The story of the 'Connemaras' & Bishop John Ireland in Minnesota.
In June, 1880 a shipload of impoverished families, fishermen and smallholders from the West of Ireland, was transported to Minnesota by the Bishop of St. Paul.
Each family was given twenty acres of rich prairie land from which the Dakota Sioux had recently been driven.
Bishop John Ireland had a personal financial interest in the railway policy of settling the prairies.
The 'Connemaras' now had rich land. Trouble was that all they had wanted was to escape to a city - the Famine had taught them not to trust the land. Besides, it was too late in the season to plant crops.
Winter came to the prairies, the worst in living history - twenty foot snowdrifts, 30 degrees below.
The local Masons in the town of Morris took pity on the freezing families but also used their plight as a stick with which to beat the Catholic Bishop. He responded with public criticism of the 'Connemaras'. It became a public scandal in the United States. The Connemaras, unable to speak, read or write in English, could not defend themselves.
Since then, largely thanks to Bishop Ireland, the name 'Connemara' is synonymous with laziness in Minnesota. All the Bishop's personal records of this episode were later burned by his sister, a Reverend Mother.
A little known and sobering tale.
Researched and narrated by Seosamh Ó Cuaig
Written by Bob Quinn
(Gael Media, Colour, 50 mins) (1997 )