The Importance of Irish Migration

The Irish played an important role in Swansea, and came to call the city home. They performed important functions in Swansea, both for the city itself and for the Catholic Church in Wales and specifically St David’s Priory.

The Irish worked hard, but generally speaking they were relegated into menial jobs, since all the skilled work went to Welsh people.[1] This meant the Irish were typically found working in the industrial sites of Swansea, in a time when Swansea was an emerging industrial town their labour was essential. Irish children often worked too, even occasionally missing school because of it.[2]

Item reference LAC/99/K2 Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Item reference LAC/99/K2
Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Forming their own community in Greenhill, the Irish shaped the growing town as it became a city. They had fled their homes, largely due to famine, in search of work, and although they often remained desperately poor, in Swansea they worked to build a new community, to find places of worship and support their churches, and to build a new life away from the suffering in Ireland at the time.

Without the Irish migration it is possible that St David’s Priory would not have been able to expand as it did, creating other churches working toward the same mission in the city, which later became independent Catholic Churches. They spread Catholicism in a town where the native population was largely non-conformist, and at a time when Catholicism was just beginning to recover from the reformation.

Their importance in St David’s Priory can be seen in how often they appear in the collection, from Irish names in the registers of births, marriages and deaths, ot mentions of the Irish in the Sunday Notices, to reports written by priests discussing the Irish congregation.


[1] LAC/99/K2. RBA, Swansea University.

[2] LAC/99/K2. RBA, Swansea University.


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