(This post was originally published June 9, 2019. I am currently working on a few long-term projects. Please explore the site archives and check back for occasional new posts over the summer. MH)
Stowaway Éamon de Valera was the most famous passenger aboard the S.S. Lapland’s early June 1919 voyage to America. He was smuggled aboard in Liverpool, suffered seasickness crossing the Atlantic, then secreted down the gangway at New York. It was the start of his 18-month tour of America through December 2020. See my American reporting of Irish independence series for stories about his travels and other developments in 1919 and 1920.
At least three dozen fare-paying Irish, detailed below, also sailed aboard the Lapland.1 They were among the rebuilding wave of emigrants to leave Ireland during the War of Independence and Civil War.
In 1918, the final year of the Great War, fewer than 400 people emigrated from Ireland. That was less than one one-hundredth of the previous 10-year high of 51,000 in 1910.2 The 1915 sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania and similar attacks at sea, and other factors related to the war, caused the reduced flow.
In 1919, however, Irish emigration surged tenfold to more than 4,300, with slightly more than half bound for America. It increased to 30,500 in 1920, as slightly more than three quarters sailed to U.S. ports. During the five-year War of Independence and Civil War period, 1919-1923, a total 115,477 people left Ireland (an average of 23,000 per year), with 73 percent (84,051) destined for America.3
As for the Lapland, it was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast, and launched in 1908. In April 1912, the Titanic’s surviving crew returned to England aboard the ship. It was requisitioned during the war as a troop transport; then returned to commercial service between Liverpool and New York within weeks of the armistice being signed in November 1918.
Author Dave Hannigan set the scene as the Lapland made its way through the Narrows and up the Hudson River. As de Valera remained hidden below decks waiting for the cover of darkness:
… hundreds of passengers percolated to the top deck to catch a better glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, coming into view on the port side of the boat. … Manhattan lay off to their right, already steaming in the early morning of June 11, 1919, a shimmering monument to the progress in the still-young century. … From the soldiers returning from Europe to resume live interrupted, to the immigrants dreaming of their new lives, the reactions were similar as the skyline took their breath away. Awe. Excitement. Joy. Relief. Their destination was at hand.4
Below are the names of the Lapland‘s Irish passengers who arrived in New York on June 11, 1919. Most were from locations in today’s Northern Ireland, or northwest portions of the Republic. Several had visited America before the war, just as de Valera was returning to the country of his birth.
I’ve included the last place of residence, age, marital status, who going to see and where, and the length of stay, according to the manifest. Some planned to return within weeks or months; “always” and “permanent” were each used for those who intended to stay. There were probably additional Irish passengers aboard the ship among those listed with “British ethnicity” but no recorded place of residency.
I hope genealogists or relations of these passengers will be inspired to search for more details. Please contact me with any new information, which I’ll be happy to report in a future post.
- John Bethune Armstrong, Belfast, 18, single, Uncle S. Murdock in Ridgemoor, N.J., 1 year.
- Florence Carlisle, Belfast, 34, single, Sister Mrs. C.W. Salmond, Pittsburgh, Pa., 1 year.
- Frank William Chambers, Dublin, 42, married, MacAlpine Hotel, New York, N.Y., 6 weeks.
- William Mitchell Cooke, Belfast, 21, single, Friend Mr. Jackson, New York, 1 year/uncertain.
- Agnes Copley, Dublin, 26, single, Sister Mrs. Howe, Brooklyn, N.Y., uncertain, See John James Black Mason below.
- Minnie Courtney, Moy, 30, married, Brother (illegible), Philadelphia, uncertain.
- Christopher Courtney, Moy, 3, See above.
- Annie Dempster, Belfast, 47, married, Husband William Dempster, New York, N.Y., permanent.
- Elizabeth Dempster, Belfast, 27, married, Father-in-law Wm. Dempster, New York, N.Y., uncertain.
- John Dempster, Belfast, 25, married, Father Wm. Dempster, New York, N.Y., permanent.
- Margaret Dempster, Belfast, 17, single, Father Wm. Dempster, New York, N.Y., permanent.
- William Goag Dempster, Belfast, 13, single, Father Wm. Dempster, New York, N.Y., permanent.
- John Russell Dempster, Belfast, six months, Grandfather Wm. Dempster, New York, N.Y., permanent.
- Alice Ferguson, Stradbully, 30, married, Husband William Ferguson, Villanova, Pa., always.
- William Ferguson, Stradbully, 4, Father Wm. Ferguson, See above.
- William Dudley Fielding, Dublin, 17, single, Grandfather C. Mallow, Elgin, Ill., uncertain.
- Delia Gorman, Killkee, 25, married, Husband T.J. Gorman, Kansas City, Mo., always.
- Thomas J. Gorman, Killkee, 3, Father T. J. Gorman, See above.
- John Peter Hayes, Roscrea, 35, single, Friend Bishop Schinner, Spokane, Wash., permanent.
- Winifred Lynch, Ballyhaunis, 32, married, Husband Thomas Lynch, U.S. Army, permanent.
- John James Black Mason, Belfast, 57, single, Sister Mrs. Howe, Brooklyn, N.Y., uncertain, See Agnes Copley above.
- Harry A. McCormick, Belfast, 36, single, Mr. Ward, Sausalito, Calif., 1 month.
- Alfred McClintock, Bruckless, 32, single, Brother-in-law Rev. F. Timperley, Brooks, Maine, 6 months.
- Patrick Joseph McGrady, Dronmore, 28, married, Friend J. McPoland, Pittsburgh, Pa., permanent.
- Anna Kathleen McGrady, Dromore, 25, married. See above.
- Michael O’Connell, Knocklong, 26, single, Right Rev. Bishop Grace, Sacramento, Calif., permanent.
- Kate Reilly, Belfast, 52, single, Sister Miss Mary Reilly, New York, N.Y., always.
- Amy Torpey, Kenmare, 30, married, Husband Michael Torpey, Philadelphia, always.
- Sarah F. Torpey, Kenmare, 3, Father Michael Torpey, See above.
- Catherine Walsh, Belfast, 60, married, Daughter Mrs. Campbell, Newark, N.J., always.
- Margaret Walsh, Belfast, 35, single, Sister Mrs. Campbell, Newark, N.J., always.
- Bridget Walsh, Belfast, 19, single, Sister Mrs. Campbell, Newark, N.J., always.
- Norman F. Webb, Randalstown, 33, single, Imperial Hotel, New York, N.Y., 7 weeks.
- William Hubert Webb, Randalstown, 47, married, Imperial Hotel, New York, N.Y., 7 weeks.
- John Whelan, Youghal, 31, single, Sister Lena Doolan, Elizabeth, N.J., always.
- Elizabeth White, Tallyearl, 40, single, Uncle George Mano, Philadelphia, Pa., always.
- My search of the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island passenger database at www.libertyellisfoundation.org.
- Commission on emigration and other population problems, 1948-1954 reports, (Dublin, 1954.) Table 26, p. 315.
- Ibid., p. 316.
- Dave Hannigan, De Valera in America: The Rebel President and The Making of Irish Independence (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2010) p. 2.