X10258 | Sylvie Shea

Sylvie Shea
About 1865, 19th century
10.2 x 6.2 cm
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
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Keys to History

The massive exodus that followed the failure of the Irish potato crop in 1845 and that continued throughout successive years, has often been looked upon as a meteoric event. As poor Irish-Catholic immigrants constituted more and more of a drain on the public purse in New Brunswick, religious and ethnic tensions became enflamed. For their part, Irish Catholics saw themselves excluded, if not by legislation then by public opinion, from many public offices and positions of respect. In addition, poor Catholic immigrants, who were willing to work for less pay, were perceived as representing a threat to labour values. Their experience of anti-Catholic or anti-Irish discrimination tended to evoke memories of similar experiences at home in Ireland. Irishmen like the notorious Saint John's drunkard, Sylvester Shea, served as models for Orange Lodge stereotypes of rowdy Irishmen.

Source : Out of Ireland [Web tour], by New Brunswick Museum (see Links)

  • What

    Penalties for Shea's disorderly conduct ranged from jail time to fines of $2 to $3.

  • Where

    The stereotype of a violent and disorderly people has its roots in Ireland's historical resistance to English domination.

  • When

    On March 22, 1864, Sylvester Shea, aged 50, and a Michael Callaghan, aged 17, were sent to the Penitentiary for 40 days as vagrants.

  • Who

    Sylvester Shea is listed as a labourer in the McAlpines Directory, 1869-1870.