Sunday, October 31, 2010

"10,000 persons have left the country": News from Irvine, Episode 1: 1635

In the 1630s, there was a major crop failure in Scotland. Sir William Brereton was in the district of Irvine in 1635 and wrote of two consecutive years when the land had been so "sterill of corne" that the people were "constrained to forsake itt." Guess where the people fled to?

He continued: "We came to Mr James Blare's in Erwin, a well affected man, who informed me of that which is much to be admired: above 10,000 persons have within two years past left the country wherein they lived, which was between Aberdeen and Enverness, and are gone for Ireland: they have come by 100 in Companys through this Town, and 200 have gone hence for Ireland together, shipped for Ireland at one tyde..."

However, their arrival in Ulster was not to the liking of the authorities: "...their swarming in Ireland is so much taken notice of and disliked, as the Deputie hath sent out a Warrant, to stay the Landing of any of these Scotch that come without a certificate. Three-score of them were numbered returning toward the place whence they came, as they passed this Town." Brereton wrote of sailing from Portpatrick to Islandmagee in a 10 tonne ship along with 17 horses - the ship was "soe much overthronged with passengers as wee had nott every man his owne length allowed to lye at ease".

• from Travels in Holland, the United Provinces, England, Scotland and Ireland, 1634-35, by Sir William Brereton, Knight. Click here for GoogleBooks edition.