I’m enrolled in an online course called “Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923.” The massive open online course (MOOC) is a partnership between Trinity College Dublin and FutureLearn. Nearly 14,000 have signed up, with slightly more than half living outside Ireland, including 27 percent in the US, according to The Irish Times.
The course is quite naturally focused on the lives of Irish men, women and children living through the extraordinary 12-year period of war and revolution that made modern Ireland, now part of ongoing centennial reflections. For me it’s reawakened a question thus far not considered by the course: What about the men, women and children who left Ireland during the period?
My maternal grandmother left Ireland in September 1912, two weeks before the Solemn League and Covenant signing in Belfast. My maternal grandfather sailed away in May 1913, shortly after the founding of the Ulster Volunteer Force and just before labor strikes erupted in Dublin. Their brothers and sisters followed to America through the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence and Civil War.
First I wanted to look at the raw numbers, presented here with additional notes.
Ireland’s average population at the time was about 4.3 million. The 10-year annual average emigration for 1904-1913 was 31,732.
1912: 29,344 emigrated
52.2 percent were men.
11,852 (40.3 percent) from Ulster, most of the four provinces
85.9 percent were between 15 and 35.
1913: 30,967 emigrated
53.1 percent were men
12,392 (40.0 percent) from Ulster, most of the four provinces
85.4 percent were between 15 and 35 years old
1914: 20,314 emigrated
Just over half were men. Ulster had the heaviest emigration. Nearly 87 percent were between 15 and 35 years old.
Using half the year’s annual total, more than 70,000 people left Ireland in the two and a half years from 1912 to the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914.
1915: 10,659 emigrated
More than half were men. Ulster had the heaviest emigration. Nearly 84 percent between 15 and 35 years old.
The report of the Registrar-General for Ireland notes the loss by emigration during 1915 is only 2.5 per 1,000 of the population, the lowest rate on record since statistics began in 1851.
The Lusitania is sunk by a German submarine torpedo off the coast of Queenstown (Cobh) in May.
1916: 7,302 emigrated
In a reversal, the majority to leave were women (5,559), and only 3.4 percent were between the ages of 15 and 35 years old. Ulster still had the most emigration.
Taking just one fourth of the annual total for 1916, more than 93,100 people left Ireland in the period 1912 up to the Easter Rising.
1917: 2,111 emigrated
More than half were women and more than half were from Ulster.
1918: 980 emigrated
More than half were women. Leinster had the most emigrants (567), followed by Ulster (329).
The annual emigration rate dropped to 0.2 percent per 1,000 population.
1919: 2,975 emigrated
Nearly 62 percent were females, nearly 57 percent from Ulster.
1920: 15,531 emigrated
61 percent women, more than one third from Ulster.
The annual emigration rate of 3.5 percent per 1,000 population is near the running 10-year average of 3.8 percent.
1921: 13,635 emigrated
Women and natives of Ulster continue to lead the way out of war-torn Ireland. As a summer truce leads to the Anglo-Irish Treaty at the end of the year, nearly 134,000 have left Ireland in the period 1912-1921.
1922: 19,500 emigrated
The total includes separate estimates of 4,500 from the newly created Northern Ireland and 15,000 from the Irish Free State.
1923: 29,570 emigrated
The total includes separate estimates of 9,000 from Northern Ireland and 20,570 from the Irish Free State, which ended its civil war in May.
TOTAL EMIGRATION FOR THE PERIOD 1912-1923: 182,888