Making a Mark for Halifax’s Historic Irishtown

As an organization, as well as individual members of An Cumann, we are focused on events and the development of Irish content of activities relevant to today’s social environment. We also recognize that what is happening around us today sprang from the past. Where Irish history, music and traditions that arrived from the “The Auld Sod” play a big part of who we are and how our communities appear today.

Whether members came to the region in wooden ships, steamers or modern wide-body jets, we all share the common idea: to promote the impact that Irish settlement has had on our relatively new communities. As an organization we have taken on certain responsibilities. One is to highlight within our communities the impact that the Irish had in building what we now enjoy.

One good way of recognizing the contributions and heritage of a foundational community, practised in many modern North American cities, is the use of interpretive or identifying signage.

Progress in Dartmouth

In Dartmouth, there has already been a successful designation and acknowledgment of the Irish presence with the street signage (see below). This commemorates the town that sprung up from the construction of the Shubenacadie Canal, whose stonecutters were predominantly (if not exclusively) Irish. Although a step in the right direction, it is a small sign, by our city, of the significant impact the Irish have had in forming Atlantic Canada’s largest urban area.

Historic Irishtown in Halifax

To some readers it may be a surprise to learn that Halifax also had a well defined vibrant Irishtown, and this is one of the main reasons An Cumann wishes to take up this cause. Already, with the passing years (and poor documentation) the location of the immigrant town is a little blurred, but it has been described as reaching from the original town’s southern 1750’s palisades to South Street and up to the Old Burying Grounds on Barrington Street.

An Cumann Community Action

In Halifax, we are working with the Municipality and the Waterfront Development Corporation with the goal of establishing signs. These signs would indicate the general area of Halifax’s old Irishtown through a plaque on the waterfront, a waterfront built for the most part by Irish labourers who lived close by in Irishtown.

Moreover, we seek to place bilingual Gaelic and English street names for areas in the city that were historically known in Halifax to have once been a part of the early settlement’s thriving Irishtown. In essence, we want to make a more appropriate mark on the city today to keep the memory of that early community alive for tomorrow. See the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) request link here: http://www.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/090120cai05.pdf.

Today’s example of community still alive and still very much in action has brought us to take the first steps in the long process to changing street signage in the Irishtown area. An Cumann is a community in action, and as such has launched the movement to change with our first proposal in 2009 and we can always use your support in keeping the community’s heritage and future very much alive. Updates to follow.

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