My debut novel Broken Falls is set in a fictional village in Newfoundland populated by people of Irish descent. In the course of my research, I realised that there is a very strong link between Ireland and Newfoundland. According to Wikipedia:
In modern Newfoundland, many Newfoundlanders are of Irish descent. According to the Statistics Canada 2006 census, 21.5% of Newfoundlanders claim Irish ancestry. The family names, the features and colouring, the predominance of Catholics in some areas (particularly on the southeast portion of the Avalon Peninsula), the prevalence of Irish music, even the accents of the people in these areas, are so reminiscent of rural Ireland that Irish author Tim Pat Coogan has described Newfoundland as “the most Irish place in the world outside of Ireland”. Newfoundland has been called “the other Ireland”.
Nowhere is the connection between the two countries more evident than in the South East of Ireland. The website “Waterford In Your Pocket” picks up the story:
When the fishing industry started to flourish in Newfoundland, Canada, then the ships started looking for people that were willing and able to work. This all started in the 1700s. Men from the South East of Ireland, many of them farmer’s sons with no experience of fishing, would travel to Newfoundland for the summer fishing season and return home for the winter. The interesting point is that all these men lived where there was easy access to Waterford city and that was along the Three Sisters, the rivers Suir, Nore, and Barrow.
It has been said that between 1800 and 1830, over 35,000 people from the South East of Ireland, with a radius of about fifty miles around Waterford City, settled in a thinly populated Newfoundland. It was in essence a population transplant from the South East to Newfoundland.
Today the fishing is not what it used to be in Newfoundland but the ties are still there. If you were walking down a street in St John’s you would think that you were walking through the streets of Waterford or any town in the south east.
Indeed, I witnessed this myself when I took a research trip to Newfoundland for Broken Falls. My trip took me to the Irish Loop (situated on the above-mentioned Avalon Peninsula). In one village in particular, I encountered people who had never left Newfoundland, but who had a stronger Waterford accent than me. This town would become my fictional “Broken Falls”.
The video below will give you some idea of how the Irish accent has endured in Newfoundland.