Exiles and Islanders: The Irish Settlers of Prince Edward Island


313 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2723-0
DDC 971.7'0049612




Reviewed by Clint MacNeil

Clint MacNeil teaches history, geography, and world religion at St.
Charles College in Sudbury.


Exiles and Islanders is a comprehensive and authoritative study of the
Irish who made Prince Edward Island their home. The author presents
historical background and dispels misconceptions about the original
Irish inhabitants.

When the British claimed Оle Saint-Jean in 1758 and christened it
Prince Edward Island in 1798, the burgeoning colony came to reflect the
social and economic conditions of Ireland. In 1767, the island was
divided into 67 townships consisting of 20,000 acres each and parcels of
land were granted through a lottery system to individuals as reward for
political or military service to the Crown. Absentee landlords collected
rents from tenants who in most cases were prevented from directly owning
land. This gave rise to the “Land Question” that permeated the lives
of both landlords and tenants until 1873.

Contrary to popular belief, most of the Irish immigrants settled on the
island before the Great Famine of the 1840s. In 1771, nine Irish
families settled in the Charlottetown area. Soon, Loyalists and fellow
Irishmen who served with British forces during the American Revolution
moved to PEI. Refugees from both the Rebellion of 1798 and the post-1815
economic collapse in Newfoundland called PEI home.

Sectarian relations between Protestants and Catholics were for the most
part at least tolerant. Catholic Sisters loaned the Orange Lodge dishes
and bingo cards for their “Glorious Twelfth” party. In addition, the
Repeal Movement and the Benevolent Irish Society did much to unite all
Irishmen and helped foster a sense of identity and solidarity. Finally,
despite their popular portrayal as the “dregs of Ireland” with a
penchant for alcohol and lawlessness, many Irish immigrants were
physicians, lawyers, teachers, and journalists.

O’Grady’s work will undoubtedly help the Irish inhabitants of PEI
to “never forget who [they] are and where [they] come from.”


O'Grady, Brendan., “Exiles and Islanders: The Irish Settlers of Prince Edward Island,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/15767.