As I continue to look deeper in to family tree I’m confronted with the fact that my ancestors must have suffered greatly not only when they arrived in Scotland, but in the period before that. The year my ancestors left Ireland was 1879. This was the year that there was yet another famine. While this one is not remembered to the same extent as the one in the 1840s, perhaps due to it only being in some areas of Ireland, it was non the less still a famine, with people going hungry.
My ancestors came from a little village near the beautiful Mountains of Mourne in County Down, Northern Ireland. Looking at the landscape I gather that they must have been farmers. Having survived the famine in the 1840s, I wonder if perhaps when news started to come through that the west of the country had began to suffer, did they decide it was time to emigrate.
While I will never fully know why they chose to emigrate that year, I am again in awe of these brave people, whose surname I carry, who travelled across the Irish Sea and settled in Scotland. I chose to move to London to pursue my career, knowing that I could catch a train or plane home to Scotland whenever I wanted. They did it knowing that it would be a one way journey.
While learning about my family history I have found myself drawing parallels between their journey, and that of current day refugees. The refugee crisis we currently see in Europe is a result of people fleeing their homes because of war and conflict. There may be over 100 years separating my ancestors with this crisis, but ultimately they migrated for the same goal : a better life for their children. It saddens me to think that when my ancestors left Ireland they faced discrimination and rejection. I’m glad to say that Scotland is now a far more welcoming place than it was in 1879, which is why I find it utterly baffling that even though the world has changed so much since then, so many people would still chose to reject refugees because they have different accent, religion or skin colour. Whenever I see this on the news, I’m reminded that our current day refugees could have been my ancestors.