Old letters from Irish immigrants in US digitised

March 19, 2024

Across the Atlantic and far away, how do the Irish abroad feel on St Patrick’s Day?

That is one of the questions that can now be explored through a recently launched online database of thousands of letters and memoirs by Irish emigrants to North America, which have been digitised by academics at the University of Galway.

The Imirce online archive features letters from as far back as the 1600s from Irish emigrants and gives a personal insight into their struggles and successes in their newly adopted homeland as they wrote home to family and friends in Ireland.

On St Patrick’s Day 1922, Denis Hurley originally from Clonakilty in west Cork, wrote to his brother John thanking him for sending shamrock to him and telling him that St Patrick’s Day in Carson City, Nevada is a bit different to home, due to prohibition laws and said it was hard to get a drink.

His letter is one of many that Denis wrote to his brother on the occasion of St Patrick’s Day.

Denis and another brother, Michael, emigrated to the United States in the 1870s.

Originally from a farming family, the brothers settled in different cities in America and regularly wrote to relatives in Cork.

One letter read:

“16th March 1914 Your welcome letter of Feb 27th received – 14 days journey.

“Thanks for the card and shamrock. They appear in pretty good state of preservation.

“I see by dispatches from Queenstown (now Cobh) that there was a big wind there, I suppose it reached into your section.

“How is our dear sister? Never a line from the dear lady. Too bad that we would not be on writing terms any way.

“A few years more will find our bodies laid in the cold earth. Tim is too busy or his health too poor also. Well I hope that St Patrick’s Day 1915 will find Ireland thriving under Home Rule and enjoying peace and prosperity.”


Read more here.