The City of New Orleans in Louisiana is a world apart from any other place.
It’s hot, humid and thronged with people. From Voodoo to Vampires, from Jazz, to Mardi Gras, New Orleans has an indefinable soul, and a million stories.
But there is one story that has not yet been told. For centuries now, New Orleans has had an Irish population.
In the mid 1900s, a quarter of the population of the city was Irish. And yet their names and stories have been all but forgotten.
So how did these Irish people end up settling on the banks of the Mississippi River?
A group of Irish American historians in the Deep South have been piecing the story together. Producer Francesca Lalor travelled to New Orleans to learn more.
Since the 1800s, the Irish have settled on the banks of the Mississippi Delta. During the famine, many thousands of Irish emigrants ended up in the Southern States, working alongside African American slaves on building projects, knee-deep in swampland. Later still, the Irish merged and mingled with the inhabitants of New Orleans, influencing the language, the music, the architecture, and the culture of the place. And to this day, there is a strong Irish Community there. We often think of the Irish enclaves in New York, Chicago and Boston, but far less those of New Orleans. Featuring new research, this programme will tell their stories for the first time.
The programme focuses on a rarely-told aspect of the Irish Diaspora’s experience, therefore giving us a fuller picture of the nature of Irish emigration, culture and integration in the southern states of America, and adding a new strand to the history of the Irish Diaspora.
“Tales From The Big Easy” will be broadcast on Newstalk 106-108fm this weekend, Sunday 31st May at 10am, and repeated at 11.30am on Monday 1st June. You can listen back via the podcast below:
"Tales From The Big Easy" was produced, recorded and edited by Francesca Lalor. Mixed by John Davis.
The programme was funded via the BAI sound and vision scheme with the television licence fee.