In the 1840s during the Irish Great Famine, and between the dates of 1847 to 1856, more than 6,000 people were force-migrated from the Coollattin Estate in County Wicklow, Ireland, many of whom landed in Smiths Falls and the surrounding region.
At the time, the Coollattin estate was owned by the Fitzwilliam family, who attempted to help former tenants on their estate find productive labour in Canada. The Ambassador of Canada to Ireland, His Excellency, Mr. Kevin Vickers, recently visited the Coollattin Estate and launched the Coollattin Canadian Connection.
Ingrid Bron told council the town was first approached by Kevin Lee, an Irish historian of the Coollattin Estate and Carnew, and the project leader of the Coollattin Canadian Connection who visited Smiths Falls in 2014. While in Smiths Falls, Lee noted that the graveyards in Smiths Falls contained similar names to those in County Wicklow.
“In the 1870s over 50 per cent of the town of Smiths Falls were Irish,” Bron said, noting that the “Carnew twinning will give Irish descendants in Canada and Ireland something to gravitate around.”
Mayor Pankow said that the percentage of Irish descendants in Smiths Falls may be close to 50 per cent even today, and pointed out that when you look at some of the names of the families who migrated from Ireland, many of them are common names in Smiths Falls and area. One familiar name is Balfe; members of the Balfe family migrated to Canada and settled on what is now the Smiths Falls Golf and Country Club, where a plaque commemorates the family today.
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