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Early New England's Irish Communities

Updated: Mar 11

In the 1630s, Irish fishermen began to settle on Isle of Shoals, off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. By the 1650s, shiploads of indentured Irish servants landed in Boston, trading seven years labor for ship’s passage. Irish Catholics also arrived in the mid-1600s from Barbados, where Oliver Cromwell had deported over 50,000 people from Ireland. Some of these early Irish immigrants and refugees fled northward into Maine’s rocky coast and dark forests, especially after the “No-Nothings” anti-Catholic fervor erupted into riots and fires like the one in Bangor, Maine in 1833.

Early Irish immigrants often settled with other people who were fleeing from the Puritan colonies or other oppression: escaped slaves and free Black families, sailors who had jumped ship, Native Americans, Quakers. Like Seneca Village, where Central Park now sits in Manhattan, small diverse communities dotted New England, self-sufficient and trying not to be noticed by outsiders.

In Antler and Bone, Book #5 in my Celtic Magic series from Changeling Press, Tomayo Sylvan grew up in just such a community in coastal Maine, steeped in a mix of Irish, African and Native American heritage. Over time, the village had become deserted, until Tomayo and his artist love, Libby, make it a home for their new-found family.

— Siondalin O'Craig

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