In 1836, half the population of Newfoundland was of Irish descent, overwhelmingly Catholics from Munster who had originally participated in the seasonal trans-Atlantic fisheries. High rents, enclosure, and rapacious agents of absentee landlords created endemic unrest in rural Ireland, exemplified by secret societies like the Ribbonmen and White Boys, and spilling over into low-level insurgency in the Tithe Wars (1831–36). Earlier, the Protestant Scots-Irish of Ulster, many of them refugees from the 1690s Scottish famine, upped sticks again in their thousands to the American colonies when confronted by sectarian violence, droughts and rising rents. In 1691, the ‘Flight of the Wild Geese’ saw the wholesale movement of the Jacobite army defeated at the Battle of the Boyne to the continent. Irish mercenaries played a significant role in the armies of France, the Habsburgs and various German states. Peter von Lacy (1678–51) became a Field-Marshal for Peter the Great’s Russian army.
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