PENAL LAWS, POVERTY & MIGRATION: THE STORY OF 1718

The background to the story of the transatlantic migration of upwards of 100 local families in 1718 will be explored in a forthcoming conference to be hosted by Garvagh Museum on Saturday, 12 May in association with the Ulster Historical Foundation.

The migrants who left Ulster 300 years ago were Presbyterians looking for a better life in America.  They were led by enigmatic figures, the most famous of whom is Reverend James McGregor of Aghadowey. On arrival in their new home, life was difficult but they eventually founded settlements and towns in eastern states including New Hampshire and Maine, some of which took familiar names such as Londonderry.

The migrants came from across the Bann Valley, Londonderry and Donegal and this conference will explore the many tragic reasons why they felt they had to leave their homes and say a sad farewell to their families and friends. There were already growing links between Ulster and America and the New World had begun to offer hope of a brighter future. As the conference title suggests, these Ulster Scots families had suffered religious persecution in Ireland as Presbyterians, prolonged periods of poverty and other significant hardships.  In the end, they believed they had little choice other than a daunting voyage to America.

The conference has attracted five highly respected speakers who will be well known to local audiences including Dr. Patrick Fitzgerald, Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, LibrariesNI, Dr. William Roulston, Ulster Historical Foundation, Alison McCaughan, First Dunboe Presbyterian Church, Dr. Linde Lunney, Dictionary of Irish Biography, Royal Irish Academy and Brian Mitchell, Genealogist, Derry & Strabane District Council.  The content of the conference will be of interest to everyone with a fascination for local history and the ideal introduction to this period in Ulster history.

The conference is free; there is no admission fee and delegates do not have to book. It will run from 9.45am–1pm on 12 May.  It is hosted by Garvagh Museum and will be held in the Garvagh & District Development Association (GADDA) Community Building, 85 Main Street, Garvagh.  For further details, please see the Garvagh Museum Facebook page.  Funding for the conference has been provided by Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council.

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