Peter Robinson Settlers Story
The Peter Robinson assisted emigration scheme was one of many such schemes during the nineteenth century, where emigrants from Ireland to overseas were ‘assisted’ with funding or other facilities in order to set up life in a new country.
It has been estimated that as many as 300,000 emigrants availed of such schemes.
In this instance, the scheme was funded by the British Government and under the direction of its employee, Peter Robinson, involved a total of eleven ships taking emigrants from Queenstown (Cobh) to Ontario, Canada in the years 1823 and 1825.
The stimulus for this scheme came from a number of factors. The depression following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 saw the agricultural economy falter while at the same time the introduction of the Corn Laws that same year kept food prices artificially high. Both factors operated against a background of a steep rise in population assisted by the new ‘super-food’, the potato.
The Tithe Composition Act of 1823 added further pressure to the peasant farming community as the obligatory tithe payments from farmers to the Protestant Church were linked to the Corn Laws and so kept high.
It is interesting to observe that the most common occupation listed for emigrants in the Robinson scheme was the term ‘reduced farmer’, a term which seems to mean a farmer forced off the land by low prices for agricultural produce and high landlord rents.
Robinson was specifically instructed to target the ‘disturbed baronies’ of North Cork, that is, places where agrarian outrages and lawlessness among the rural peasantry were common. Most of the emigrants were farmers, reduced or otherwise, the remainder being made up of labourers and tradesmen.
All were required to be ‘paupers’, that is, having no means of their own.
The majority of emigrants hailed from northern Co. Cork and southeastern Limerick, but there were others from Tipperary, Kerry and Clare, as well as one from Wicklow and another from Kilkenny.
Ballyhoura has identified the families who left the region almost 200 years ago to Ontario and the Ottawa Valley in Canada. This is based upon the records of the scheme maintained by Peter Robinson. These show that there was a total of nearly five hundred distinct nuclear families and unattached adults in the scheme, the great bulk being families with two parents and their children.
The records of the scheme list the passengers on each ship under family headings and give ages, occupations and former residences. There is also a ‘remarks’ column where each supporting landlord is named, and where in many cases comments are recorded on the disposition of the adults, deaths occurring during the voyage, and other comments, apparently written by Robinson.
2023 will mark the 200th anniversary of the first ship departing Queenstown, Cobh today. In anticipation, there is a project ongoing to find out more about the families that left Ireland to embark on a new life in Canada. Family descendants can get in touch with Ballyhoura for further information or indeed for advice about connections to the home of their forefathers
The following are the surnames associated by Ballyhoura community to this emigration scheme:
Doneraile: Barry, Coghlan, Connery, Daly, Egan, Healy, Keeffe, Linehan, Lingnan, Haly, McCarthy, McCoy, McDonald, Miles, Nelligan, Ray, Roche, Stack, Sullivan, Shea, Walsh
Charleville: Benson, Buckley, Dowlin, Fitzgerald, Hamilton, Houlahan, Jessup, Kennedy, Lee, Mann, Meany, Riordan, Roche, Russell, Swytzer
Churchtown: Barry, Buckley, Brien, Clahan, Daherty, Downy, Hartnett, Lynch, McAuliffe, Murphy, Pigot, Power, Purcell, Regan, Sheehan, Sullivan,
Colmanswell: Buckley, Dahill, Maddigan
Liscarroll: Brestnahan, Donahoe, Fitzgerald, Guinea, Lyne, Leary, McConnell, Ormsby, Shehan, Sheneck,
Croom: Berkley, Evans, McKan, Morrissey, Ryan,
Brigown: Andrews, Byrne, Callaghan, Condon, Cotter, Doherty/O’Doherty, Elligott, Fyn, Keane, Mason, McCarthy, Meade, Mulloany, O’Brien, O’Donnell, Roche, Sargent, Sullivan, Tobin, Walsh
Kilbehenny: Kennelly, Leary, Quin
Kilfinane: Armstrong, Carty, Jessup, Dimond, Dillon, Leahy,
Mitchelstown: Armstrong, Condon, Couche, Cronan, Hegarty, Hickey, Keiffe, Leahy, Mansell, O’Brien, Ryan, Scanlin, Slattery, Smithwick, Thomhill, Torpy, Toughal, Wall