Irish NB/NB Facts & Trivia

Irish-New Brunswick Facts & Trivia

The Irish immigration to our province has contributed greatly to the growth and culture of New Brunswick as a whole. Here we present a number of interesting facts of how that contribution manifested itself over time. How many of these facts and personages were you aware of?

Saint John
Bishop William Dollard

The first three Bishops of the Diocese of Saint John were natives of Ireland – William Dollard (left) of Mooncoin, County Kilkenny, Thomas L. Connolly of Cork and John Sweeny, of Clones, County Fermanagh. All were visionaries and builders. Robert J. Higgins, Leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party, was the first Irish Catholic from Saint John to be elected to lead a provincial political party. Shirley Dysart, the first elected woman MLA from Saint John, went on to become the first woman interim leader of the Liberal Party, the First woman Minister of education and the first woman Speaker of the House.

Victoria County

Hon. Charles Walters 1818 – 1891 was born in Saint John of Irish ancestry, Nov. 26 1818. Admitted to the NB bar in 1845. Elected to the NB House of Assembly for Victoria Madawaska in 1855. In an 1861 election he was chosen as a member for Saint John County and became Solicitor General. At Confederation, he was appointed one of the five judges of the County Courts of the Province. In politics he was a conservative. His is buried in St. Peters’ RC Cemetery, Saint John.


1967 Fort Howe Replica
1967 Fort Howe Replica

Fort Howe – in Saint John had a blockhouse and garrison
commanded during the American Revolution by Capt. Gilford Studholme, a native of Ireland. A full-size replica of Fort Howe was constructed in Saint John in 1967. (picture at right)

Hon. Thomas Carelton
Hon. Thomas Carleton
Fredericton: Thomas Carleton, born in County Tyrone, Ireland, a Colonel of the British 29th Regiment in the American Revolutionary War and appointed New Brunswick’s first Governor in 1784. Thomas was the younger brother of Sir Guy Carleton, Lord Dorchester.
St. George: Founded on February 20, 1784 by Peter Clinch, Born, Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath. Educated Trinity College, Dublin.


Bishop Thomas Barry
Bishop Thomas Barry

Pokemouche: Michael Finn, a native of Wexford Ireland, in 1800 was
the first Irish settler in Pokemouche. In the early 1800s, and especially after the Great Miramichi Fire of 1825, other Irish families followed and for many years, Pokemouche was one of the stongest Irish settlements in New Brunswick. The second Bishop of Chatham, Thomas Barry (right), was a native son.


The Saint Patrick’s Society in St. John was founded in 1819 for “Gentlemen of Irish descent”. In its early years it provided financial and other assistance for new immigrants from Ireland. The original Society dissolved in the 1880s but was revived in 1929. The Presidency alternates between a Protestant and a Catholic each year.

The Nowlans and the Ryans were among those who arrived in the Bouctouche area around 1820. In 1821, Peter McPhelin and his wife Catherine from Sligo Ireland settled in Bouctouche with their 10 year old son, Francis. He engaged in business and became deputy treasurer of Customs. His son Francis also lived in Bouctouche and engaged in the mercantile, lumber and shipping business. Francis served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly from 1850 – 1855 where he was appointed Postmaster General. He later served as High Sherriff of Kent County. Michael McLaughlin came later from Donegal, Ireland and also became an early entrepreneur.
Bathurst: John Meahan, a native of Omagh, County Tyrone, Ireland emigrated to NB in 1833 at the age of 27. He established a thriving ship building industry in Bathurst and for 9 years represented Gloucester in the Legislature as a Liberal Member. One of his six sons, Henry Alixis, became the first parish priest of Moncton’s mother church, St. Bernard’s in 1882.

John Costigan
John Costigan
Victoria County: Senator John Costigan (right) 1835 – 1916. Born at St. Nicholas, Lower Canada, of Irish parents. In 1861, elected a member of the NB House of Assembly for Victoria. Elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 1867 and remained until 1905. Became the chief spokesman for the Irish Roman Catholics of Canada. Occupied several important cabinet posts. With Timothy Warren Anglin, in Parliament sought justice for denominational schools in New Brunswick, which were threatened by the School Act of Jan. 1st 1872. Appointed to the Senate in 1907.

Saint John: Michael Flood emigrated from County Kildare in 1836. In 1848 he started what has become Canada’s oldest construction company.
Moncton: Moncton’s first mercantile family was the McSweeny. The first McSweeney was a native of Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland, who emigrated to New Brunswick in 1837. Peter McSweeney Jr. founded Moncton’s first department store and later became a Senator. Edward McSweeney was Mayor of the town twice. George McSweeney was the proprietor of the Brunswick Hotel and promoted it as the finest east of Montreal. Georgetown, an early suburb of Moncton was named after him.

Sacred Heart Cathedral - Bathurst
Sacred Heart Cathedral – Bathurst
Fredericton: William Lawlor, born 1839 in Saint John of Irish parentage, was the general contractor in the construction of the Parliament Buildings in Fredericton in 1880. The stone work of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Chatham and that of Sacred Heart Cathedral (left) in Bathurst was the work of his company.

Cork: Cork was settled in 1842 by laborers who had arrived from Ireland. For a while it was called “Teetotal Settlement” as many had taken the pledge to abstain from intoxicating liquor before leaving for America.
Saint John’s first "Irish Free Presbyterian Church" was founded in 1843 when the St. John Congregation, wanting a minister from Ireland, separated from the Scottish-based St. Andrew’s Congregation. Their first minister, Rev. Robert Irvine, came from Ballynahinche in 1844.

Chatham: Patrick Carroll, James and Patrick Desmond were master ship-builders for many of the ships built in the shipyards. The first Irish Born to receive political prominence on the Miramichi was Martin Cranny of Chatham, who in 1846, was elected to the House of Assembly. Others who followed included Thomas Gillespie, a native of Mallow, County Cork, who was President of the Executive Council in the Conservative administration of Andrew Blair. Born in Chatham of Irish parentage, Patrick James Riorden became an early Bishop of San Francisco and his cousin, also Chatham born, D. Dunne became the Bishop of Chicago.

Partridge Island: Dr. James Patrick Collins, a native of Cork, volunteered to help treat fever victims on Partridge Island shortly after setting up his medical practice at York Point. Three weeks after arriving on the Island to assist Doctors George J. and William J Harding, he contracted Typhus and succumbed “A martyr to his Duty.
Chatham: Rev. John Sweeny, in 1847, Pastor of St. Michael’s Parish in Chatham, built a small rectory and its future functions read like the official history of the town: Episcopal residence, first Hotel Dieu Hospital, the starting point of St. Thomas College, St. Joseph’s Preparatory School for boys and the convent of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph.
Fredericton: Died – At Fredericton, on the 22 last, Mr. James W. Bennett, aged 60 years, an old and faithful soldier of the Peninsula, in which he served from the retreat at Corunna, down to its close. He was present and shared in most of the sanguinary conflicts which characterised that eventful period , to which his several wounds bore ample testimony. He was also present at the Battle of New Orleans, and was honourably discharged from the 43rd Light Infantry, at Fredericton, after a service of twenty seven years. – Mr. Bennett volunteered his services as a nurse for the sick emigrants in the Hospital at Fredericton, and died of fever contracted in that establishment. Having spent most of his life in the pursuit of battle and having seen action at Corunna and New Orleans, Bennett was now ready to dedicate himself to the cause of peace.


aerial view - Hospital Island
Aerial View – Hospital Island

St. Andrew’s: Hospital Island, in Passamoquody Bay off St. Andrews. In 1848, many Irish immigrants were quarantined here. 48 of whom were buried there having died of fever. During 1849-50, hundreds of Irish were employed in construction of the St. Andrew’s to Quebec Railroad.

Timothy Warren Anglin
Timothy Warren Anglin
Saint John: Timothy Warren Anglin (left) – Born in Clonakilty, County Cork, immigrated to NB in 1849 and became involved in the life and politics of Saint John. He founded “The Freeman” newspaper, perpetuated today as “The New Freeman” a Catholic Diocesan Weekly. He later served as a member of the Provincial Legislature and of the House of Commons, where he became the first and only speaker from NB. His daughter Margaret became a noted stage actor in the United States at the turn of the century and his eldest son, E.A. Anglin, became a distinguished member of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Newcastle: John Daniel Creaghan, from County Cork, who arrived in 1875, Patrick Hennessey who came with the Famine Irish in 1853, and John Morrissey, also a native of Ireland, were three early prominent citizens of Newcastle. J.D. Creaghan founded the company that bore his name. Hennessey`s grocery business grew into a large wholesale & retail trade. John Morrissey, a merchant and political figure, was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1903 and 1908 and served as Minister of Public Works. At one time he was also President of the Board of Trade.
Samuel Perry McCavour, of Irish ancestry, who settled in Lorneville, was comptroller of currency from 1925 – 1930 and, as such, his signature appears on Canadian Banknotes of that period.

E.J. Henneberry, who later became one of St. John’s best known Provincial Court Magistrates, was elected to the Legislature in 1936 and became President of the Executive Council.
Thomas J. Higgins, was the first elected Irish Catholic Mayor of Saint John, 1993 – 1995.

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann: The St. John branch of this International organization is formed. It is devoted to the preservation and promotion of traditional Irish dance and music. With an active membership, it holds regular musical Sessions as well as participating in workshops with international performers and instructors.