Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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The Palatines were a group of German Protestants who arrived in Ireland as refugees during the second decade of the 18th century. Their homeland lies along the banks of the River Rhine in south-west Germany where they were famed for their skills as farmers and winegrowers. However, during the wars which raged across Europe at that time, the sun-drenched land of the Palatines became a stomping ground for armies, specifically those of Louis XIV’s Catholic France during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). The Palatine farmsteads were repeatedly burned, their vineyards and crops destroyed. Combined with a series of appalling winters (in which birds reputedly froze in mid-air), the Palatines had reached a desperate situation by the time the British Government (then controlled by the Whigs), eager to increase the Protestant workforce in Britain, issued an invitation for 13,000 Palatines to resettle in Britain and her colonies.

The Palatines arrived, via Amsterdam, between May and November 1709. But they weren’t quite the new citizens the Whigs had been looking for. Unlike the entrepreneurial Huguenots or the Dutch émigrés of the previous century, these exhausted Palatines were, by and large, unskilled and war-weary peasant workers - husbandmen, vinedressers and general laborers. Yes, they were industrious and worked hard, but they did not have the education. Moreover, their expertise in winegrowing was utterly wasted in the British Isles at that time.

Opposition to the arrival of the Palatines in England was strong, particularly amongst the Tories who labelled them as ‘disease-ridden, Catholic bandits’ whose sole purpose was ‘to eat the Bread out of the Mouths of our People’.

Some 2,800 Palatines were shipped across the Atlantic to New York; a further 300 went to the Carolinas. Many died en route and many would later make their way home to Germany. But others stayed and so contributed their unusual bloodline to that of the USA.

A further 3,000 went to Ireland where they were settled in a variety of schemes around the country. The programme was not a success and reputedly many Palatines had returned to London within a few months in a state of increasing destitution. Nonetheless, they did settle in pockets around Counties Wexford, Carlow, Tipperary and Limerick. In 1837, for instance, Samuel Lewis noted 88 inhabitants of an area called ‘Palatine’ in the parish of Urglin, County Carlow, where the Rev. Joseph Bunbury would have been Rector at the time of their arrival in the 1710s. This was presumably connected to the banker Benjamin Burton, Lord Mayor (1706) and Member of Parliament (1703-1723) who purchased lands in 1712 at Burton Hall (formerly called Ballynakelly) and elsewhere in Carlow from the Trustees for the Sale of Forfeited Estates. (1)

Amongst the better-known Palatine names to have made it through from this age are those of Keppel, Switzer (originally Schweitzer, and best known for the Grafton Street department store that became Brown Thomas) and Wyse (or at least a branch of this family which was originally spelled Weiss and pronounced Vice; this possibly included the family of Wyse, the Irish estate agent, although there were Wyses in Ireland long before the Palatines. one of them hooked up with Napoleon’s family while check out the cap another was given by Henry VIII for keeping Waterford loyal during Silken Thomas'srebellion. )

Tom La Porte advises that many membes of the Jung family from the Rhineland Palatinate also settled in Ireland, changing their name to Young.

But the vast majority of the Palatines who came to Ireland arrived in County Limerick where Sir Thomas Southwell settled 130 families on his estate at Castle Matrix. Amongst these was Henrig Harbener (or Heavenor), a vinedresser, who arrived in Ireland with his wife Apolonia and four children. His descendent Noel Hayes appeared on the Genealogy Roadshow but we were unable to establish the direct connection. Unfortunately, many of the records relating to the Palatines were amongst those burned when the Public Record Office was set on fire in 1922 so it is difficult for 21st century Palatine descendents to prove the links. However, if you think you are of Palatine origin, then the Irish Palatine Museum and Heritage Centre (www.irishpalatines.org) in Rathkeale is an excellent place to start.



An edited version of the 'Papers of the Burton family of County Carlow' are now online at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlcar2/Burton_Family_Papers.htm

'The Search for Abel Ram's Settlement of Gorey Palatines' by Dolores Kearney is on Academia here.

The Freeman's Journal of 20-23 May 1780 notes the following: Carlow May 17: Early on Tuesday morning a detachment of the Palatine Town Volunteers commanded by Captain Henry Bunbury marched to Cranny[?] in the County Kildare, and after some resistance, apprehended one Murtagh Darcy, a notorious rioter....for an assault committed on one of the Volunteers of said company, and brought him before Sir Charles Burton, Bart, who committed him to gaol.

Tom La Porte adds: 'This is going to sound sort of lecturish but there can be some confusion on the word palatine in Ireland as it also refers to the Irish Princes of the 14th to 16th centuries. The O'Loughlins was certainly Palatines in the sense that they were Princes of Burren (co. Clare) and ruled with royal authority just below that of a King. They were Palatines and ruled the Palatinate of Burren but these are terms more used by English historians of the period and are not Irish terms. A Loughlin in a palatine setllement of the 1700's though almost certainly was Irish and living there as the husband of a palatine woman. There was a lot of encouragement to intermarry when the settlements were first established but not many did. There was a strong movement almost immediately within the settlements to retain their German language and culture. Also, 'palatinate' is quite correct. 'Palatine' as an adjective refers to a person of or relating to a palatine (as a noun) or a palatinate (noun), in this case the Rhineland Palatinate (proper noun). 'Palatine' as a noun refers to a resident of a palatinate. 'Palatinate' as an adjective refers to a person or group of persons who originated in a palatinate.'