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Smiths Falls Mayor Sean Pankow

2017-04-30

The Town of Smiths Falls, in partnership with the Coolattin Canadian Connection headquarters (CCC) in Carnew – which was launched by the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Kevin Vickers – would like to explore this heritage connection by hosting many Irish themed events during the Canada 150 celebration.

In the 1840’s during the Irish Great Famine 2.5 million persons emigrated from Ireland, many to what was then Upper Canada. During the period 1847-1856 over 6000 people were force-migrated from the Coolattin Estate, owned by the Fitzwilliam Family, who went to some lengths to shepherd former tenants of their estate into work opportunities on the railways in Canada. The Fitzwilliam family eventually bequeathed their ancestral home to the state and it is now situated in perpetuity on the grounds of the Coollattin Golf Club in County Wicklow.  The Ambassador of Canada to Ireland, His Excellency Mr. Kevin Vickers, recently visited the Coollattin Estate and has since launched the Coollattin Canadian Connection, a project aimed at connecting the Canadian descendants of those who endured the migrations with their history in County Wicklow. More information can be found on their website www.facebook.com/coollattin.

Many of those tenant farmers ended up in Smiths Falls and the surrounding region, including members of the Balfe family who settled on what is now the Smiths Falls Golf and Country Club, where a plaque commemorates the family today. The link between the towns was first brought to our attention by Kevin Lee, an Irish historian of the Coollattin Estate and Carnew, and Project Leader of the Coollattin Canadian Connection, who visited with his wife Eleanor Lee in 2014. He observed that graveyards in Smiths Falls and the region contained many more names familiar to County Wicklow than just the Balfe’s. It is possible that many more families from the Coollattin Estate made their way to this area.

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