Unknown to many, Jamaica and Ireland have a long history that connects the two islands that stand 4,500 miles apart.
With many Irish surnames, such as McDermott and O’Conner, and towns like Carrick Foyle and Clonmel, present in the Caribbean island, the Irish roots are evident.
The Irish are the second largest ethnic group in Jamaica, after the Jamaicans of African ancestry. With a population between 300,000 and 700,000, Irish Jamaicans make up 25% of the total Jamaican population. Many notable Irish Jamaicans include Bob Marley, Dillian Whyte and ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’s Lady Colin Campbell.
An influx of Irish citizens was seen after the 1641 Irish Confederate Wars, which saw a rebellion develop into an ethnic conflict between native Irish Catholics and English and Scottish Protestant settlers.
Irish immigration to Jamaica occurred primarily through the importation of indentured servants. Records show that many of the first wave Irish citizens immigrated voluntarily and were paid for their labour.
However, in 1948 following the Siege of Drogheda, Oliver Cromwell put down a rebellion with such savagery and cruelty that his name is still burned into the Irish psyche to this day.
From 1648 – 1655 Cromwell drove the Irish people from their home country to Barbados where a system of forced labour was put in place. Over 12,000 political prisoners made up the labour force, which provided British planters in the Caribbean with a huge influx of white labourers to work on sugar plantations.
Following the 1655 British conquest of Jamaica, thousands of Irish labourers were then sent from Barbados to the third largest Caribbean island.
It is due to the conflict, and subsequent forced labour, that Jamaica has such a rich Irish heritage.
The Irish connection is even present in the island’s cuisine – potatoes are referred to as ‘Irish potatoes’ and ‘Irish Moss’ – a milkshake type beverage made from seaweed and carrageen moss is available.
The historical links between the Emerald isle and the Caribbean island are prominent and worthy of mention.
TNT News Alexia Hendrickson