Growing up and even into my adult hood I have often been referred to as one of the “Black Irish”; my father calling me his “Black Irish Rose”! Where did the term come from; or more importantly who am I descended from? I’ve always believed I wasn’t, or at least didn’t look, completely Caucasian, my father didn’t look Caucasian nor did my paternal grandmother. I was told a story growing up that my grandmother had been in the Belfast Train Station with my father when a stranger “welcomed them to their new country”!
In my many trips back “home” I’ve been questioned about my ethnicity; and some were disbelieving that I was born in Northern Ireland. However, I was; as were my parents, grandparents and many generations further back in time.
In just the last year a 2nd cousin found me through www.Ancestry.co.uk; I hadn’t known he existed; in fact he hadn’t known I existed either! When I saw his photo for the first time it was very apparent that we were family! We both have an olive complexion; he has very dark eyes whereas mine are very light; supposedly grey but changing from green to blue! We most certainly have the same DNA – no tests required!
The Definition of the Black Irish as per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_people
“Black Irish is an ambiguous term sometimes used (mainly outside Ireland) as a reference to a dark-haired phenotype appearing in people of Irish origin. Opinions vary in regard to what is perceived as the usual physical characteristics of the so-called Black Irish: e.g., dark hair, brown eyes and medium skin tone; or dark hair, blue or green eyes and fair skin tone. Unbeknownst to some who have used this term at one time or another, dark hair in people of Irish descent is common, although darker skin complexions appear less frequently. The physical traits associated with the term Black Irish are sometimes thought to have been the result of an Iberian admixture. One popular theory suggests the Black Irish are descendents of survivors of the Spanish Armada, despite research discrediting such claims. In his documentary series Atlantean, Bob Quinn explores an alternative ‘Iberian’ hypothesis, proposing the existence of an ancient sea-trading route skirting the Atlantic coast from North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula to regions such as Connemara. While preferring the term “The Atlantean Irish”, Quinn’s reference to certain phenotypical characteristics (within elements of the Irish populace and diaspora) as possible evidence of a previous Hibernian-Iberian (and possibly Berber) admixture mirrors common descriptions of the Black Irish.”
As I was born and raised in Northern Ireland, as were my ancestors, I would disagree with the Wikipedia article that it is a term used “mainly outside Ireland”!
Irish Central states: “While it at various stages was almost certainly used as an insult, the term ‘Black Irish’ has emerged in recent times as a virtual badge of honor among some descendants of immigrants. It is unlikely that the exact origin of the term will ever be known and it is also likely that it has had a number of different iterations, depending on the historical context. It remains therefore a descriptive term used for many purposes, rather than a reference to an actual class of people who may have survived the centuries.”
The full article can be found here: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/who-were-the-black-irish-92376439-237784721.html
Personally, I proudly consider it a “badge of honour” and am looking forward to tracing my family lines back far enough to find the connection!
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