Dobbin Atlantic Scholar Report: The Graves Archives: Exploring the Trade and Emigration Links between the South East of Ireland and Newfoundland
Dobbin Atlantic Scholarship Visit Report 2016/17
Scholar: Dr Maxine Keoghan, Waterford Institute of Technology
Name of university visited: Memorial University, Newfoundland in May/June 2017
The remit of the research scholarship undertaken by historian Dr. Maxine Keoghan included a number of different facets as the project included a number of objectives. Dr. Keoghan was accompanied by lens-based artist Dr. Nora Duggan of the Huston School of Film and Digital Media at NUI Galway. The primary objective was to retrieve a copy of the Graves Fonds that are housed at the Maritime Heritage Museum at Memorial University in St. John’s. Part 1 of this report outlines the historical documents which were viewed and copied. Part II outlines the additional purpose of the research trip which was to discover at first-hand the connection between Newfoundland and the South East of Ireland not only in historic terms but also in present terms with a view to future collaboration.
The connections between Newfoundland the South East of Ireland have ensured this transnational link remains one of Ireland’s greatest diasporic cultural transfers as defined by the flows of people, ideas, culture and patterns that operate over, across and beyond policies and societies. What makes this diasporic transfer all the more remarkable is that for the most part the movement of Catholic Irish people occurred before the vast number of immigrants were forced to leave Ireland from the 1840s to the 1920s. Added to this is the fact that Irish immigrants to Newfoundland, in the majority of cases, choose to leave Ireland. It can be argued that the poverty of Ireland over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries provided little opportunities for fishermen and labourers to establish themselves but as the majority of migration and subsequent emigrations came from the south east corner of Ireland this suggests more localised changes were taking place.
Irish migration and the subsequent trade which followed began after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 when Irish labourers joined English fishermen in the annual migration to Newfoundland’s cod fisheries. Vessels from the English West country travelled to Newfoundland via the south coast of Ireland where they purchased provisions in Waterford, New Ross, Youghal and Cork. Bristol and ports in the Channel had long-established commercial ties with these southern ports through the wool and cattle trades. Salt provisions were also available and at a cheaper price in Ireland. Labourers or servants were also more readily available but not all Irish servants were dependent upon English ships. By the 1720s a number of Irish fishing vessels availed of rooms in Placentia Bay and worked in the labour intensive inshore cod fishery. By the mid 1700s the Irish accounted for almost half of Newfoundland’s winter population. With the exception of Ulster migration to North America, the annual exodus to Newfoundland was the most extensive from Ireland in the eighteenth century.
Permanent migration from Waterford and surrounding areas continued over four to five generations beginning in the 1750s and ending coincidentally on the eve of the famine in the 1840s when Catholic Irish emigrants left Ireland in desperate circumstances. The resentment of Irish immigrants in particular those who felt they were forced or ‘shovelled out’ of Ireland ensured the retention of an Irish cultural identity. However when compared to the locations where great numbers of Irish emigrants relocated to such as Boston and Liverpool, Newfoundland stands apart. The Irish of Newfoundland were not forced to emigrate under the same conditions as those in the 1840s and 50s. The isolation of Outports and the concentration of immigrants from the South East ensured areas along the Avalon Peninsula remained exclusively Catholic Irish with traditions passed from generation to generation. Such was the contact and familiarity of Newfoundland as a place that for some it felt as an extension of the South East of Ireland.
The Graves Shipping Company of New Ross in County Wexford and Waterford was most associated with famine emigrants. In Ireland, the Graves shipping records are located in Waterford, Wexford and Dublin with more held in private ownership. Graves further traded and held extensive interests in Liverpool and North America. A number of Graves’s records are held at the Maritime History Archive at Memorial University in Newfoundland; as a Dobbin Atlantic scholar Maxine Keoghan was afforded the opportunity to examine these records and further given permission by the Maritime History Archive (MHA) to digitally copy the records; a copy of which will be available at the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre at Waterford Institute of Technology and at the JFK Trust in New Ross in County Wexford. The records at the Maritime History Archive will add to the significant collection of Grave’s records which have been identified as Ireland’s largest shipping archive.
William Graves was born in 1785 and was involved in the emigrant trade from New Ross to Quebec in the nineteenth century. The regulation of passengers was altered by Parliament in 1817, dramatically changing how emigrants travelled to North America. By 1819, Quebec was the busiest immigrant port in North America. In 1815 William Graves and Sandham Elly established a shipping company. The Elly family were merchants from New Ross who imported timber and staves from Quebec. William Graves toured Canada in 1820 with a view to settling in Ontario. However, realising the challenges faced by settlers in establishing themselves in Canada, Graves decided against relocating. Canada offered opportunity to those willing to profit by their own labour but not to those of moderate means who wished to establish an estate and employ labour. In June 1820 Graves visited Newfoundland and noted in his diary that fishing was very poor and that migrants who travelled to Newfoundland were not allowed to land. By 1825 Graves and Elly operated four large ships which transferred passengers from the south east of Ireland to Quebec. Two years later Graves established a new partnership with another Quaker merchant, Mr. Watson, and their company became the recruiting agents for the Canada Company (Ontario) in 1830. The company operated a 400-ton steamer between New Ross and Liverpool and William Graves continued with the passenger trade to Quebec up to the 1860s.
The Graves Fonds at the MHA originated in the South East of Ireland. In the early 1980s Keith Matthews of the MHA borrowed a collection of letters from the Graves business at New Ross. The company ceased trading in the 1980s and it would appear the records long held in New Ross were distributed widely with a significant number given to the National Archives in Dublin. More records were held in safekeeping by former employees and it is thought the records at MHA belonged to a former employee. The Fonds include business correspondence for 1856 and in total there are approximately 500 articles. Most letters refer to daily business transactions, freight rates and markets and the purchase of supplies. Of particular interest are the letters sent from ships captains. The Fonds at MHA are important in that they highlight the shipping route and the trade that was undertaken in 1856. The expansion of the Graves business is evident. Ships in New Ross were fitted to transfer passengers from Ireland to Quebec whereupon the ships were refitted to carry timber from Quebec to Savannah Georgia. In Savannah the timber was unloaded and replaced by cotton which was subsequently shipped to Liverpool. The Graves family had extensive interests at all these locations.
In examining the Fonds MHA and from discussions with staff members of the MHA in particular David Bradshaw and with Professor Emeritus John Mannion of MUN, the connection between eighteenth century and nineteen century shipping must be considered as a continuation of trade and expertise that began with the cod fisheries of Newfoundland and expanded into the nineteenth century with the transport of passengers to Canada. Astute businessmen did not transfer from one business to another without the required capital and knowledge of the new trade or business. The Graves family became involved with the shipping trade in 1815 following the marriage of Thomas Graves to a daughter of the Elly family who were involved in trade with Quebec. From the late seventeen and early eighteen century Catholic merchants of Waterford and the South East differed from those in towns and cities in Ireland. South East merchants had acquired valuable trading links with foreign ports where Old English merchant communities had relocated to such ports as Nantes, Bordeaux, Seville and Cadiz. The expansion of the provisions trade in the 1700s and the growth in overseas trade for codfish increased markets for Waterford merchants in France and Spain. Quaker and Protestant merchants conducted business on a larger scale, between 1772 and 1776 there were 53 merchants involved in the salt port trade but 86 per cent of that trade was controlled by 10 merchant houses. The Quaker families controlled 46 per cent of that trade (1). The Farrell family of New Ross and the Sweetman family of Newbawn Co. Wexford, traded between Placentia, Cadiz and Waterford. The Graves family were Quaker merchants and it is within this broader view that the Graves archives should be explored. The expertise and knowledge acquired by shipping merchants in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was transferred to the later generations of shipping magnates including Graves.
The Graves Shipping Company archives remains as yet to be examined fully. The story of the Graves family represents the story of industrial Ireland and, indeed, of trade and commercial links with North America. The archive highlights important connections, based in many cases on trade routes, between the South East and other parts of the world including Newfoundland. The connections between these routes needs to be explored further in order to understand the means by which those emigrants made sense of their new surroundings; to understand the means by which emigrants prospered; to understand the relationship between trade and emigration.
The retrieval of the Graves Fonds was completed over a number of days during each week the research was conducted in Newfoundland. The remaining time was spent connecting with a number of communities on the Avalon Peninsula including St. John’s, Witless Bay, Ferryland, Renews, Placentia, Branch, St. Brides, Point Lance. The Irish communities of Tilting and Joe Batts Arm on Fogo Island, the largest of the offshore islands in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador were also visited. In St. John’s, Professor John Mannion and his wife Maura provided significant support and outlined the Mannion records which will be available online in the future. This is a remarkable achievement and all credit is due to those concerned; the Mannions, The Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland, MUN and the Department of Finance Newfoundland. In this totally unique project, the Newfoundland diaspora will be able to identify the parish they left in the South East of Ireland with one thousand names and one thousand parishes, towns and place names identified. The potential for tourism to the South East is worth mentioning with this information being disseminated and utilised by interested agencies such as City and County Councils and tourism bodies.
As noted earlier part of our research trip included visits to a number of Irish communities on the Avalon Peninsula and a trip to Fogo Island to meet with the communities of Tilting and Joe Batts Arm. Our interests lay in understanding how these communities have retained their traditional cultural identity whilst at the same time reside within a global culture. Dr Duggan has been offered a four week artist residency for 2018 on Fogo Island and has accepted this. In terms of art and design led inquiry, Dr. Duggan is particularly interested in conducting further research into the art and craft-making enterprises on Fogo Island and Change Island, Newfoundland. Two areas in particular stand out:
• In order to invigorate economic sustainability of outport communities, TRACS and The Shorefast Foundation offer artist residency programmes, bringing emerging and established international artists to Fogo Island, thereby marking the region on the global map and establishing real and lasting connections between international artists and local community members.
• With the support of The Shorefast Foundation, local craft-makers, specifically with quilting and woodworking skills, collaborated with international designers to apply contemporary designs to traditional fabrication methods. The craft makers now produce impressive works to commission for international clients.
The Dobbin Atlantic scholarship provided an opportunity to engage with both local and global partners to ensure this interdisciplinary research project benefits from rigorous artistic and historical inquiry as it moves forward. Furthermore, Dr Keoghan and Dr Duggan are determined that future project outcomes be disseminated across and beyond disciplinary divides. The research team presently have an accumulating network of potential research partners and prominent cultural leaders in Newfoundland eager to participate further including Dr. John Mannion, Memorial University, St. John’s; Melanie Tucker, Archivist, The Rooms Museum & Gallery, St. John’s; Loyola Hearn, PC, and former Canadian Ambassador to Ireland; The Shorefast Foundation, Fogo Island; and TRACS (Tilting Recreation and Cultural Society), Tilting, Fogo Island.
Dr Keoghan and Dr Duggan will provide a number of talks regarding our research efforts during August 2017 in Tramore Co. Waterford. Dr Keoghan will further give a presentation in Waterford City at the Medieval Museum and through the local library services she will give presentations to schools in Waterford City and County. During the trip the research team recorded audio and visual material that can be disseminated and shared with others who have an interest in Newfoundland. Dr Duggan will produce a short film that can be shown to school children but further we hope other documentary makers may be find the material of benefit. Dr Duggan will hold an exhibit in the spring of 2018 in Waterford and will consider working in partnership with other artists. Since returning to Ireland the researchers have contacted Dr Margaret O’Brien Moran who had visited Newfoundland a number of years before and who held an exhibition upon her return at that time. Nora and Margaret will consider working in collaboration and this will be discussed further when Dr Duggan will give her presentation in August. Furthermore, Maxine Keoghan was contacted by Nuala Macklin, an award winning radio producer who will produce two – one hour radio documentaries for Newstalk in 2018. Maxine has assisted Nuala with her funding application and both Maxine and Nora will be available to assist Nuala in the future. All of the research recordings have been offered to Nuala to assist her with her documentary effort. Please note Nuala’s documentaries and awards:
New York Radio Festival – Silver Winner – June 2017 Wining Entry here.
Assoc. International Broadcasting Winner 2014 – Gold (Creative Documentary Feature Category) ‘Below the Radar’ 6-part Series for Newstalk 106 FM
RTE DocOnOne here.
Lastly, there are a great number of records available at MHA which are of concern and offer the potential for future research. It is my intention if possible to return to Newfoundland to copy these records. This is challenging as an identification system must be put in place whilst creating digital copies. The proposed National Emigration Center of New Ross is presently under development and in order to encourage research regarding Ireland’s relationship with the Canadian Atlantic Coast it is important that such records are available in the south east of Ireland. Dr Keoghan would also wish to give a series of talks to communities to continue to encourage what must be considered a very unique relationship.