New chapter for Durban’s Irish

New chapter for Durban’s Irish THE Irish community in Durban will now be included in the Irish South African Association.

The launch of the Durban Chapter, in collaboration with the Irish Embassy, is at the Durban Manor Club, Victoria Embankment, on Saturday 1 September at noon.

The Ambassador of Ireland, Brendan McMahon, Maureen Sharpe, the president of the Cape Town chapter and Lorraine Keenan, Ppresident of the Johannesburg chapter will be present at the launch of the Durban chapter.

The purpose of the The Irish South African Association is to promote Irish culture in all its forms, including sport, literature, theatre, dance and music, and to act as a forum and contact point for all things Irish.

The ISAA was founded in Cape Town in 2001 and has 400 members.
Each chapter acts with full autonomy and independently of any other chapter or chapters, and is bound by the provisions of the Constitution.

Anyone interested in joining the Irish chapter can contact Bev Moore on 083 777 6730.

South Africa has strong ties with Ireland, says Durban prof

UKZN Professor Donal McCracken has spent years researching the Irish in South Africa.

According to McCracken, there are many friends of Ireland living in Durban, as a large number of Indian doctors trained in Dublin, but not as many Irish as such.

"I’m in full support of the Durban Chapter and think it’s very important, especially since I’m an Irishman living in Africa!" said McCracken.

McCracken is a professor of history at UKZN and has written many books about the Irish in South Africa.

He recently published the fourth in his series of SA Irish studies and has written various others, including books on Irish commanders.

"It’s come to a time where for the first time in history, there are more South Africans living in Ireland than Irish living in South Africa. It’s sad that the second and third generation South African Irishman doesn’t have good knowledge of Ireland - they are good immigrants - they have fitted in well!" he said.

According to McCracken, there are around 3000 Irish left living in South Africa, with numbers having plummeted in recent years.

"Ireland was a great country for immigration after the famine, with a lot of people immigrating to the UK, US, Scotland, Australia and more obscure places such as South Africa and South America. There’s been one permanent Irish settlement in Africa since the 1780s, and that’s in South Africa," said McCracken.

A lot of Irishmen were in the working occupations in South Africa, such as the old Cape and Natal police, where a quarter were Irish and 40 per cent of the British troops were Irish. Retail stores were all Irish-owned, such as Henderson’s, McNamees, John Orr’s and Cuthberts Shoes. They were also found in the mines, managing the railways and in the churches.

"Irish in South Africa are insignificant, but valuable as a source in looking at Irish migration, as the men immigrated alone, leaving the women in Ireland. That’s why there are a lot of Afrikaans Irish surnames, such as O’Reily, O’Neal and O’Grady, and in the coloured population, the Fynn’s, Canes and Ogles," he said, warming to his subject.

A third of the old British governors at the Cape were Irish, such as Mr Upington, who founded Upington, Mr Hime (Himeville) and William Porter, who was the attorney general and drew up the Cape Constitution. The head of the army which raided Natal in 1899 was Irish, along with the governor, prime minister and attorney general.

Some Irish settlements and towns include Umbogintwini on the South Coast and Port Elizabeth and some road names in Newlands are Irish. One that has just been discovered was on the South of Robin Island.

Durban has links with Ireland, with a few of the old street names such as Field and Smith Streets being named after Irishmen. Enduring links are the Durban City Hall, which is modelled after the Belfast City Hall and the harbour (Port Natal) which was the terminus of the Union Castle liners, and which is one of its greatest heritages, according to McCracken.

McCracken’s family started moving back and forth between Ireland and South Africa in 1912, and his parents came out in 1947.

He said after the war there was an influx to South Africa, however his parents went back to Ireland and came back again later. He was born in Ireland, trained there and went back to Ireland to find a wife. His wife, Patricia, came out with him and they have lived in Durban since 1980.

He does go back to Ireland regularly to research his books but he said Africa ‘would have his bones’.

To find out about the Durban Irish Chapter, visit:

Posted by Chantelle Eurelle on 31/08/2012 18:28:41 |

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