Patterns of Irishness in Nineteenth Century Manchester

This research project was partly funded by the Manchester Statistical Society with a grant to Mervyn Busteed from its Campion Bequest Fund. The results were reported in a talk  to the Society on 12th June 2001 and subsequently published by MSS (see the list of publications). The research was carried out in the School of Geography at the University of Manchester.

The £1,000 grant awarded by the Society enabled the applicant to employ a research assistant during the summer of 1999 and to carry out a spatial analysis of the distribution of Irish households in Manchester during the 19th century. The Irish were attracted to Manchester by the economic opportunities it offered. The research showed there was a large and thriving Irish population in Britain, and indeed Manchester, even before the famine influx. Families could find employment in a wide range of activities in the Manchester cotton mills and warehouses, in domestic service, dressmaking, millinery and construction.

The research uses census sources to demonstrate residential clustering of Irish families who were marked out by their origins, accents, religion, politics and often their use of the Gaelic language. The Manchester Irish experience encapsulates the dual loyalties of all migrant people.

The research resulted in a fascinating and original insight. The grant was highly cost effective. The findings have a strong local content but provide a universal perspective on migrant communities of contemporary relevance. The insights generated by a patient survey of historical sources echo the early surveys carried out by the Manchester Statistical Society itself.