Irish in Jamaica from the 17th Century


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There are strong traces of Irish DNA in much of the Caribbean population. Historically, many of the islands were used by the British Empire for deportation for crimes against the crown.

The term ‘Redleg’ referred to the scorched legs of fair Irish skin under the Caribbean sun

England captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655 and Oliver Cromwell set about populating the new colony. The Irish were sent as convicts and indentured servants, most of these deportees had committed crimes of very little significance.

Deportation “beyond the sea, either within His Majesty’s dominions or elsewhere outside His Majesty’s Dominions” was one method (enshrined in law) of handling the ‘Irish problem’ while at the same time populating lands newly conquered by England.

Kingston Harbour, Jamaica

Kingston Harbour, Jamaica

Ireland’s population was close to 1.5 million in 1641, by 1652, Ireland’s population had dwindled to a little over half a million ­ famine, rebellion and forced deportation were all factors. Following the ‘Seige of Drogheda’ in 1648 and under the jurisdiction of Cromwell’s son ‘Henry’, thousands of Irish were shipped to the West Indies as indentured servants.  Over 12,000 political prisoners were sent to Barbados between 1648 and 1655.

After the taking of  Jamaica in 1655, the Irish peoples came mainly from Barbados as well as Ireland to provide labour for the colonists under British control

Further Reading
Dr. Rebecca Tortello
Slave Compensation 1838 St. Thomas
Researching Slave-owners