Since the 18th century, at least 9 million people in the entirety of the island of Ireland emigrated. Prior to that large numbers of people had already done so going all the way back to Roman times, but it is only since the early 1700s that sufficiently good populations records can provide a quantification of just how many people left the island. The estimated 9-10 million is just a staggering number when you consider that its combined population today is only 6.5 million! With such an enormous number of people having left for other shores, it’s no surprise that Northern Irish Culture has spread across the world together with its people. This article looks at some of that cultural spread that reached American lands.
One of the most obvious impacts of the movement of so many Northern Irish people is the spread of sports with clear origins from them. Gaelic football, as the name suggests, is a sport with a rich and storied history that clearly originated from Ireland. But today it is played across the world in many places that saw immigrants arriving from Northern Ireland. While the Gaelic Athletic Association still manages the sport at home, equivalent bodies have emerged abroad including the American USGAA, which administers Gaelic football in the United States. Beyond just Gaelic football, the USGAA actually also manages Hurling, another sporting export of Ireland! With several dozen clubs spread all the way throughout the United States, the cultural seeding of these traditional sports across the Atlantic are still bearing fruit to this day.
Northern Ireland has a rich history through the Middle Ages and back into Roman and even pre-Roman times. Together with its natural beauty and dramatic scenery, this makes Northern Ireland a popular location for film- and TV-shoots. In recent years, Northern Ireland has played host to a number of American franchises filming their material on its shores, leaving its own mark on the resulting productions and the magic of their creations.
To name just one spectacular example from the last decade – Game of Thrones filmed several of its locations throughout Northern Ireland including the old architecture at Castle Ward for the Stark family home of Winterfell and the natural views of places like Binevenagh standing in for such locations as the Dothraki Sea!
St. Patrick’s Day
Naturally, as most readers will know, St. Patrick’s Day is a huge event in the United States. Cities with large populations with roots in Ireland, such as Boston and New York, paint themselves green in celebration of their ancestry. And in general the celebratory themes, colours, images and aesthetics of St. Patrick’s Day has come to feature heavily in American life, whether in the form of sports team mascots and logos, simply betting on the rainbow riches slot machine, or branding and marketing campaigns playing on mythical figures such as leprechauns.
The restaurant scene in most major American cities features a heavy component of Irish pubs, bars and restaurants. Common foods and flavours with roots back in Ireland include potato bread, boxty and pasties, which can be found for sale in many food trucks and eateries in cities ranging from Seattle to New York. These days, even such traditional fare as Dulse and Yellowman can be found for sale by those who know where to look for it!
Perhaps most popular in the United States is an Ulster Fry, which much like its analogues from elsewhere includes bacon, sausages, eggs, tomato, pudding, mushrooms, beans and bread. However, the unique nature of the Ulster Fry much appreciated by Americans is that it is enjoyed at any time of the day, and needn’t be something particular to mornings and breakfasts!