By default, I tend to think of Ireland as a country with a very homogenous population until the recent wave of immigration. A recent conversation with my parents made me rethink a little.
They were talking about Hadji Bey’s Turkish delight (a Cork speciality) and it occurred to me that it was unlikely to have been the brainchild of an Irish native. They moved on to talking about a family (from Iran) with whom my father’s family had been friendly. They spoke about the “old lady” who spoke broken English and the children who became fully integrated (always a particular challenge in Cork).
Then there were all the Lithuanians in Cork (which my husband says boasts some of the most unusual surnames in Ireland). They were going to America but stopped off in Cork for reasons which are unclear to me and probably to them too. And then there were the Dutch butter merchants from the 18th century. And come to think of it, my mother is probably a Palatine (her grandmother’s maiden name was very germanic and a bit odd). There were Hungarian refugees in my mother’s class in school and one of them subsequently had a very handsome son who was a couple of years ahead of my brother in school. There were Vards the furriers who were very exotic, probably Jewish, I reckon (my mother remembers one of them in college arguing strongly against going to fight the communists in Hungary – he felt there was no point and thus the Hungarian uprising of ’56 was denied the assistance of a bunch of UCC students).
Perhaps, immigration is not the recent phenomenon we’ve been led to believe.