath belies the usual depiction of the county as a typical part of the central plain of Ireland with its limestone solution lakes, rolling pastureland and extensive raised boglands. The area west of Mullingar is quite hilly. Historic Usnagh hill with the famous “Catstone” erratic on its southern flank, is justifiable the most famous of these limestone hills. Directly opposite Usnagh is Carn hill, a structural limestone fold which has an average elevation of 600 feet above sea level.

Famine village cabins artist rendering.jpg

Famine village cabins, artist rendering.

The Famine village was in a sheltered central location near the summit of the hill… The skeletal remains of the many stone houses still visible on Carn hill today, as well as being evidence of the last and seemingly final human settlement in this area of Westmeath, are a poignant reminder of the economic pressures experienced in this region during the Great Famine” (9-10).

Map of Carn Famine Village near Mullingar

Map of Carn Hill Famine village.

 

Michael Collins and the Irish Famine Novel

From Irish Times (March 31, 2017)
http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/below-the-rust-belt-trilogy-a-famine-undercurrent-1.3032081

Below the Rust Belt trilogy, a Famine undercurrent

Historian Jason King finds Michael Collins has spawned new forms of creative energy in finding his own way back to the story of the Famine

Irish Famine Folklore

Famine walk 2015 14Famine walker Cathal Póirtéir

Famine walk 2015 9.jpgCathal Póirtéir and Mick Blanch, Irish Famine Walk 2015.

On day three of the Famine walk, the walkers reached Ballynacarrigy, a village that was devastated by the Great Hunger as recalled in local folklore.

One of Ireland’s most renowned folklorists, Cathal Póirtéir, is the author of Famine Echoes (Gill & Macmillan, 1995), the leading work in the field.

Famine Echoes

In Famine Echoes, Póirtéir observes explains why folklore provides such a rich cultural resource for recovering the perspectives of the Famine Irish.  In his own words:

I feel that the echoes of those silenced voices which we have in folk memory are the nearest we can get to the experience of the poor in the 1840s and 1850s. Survivors, as well as victims, suffered hunger, lost loved ones and neighbours, suffered the ignominy of the poorhouses and the dangers of the fever. Many of those who lived to tell the tale had witnessed the dying days of individuals, families, and communities who would otherwise have lived and perished without mention in official records.

Some of the tradition bearers recorded by the expert collectors of the Irish Folklore Commission were people whose own families had been evicted, people who had buried the dead, received charity, worked on the relief schemes and existed on relief food. Others were those who benefitted from the Famine as their families increased their holdings by getting the land of those who died or emigrated.

Many of these survivors of the Great Irish Famine lived into [the twentieth] century with a store of personal and communal memories of the bad times. Not everyone had the same story to tell. The memories and the telling of them varied from person to person and from place to place, depending on individual circumstance and experience. Undoubtedly, many memories and stories of the horrors of the Famine were suppressed consciously and unconsciously for a variety of reasons. Other elements were simply forgotten or reshaped with the passage of time.

While we are not fortunate enough to have a written record from the ordinary people of the period, we are exceedingly fortunate in having a very rich and detailed source in the folk memory which was collected and preserved within one hundred years of the Famine (12-13).

A particularly rich and striking source of that folk memory was collected in Ballynacarrigy. It can be found here:

http://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/5009099/4986529/5122096

Ballynacarrigy folklore.png

 

 

The Story of 1490 orphan James Flood

Enda Kenny Strokestown

On May 11, 2014, Taoiseach Enda Kenny unveiled a glass wall memorial to the 1490 emigrants during the National Famine Commemoration at Strokestown.

James Flood Irish Famine Memorial Wall Strokestown.png

https://www.rte.ie/news/player/2014/0511/20576539-national-famine-commemoration-held-at-strokestown/

Colin McMahon has traced the 1490 orphan James Flood’s movements between Strokestown, Liverpool, Grosse Île and Montreal in an article entitled “Recrimination and Reconciliation: Great Famine Memory in Liverpool and Montreal at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” Atlantic Studies: Global Currents 11.3 (2014): 344-64.

Colin McMahon.pngColin McMahon

In McMahon’s own words (347-348):

The Famine influx has long been an emotionally charged and politically potent memory for Irish groups in Liverpool and Montreal, not only because of the devastation wrought in their port cities in 1847, but also for its evocation of the calamitous condition of Ireland that led to the harried exit of the Famine Irish from their homeland. We can catch a glimpse of the horrors of this phase of Famine migration by tracing the route of one Roscommon family, the Floods, who, having lost their land and livelihood, fled Ireland in the spring of 1847. Mary and James Flood Sr. and their nine children were among the first contingent of 465 tenants that were evicted from the Strokestown estate and participated in a landlord-assisted emigration scheme that took them on a harrowing three-month journey through the Irish midlands, over the Irish Sea to Liverpool, and across the north Atlantic to Montreal. Their landlord, Major Denis Mahon, calculated that the expense of overseeing the large-scale clearance and transatlantic shipment of his smallholders who had neither food to eat nor money to pay rent would amount to less than half the cost of maintaining them in the workhouse for a single year.

The first stage of their journey out of Ireland began with a 150-kilometre trek from Strokestown to Dublin. After four days of trudging cross-country and sleeping rough, the Floods and their neighbours arrived on the outskirts of the Irish capital. From there, they were escorted by the estate’s bailiff to Eden Quay on the River Liffey, where Major Mahon’s land agent awaited to oversee their passage to Liverpool. The inexpensive cross-channel voyage took less than a day, but the rough currents of the Irish Sea would have made it a distressing experience for this already malnourished group of migrants who were packed together on deck and in the holds of a steam-driven ferry.

Disembarkation at Liverpool’s Clarence Dock offered little respite. The Flood family and the other Strokestown migrants represented a mere trickle in the deluge of over one million Irish into Liverpool during the Famine years, most of them in search of a cheap berth on a vessel bound for North America. Entering Europe’s busiest port, with “thousands of hungry and half naked wretches…wandering about, not knowing how to obtain a sufficiency of the commonest food nor shelter,” the destitute Irish were easy prey for sharpers and harpies, “the most unscrupulous set of scoundrels” notorious for bilking hapless newcomers to the city of the little they possessed. Even a brief stopover in this “City of Plague” exposed many Famine Irish to typhus, a disease that had reached epidemic proportions in the city by May 1847. Despite quarantine facilities at the Brownlow workhouse, on the waterfront, and aboard three government supplied quarantine ships docked on the River Mersey, the louse-borne bacterial infection stalked Irish migrants upon boarding vessels that had been hastily converted for the emigrant trade between Liverpool and British North America.

The Floods survived their week long stay in a north-end lodging house in Liverpool awaiting embarkation, but would suffer terribly on their voyage to Quebec, arranged for them by their landlord. Opting for the cheapest fare his land agent could find, Major Mahon sent his former tenants across the Atlantic on a vessel that would soon gain infamy as a ‘coffin ship’. During the two month passage the Flood family and their former neighbours struggled to survive on paltry provisions while lodged in the bowels of the Virginius—a dank, insanitary, suffocating space below the foredeck that was a breeding ground for dysentery and typhus. In conditions likened by The Times to “The Black Hole of Calcutta,” typhus spread rapidly among the Strokestown emigrants. Daily, corpses were hauled up from the holds, covered in old sails or meal-sacks stitched together, weighted down, and then “buried in the deep without the rites of the Church.” Three of the Flood children (Bridget, Edward, and Mary Jr.) who succumbed to typhus en route were dropped overboard. By the time the Virginius laid anchor in the St. Lawrence River next to the Grosse-Île quarantine station on July 28th, one third of its passengers had met the same fate.

Those who survived the voyage faced further adversity on disembarkation in Quebec. Dr. George Douglas, medical superintendent of Grosse-Île, described the Strokestown emigrants as “ghastly yellow looking spectres, unshaven and hollow cheeked, and, without exception, the worst looking passengers I have ever seen; not more than six or eight were really healthy and able to exert themselves.” Five-year-old James Flood Jr. was among the few who emerged from the hold of the Virginius in relatively good health, but the fate of the remaining members of his family is unclear. At some point between their inspection at Grosse-Île and James’ arrival at Montreal’s waterfront several days later, the boy was separated from his family, possibly during the chaotic sorting process at the quarantine station or at some stage in the 50 kilometre voyage upriver aboard one of the crowded steamers, which carried 70,000 Irish migrants along with a typhus epidemic to Montreal, turning the city “into a virtual Quarantine Station.” It is equally plausible that members of the Flood family were afflicted with typhus upon their arrival in Montreal and were among the 13,189 Irish emigrants who were hospitalized in the twenty-two fever sheds of Pointe Saint-Charles in the southwest of the city, and possibly among the roughly 6,000 who died there and were “buried like dogs in the Hospital pit.” Whatever the circumstances that led to him losing his family, we know that James found himself alone in Montreal, a city under siege by disease. Like many of Montreal’s Famine orphans, James found refuge in the Catholic Church, in his case with the Grey Nuns in the Hôpital Général des Soeurs-Grises. He remained in Montreal’s waterfront neighbourhood very near the dock on which he was deposited in 1847, working as a labourer until 1875, at which point his name disappears from the public record.

To read Colin McMahon’s full article, follow the link (pay wall):

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14788810.2014.921097

Colin McMahon’s article has also been reproduced in full in Marguérite Corporaal and Jason King, Irish Global Migration and Memory: Transatlantic Perspectives of Ireland’s Famine Exodus (Routledge, 2016).

Irish Global Migration and Memory Cover

https://www.routledge.com/Irish-Global-Migration-and-Memory-Transatlantic-Perspectives-of-Irelands/Corporaal-King/p/book/9781138693388