Ethnic minorities in eighteenth-century Ireland

Published in 18th-19th Century Social Perspectives, 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 3 (May/June 2012), Letters, Volume 20

Sir,—The presence of ethnic minorities in eighteenth-century Ireland was seldom commented on, but they existed even in ‘less predictable locations … such as … Carrickmacross’, as Philip McEvansoneya pointed out (HI 20.2, March/April 2012, pp 26–8). The Carrickmacross individual steps out of the shadows a little, for she is mentioned in Denis Carolan Rushe’s History of Monaghan (1921, pp 71–2):

 

‘During the year 1768 a sensation was caused in Carrickmacross by the return home of Michael Carolan and his North American wife, who brought a black slave with her. Very few people in Carrickmacross had ever seen a coloured person and excitement was caused by the arrival, but the indignation of his family was very great, and on investigation it was found that the slave had been purchased while he lived at Newburn, near Charleston, Carolina, from a firm of slave dealers named Wilkinson and Parkinson for £65. James Carolan, the father of Michael, at first insisted on the slave being sold, and published the following advertisement in the Dublin Mercury of 14th August, 1768:

 

“A neat beautiful black negro girl just brought from Carolina, aged eleven or twelve years, who understands and speaks English, very fit to wait on a lady, to be disposed of; application to be made to James Carolan, Carrickmacross, or Mr. Gavan, Bridge-st., Dublin.”

 

However the negress was not disposed of, for her mistress appears to have coaxed her father-in-law to keep the girl, who passed the remainder of her life in Carrickmacross, and nursed the children and some of the grand-children of her mistress.’

 

Rushe’s account can be relied on in this instance, for the family concerned was his maternal one. The Carolans of Carrickmacross were typical of the rising eighteenth-century Catholic merchant class, and involved in nearly every national movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, James’s reaction suggests that the abolition of slavery was not one of them!—Yours etc.,

 

SEÁN BOYLE

 

London

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