Celtic cross memorial in Halifax. The inscription reads:

Dedicated to the original Irish settlers of 1749 and to the contributions of the Irish community to Halifax, to Nova Scotia and to Canada. Presented by the Charitable Irish Society of Halifax, established 1786, dedicated March 17, 2000.


There were two Nova Scotia Irish groups, and they could not have been more different.


In the first group were Catholics from south-eastern Ireland who mainly originated from counties Wexford, Carlow, Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary. They mostly settled in Halifax, Guysborough and Antigonish counties in mainland Nova Scotia. Some also settled in the fishing and coal mining areas of Cape Breton.


The second group were Presbyterians who mainly originated from counties Donegal, Tyrone and Londonderry in the north of Ireland. Arriving from the 1760s they were relatively few in number. Although they laid the foundations of major settlements in the Cobequid Bay area, they attracted few followers.


Irish Catholics were attracted to Halifax because of its good job opportunities. By 1827 eighty percent of Nova Scotia’s Irish Catholics were accommodated in the town of Halifax or in the surrounding area.


With the continuing arrival of many poverty-stricken Irish in Halifax, officials had to raise funds for their care, often rather begrudgingly. Little thought was given to their future role as settlers. Instead of seeing them as welcome additions to Nova Scotia’s population, those in authority regarded them as useless riff-raff. Anti-Catholic prejudices were almost certainly to blame.


While Nova Scotia had obvious appeal to the poor, it was less attractive to families with capital who looked for the most advantageous economic locations in the hope of prospering as New World farmers. 


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©Lucille and Geoff Campey, 2020