Leaving the North

BookLeaving the North

Leaving the North

Migration and Memory, Northern Ireland 1921–2011


January 25th, 2016



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Leaving the North is the first book that provides a comprehensive survey of Northern Ireland migration since 1921. Based largely on the personal memories of emigrants who left Northern Ireland from the 1920s to the 2000s, approximately half of whom eventually returned, the book traces their multigenerational experiences of leaving Northern Ireland and adapting to life abroad, with some later returning to a society still mired in conflict. Contextualised by a review of the statistical and policy record, the emigrants’ stories reveal that contrary to its well-worn image as an inward-looking place – 'such narrow ground' – Northern Ireland has a rather dynamic migration history, demonstrating that its people have long been looking outward as well as inward, well connected with the wider world. But how many departed and where did they go? And what of the Northern Ireland Diaspora? How has the view of the ‘troubled’ homeland from abroad, especially among expatriates, contributed to progress along the road to peace? In addressing these questions, the book treats the relationship between migration, sectarianism and conflict, immigration and racism, repatriation and the Peace Process, with particular attention to the experience of Northern Ireland migrants in the two principal receiving societies – Britain and Canada. With the emigration of young people once again on the increase due to the economic downturn, it is perhaps timely to learn from the experiences of the people who have been ‘leaving the North’ over many decades; not only to acknowledge their departure but in the hope that we might better understand the challenges and opportunities that migration and Diaspora can present.


'Johanne Devlin Trew’s recent book on migration from Northern Ireland is that increasingly rare thing in Irish diaspora studies: research that addresses a genuinely glaring gap in the literature. Leaving the North could hardly be more timely. While it is quickly attaining the status of a core text in Irish migration studies, it is to be hoped that it reaches the wider audience it deserves.'
Marc Scully, Irish Studies Review

'This book by Johanne Devlin Trew is an important contribution to our knowledge and understanding of this particular aspect of migration from the island of Ireland...This relatively untold aspect of the story of movement from Ireland to Britain reveals the complex spatial and temporal dynamics of identifications.'
Louise Ryan, Oral History

'In her engrossing account of Northern Irish emigration since 1921, Leaving the North: Migration and Memory, Northern Ireland 1921–2011, Professor Johanne Devlin Trew combines a mastery of the quantitative and the qualitative approaches to her subject as she endeavors to put "migration back into history". Trew addresses a gap in the Irish migration historiography that has allowed the specific experience of Northern Irish migrants within the overall Irish migration story to fall between the cracks. ... One of the unique features of this book is that the emigrant interviews are conducted both in Northern Ireland and abroad, showing a more complete picture of the subject. ... this book is a worthy read, filling in a historiographical gap for experts while offering some thoughtful insights into the psyche of emigrants for the broader public.'
Peter Moloney, Journal of World History


Author Information

Johanne Devlin Trew is Lecturer in the School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy at the University of Ulster.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title page4
Copyright page5
List of Figures13
Arthur and Me19
Chapter 127
Diaspora, Migration and Identity27
Life Stories and Migration Research32
Oral History and Irish Migration32
Oral Narrative Research in the Context of Societal Conflict33
Migration, Time and Generation35
Memory and Emotion in Migration Research36
History, Memory and Postmemory36
Mechanisms of Autobiographical Memory40
Reminiscence Bump41
Structure of Life Stories42
Chapter 245
Demographic Summary46
British Empire Migration48
Assisted Emigration Schemes52
Northern Ireland: Migration and Empire55
Interwar Migration, 1920s–1930s55
Post-War Migration, 1940s–1960s62
Characteristics of Migrants, 1920s–1960s66
Migration, 1970s–200068
Migration Since 200171
Refugees and Asylum Seekers78
Conclusion: An All-Ulster Perspective79
Chapter 381
Memory, Generation and Emigration: Roseena’s story81
Understanding Migration and Generation84
Families, Histories, Emotions86
‘She grieved him all her life’: Narrating Migration and Loss87
‘It was all just land and trees’: Narrating Settlement and Return95
‘It was a culture shock’: Narrating Generation and Immigration99
Chapter 4104
Majorities and Minorities: ‘Reality very often is not what you would wish it to be’104
Majorities and Minorities in Northern Ireland107
The Demography of Northern Ireland Migration and Religion111
Religion, Migration and Conflict111
Religion, Migration and ‘Brain Drain’113
‘A big black cloud had lifted’: Leaving the North119
‘Are you Catholic or Protestant?’ Religion and Identity Abroad127
‘They don’t see Northerners as Irish’: Encounters in ‘Diaspora Space’134
‘There’s nothing wrong with being British and Irish’: Migration and Identity138
Chapter 5145
‘Northern Ireland’s my soul’: Home and Identity in Britain145
The Irish in Britain: Demography and Visibility148
‘No different than the nineteenth century’: Being a Presbyterian Navvy155
‘Pagan England’: Family Migration to and from Britain157
‘Flying the flag’: Doing Business in Britain160
‘The people with hair left’: Social Exclusion in Northern Ireland and Britain163
‘Traumatised by being an Irish person in England’: Suffering, Silence and Victimhood169
Chapter 6175
Brave New World175
Canada, British and Irish migration177
‘Is this what I came to Canada for?’ Interwar Immigration183
‘The horizons go on forever’: Post-war Immigration185
‘Second-class Canadian’: 1970s Immigration191
‘Amazing credentials and they don’t get work’: Immigration Since the 1980s195
‘A very tolerant country’: Life in the ‘peaceable kingdom’200
‘The secret of Canada’: Conclusion205
Chapter 7208
Returning Home: ‘I’m back where I belong’208
Return migration: definitions210
Dream of Return: ‘Nobody knows me there’212
Failed Return: ‘Take your political views and shut up’214
No Return: ‘Not in my name’219
After Return: ‘We found we were in trouble with both sides’222
Transnational Returning: ‘A dream that I would have’229
Ultimate Return: ‘I don’t want to go home to live, I want to go home to die’231
Epilogue: ‘I can’t see myself leaving and I can’t see myself going back’235
Lost generations237
Notes and references240
List of Interviews344