Irish immigrants at Liskeard

Cornwall was not a major destination for people leaving Ireland in the wake of the Great Famine and the traumatic 1840s. In 1861 there were 1,475 people born in Ireland and living in Cornwall (or just 0.4 per cent of the population). Moreover, several of these were Irish-born military personnel. Most of the other Irish immigrants clustered in the towns or the mining districts of the west, although there was a sufficient number of people of Irish descent at Camborne, many of them living in the village of Brea, to trigger a serious anti-Irish riot in 1882.

Other Irish folk were scattered more anonymously across Cornwall. In 1861 James Driscoll, his wife Ellen and two children had recently arrived at Liskeard parish (the rural part of Liskeard as opposed to the borough.) Their nine month old son James was recorded as having been born in Herefordshire.

Main locations of Irish-born residents in 1861
Railway Terrace in 1907

James senior, from Cork as was his wife, worked as a farm labourer and by 1861 the family were settled at Hendra Bridge in Liskeard parish. James junior’s birth in Herefordshire was forgotten and his birthplace became Liskeard in this and the following censuses. In the 1860s they must have realised there were better prospects in the copper mines north of Liskeard and the family decamped to the village of Darite (at first known as Railway Terrace) in St Cleer, where both James and James’ brother worked as mine labourers, probably meaning surface workers rather than underground.

The 1870s saw the copper mines around Caradon begin to struggle and the Driscolls were off again, this time to Durham to work in the booming Durham coalfield at Crook and Billy Row. What happened to James Driscoll after 1881 is unknown. Did he continue to work as a coal miner? Did he join the many thousands of his fellow Irish (and Cornish) and emigrate to the USA? Or had he died after a few years hewing coal?

2 thoughts on “Irish immigrants at Liskeard

  1. “Railway Terrace” seems to me to be a far more evocative name than Darite!

    And the riot to which you refer – worth any reader following the link for an absolutely amazing account in all respects. It looks like anti-Catholicism was at the heart of it. The local law and order was in full cahoots with the mob, there was an absolutely amazing lady with her candlesticks beating the rioters who ran away, a vast amount of damage to church and limb.

    Would love to read more of this.

    And any budding writers out there have a story made for them!


  2. Irish genes entered Cornwall in less direct ways also. My father’s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Timmons, was born in Wales (and was Welsh-speaking) but her parents/grandparents were all Irish. She married a Cornish man from Illogan, John Tonkin, whose family had moved to Wales for mining work. They returned to Cornwall with their young family and my Granny Margaret also married a Cornishman, Kenneth Basher. There were no religious differences as the Timmons family (orig. Timmins) had moved away from Catholicism under the influence of charitable Anglican nuns in Wales.


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