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Rochester author to discuss settlement of Irish in North America

LEWISTON – Michael McCarthy will give a talk entitled “From Cork to the New World” at 7 p.m. Thursday, presented by the Historical Association of Lewiston, at the Lutheran Church of the Messiah, 915 Oneida St.

McCarthy’s presentation will center on Peter Robinson and his Settlement Project of 1823 and 1825.

In 1821, Ireland had yet another crop failure and the British authorities did little for their Irish subjects, especially after the Act of Union of 1800, which promised to elevate the political and social status of Ireland. This crisis sparked renewed threat of an agrarian revolt centered in southern Ireland.

Meanwhile, British North America (Canada) feared that the United States would invade to further its imperial objectives. Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton, the British Under-Secretary for the Colonies, devised a relief scheme to move impoverished Irish out of Ireland and relocate them to then Upper Canada.

Peter Robinson, a Canadian aristocrat and hero in the War of 1812, was asked to lead the relief effort. Initially, he led an experimental settlement of 600 people in 1823. Two years later, he took a second group into Upper Canada, present day Ontario, consisting of 2,024 emigrants on nine ships.

McCarthy’s presentation of this little known but highly successful project will describe the political and social ramifications for each country as well as the personal implications for the families. Most of the families stayed in Canada but a few came to the U.S.

McCarthy is a retired investigator with the Rochester Police Department and former director of safety and security for St. John Fisher College. He published his first historical novel, “From Cork to the New World,” in 2009, and his second, “The Flight of the Wretched,” in 2011. He is currently at work on his third book, “The Children of Michigan Street.” He is a board member of the Irish American Cultural Institute, Rochester Chapter, and a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

This event is free and open to all and refreshments will be served.