Irish Studies Collection
Newfoundland, or to use its time-honoured Irish name, Talamh an Eisc (The Land of the Fish), has an ancient and enduring relationship with Ireland. Originating in the late seventeenth century with Irish participation in the seasonal fishery, Irish interest in Newfoundland led to substantial emigration from Waterford and its adjacent counties in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. So strong was the Irish presence that in 1784 a Roman Catholic mission, the first such in British North America, was appointed for Newfoundland. An essential qualification for the head of the mission was fluency in Gaelic. By 1836, when the first detailed census was taken, fully half of Newfoundland's population was of Irish birth or descent. Irish cultural patterns and traditions remain strong on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula.
The library's collection reflects the richness of Newfoundland's Irish heritage. It includes over 15,000 books and more than 60 subscriptions to magazines and scholarly journals. The material covers a complete range of topics on Irish life, past and present. It contains items on Irish economic and cultural geography, as well as studies on Irish emigration, settlement patterns and Irish family history. There are also important concentrations of Anglo-Irish and Gaelic literature, material on Irish foklore and folk music, resources for studying the linguistics of Gaelic and Hiberno-English (the dialect of English spoken in Ireland), and books and tapes for learning the Irish language.
Professors and students from a wide variety of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences use the Irish collection. The Social Sciences and Humanities and Research Council of Canada has recognized this library's importance as a site for Irish Studies, and has generously supported the development of its research resources with more than $200,000 in grants.
For scholars, perhaps the greatest strength of the collection is in its holdings of over 200 Irish newspapers. There are long runs of issues of the great national newspapers such as the Irish Times (a complete run from 1859), the Irish Press (from 1931), the Irish Independent (from 1905),Freeman's Journal (a complete run from 1763-1924), and the Belfast Newsletter (from 1737). There are regional papers, too, especially those from the southeast, the source of so much emigration to Newfoundland, including the Waterford Chronicle (from 1771), Waterford Mirror (from 1808) and Finn's Leinster Journal (from 1790). There is also a fine collection of early twentieth-century Irish political and radical newspapers.
Irish Political and Radical Newspapers
Irish National and Provincial Newspapers
Irish Demography and Family History
Another notable strength is the collection of materials on Irish demography and family history. These include the early nineteenth-century Tithe Applotment Books (a survey of households throughout Ireland for tax purposes), its successor Griffith's Valuation, the Devon Commission Reports and Evidence, the censuses of Ireland from 1813 through 1911, the Parish registers of the southeast (as far back as 1730) and the Maps from the nineteenth-century Ordnance Survey. These and other documents held by Memorial's University Library and Maritime History Archive provide valuable information on Irish genealogy, as well as on Irish social and economic history.