Out of Ireland: The Story of Irish Emigration to America
written and directed by Paul Wagner, Shanachie Entertainment, 111 minutes .
Between 1846 and 1851 one million Irish died of starvation and disease; their countrymen who fled to America took any work they could find. “People need not expect a great deal of enjoyment when they come here,” one D. Mclntire wrote home. “Nothing but work. Work away.” Women outnumbered men in the exodus, and they were often employed as governesses. The men competed with slaves for jobs in New Orleans, dug the Erie Canal, and moved west by the thousands, building railways. One in five voters was Irish-born in the New York City of the 1870s, and they turned the notorious slogan “No Irish Need Apply” into one of the popular songs of the decade. Interviewing historians in America and Ireland, and making good use of nineteenth-century pictures and heartfelt letters home, the film’s makers create a powerful sense of the “chain immigration” made possible by new Americans sending cash back home. A fine original soundtrack played on Irish instruments and evocative readings by Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne fill out this transatlantic drama, which premiered on PBS in June.