One of the many facts about Irish emigration to the U.S. revealed in the informative documentary Out of Ireland is that there is no Irish word for "emigration."
Instead, the Irish considered themselves "exiles" — driven from their homeland by factors from the great potato famine of the 1840s to oppressive Protestant landlords who seized land from Catholics and evicted them from their homes by the thousands.
Period letters and songs, archival and modern photography, and illustrative anecdotes as well as broad analysis are all deployed to convey the flavor as well as the sequence of historical events. We learn how Irishmen came to America expecting streets paved with gold, and wound up not only paving the streets themselves but building the bridges, skyscrapers, and railroads.
The role of Catholicism is generally depicted positively, apart from unfortunate passing references to the Church’s "authoritarian" heirarchy and "rigid" morality. There’s also brief consideration of Irish folk beliefs and practices, though without sufficient depth to explain why a painted Celtic cross is characterized as a "hex sign" and not a Christian icon.
Despite some weaknesses, Out of Ireland is a thoughtful, informative look at the Irish experience in Ireland and America during the last two centuries.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.