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Irish Settlements

Irish Place Names in Saskatchewan do not necessarily indicate Irish settlement: for example, Limerick has been settled by Romanians; Meath Park by Ukrainians; and Shamrock and Wynyard by Icelanders. Other Irish place names include the Enniskillen district near Oxbow, Erinferry near Big River, and the Connaught district near Tisdale. Street names in North Portal are northern Irish: Belfast, Ulster, Antrim, Clair - revealing the origin of the first station agent. Some communities have been named after Irish-Canadian politicians of renown, such as D'Arcy and McGee (after Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a father of Confederation), and Davin (after Irish-born Nicholas Flood Davin, who founded the Regina Leader and later served as a member of Parliament). People of Irish origin tended to scatter throughout Saskatchewan; yet Irish settlers concentrated in Shamrock RM 134, north of Gravelbourg, and Erinvale SD no. 3271.

The “Irish Colony” around Sinnett was originally founded in 1905 by Fr. John Sinnett, a secular priest at the time. Born in Ridgetown, Ontario in 1855, he had served in the Jesuits from 1884 to 1894, during which period he was the priest in Sheenboro, a strongly Irish area in Quebec across the Ottawa River from Pembroke, Ontario. He later returned to recruit Irish-Canadian settlers to form an Irish colony in Saskatchewan, together with Irish settlers from Prince Edward Island and immigrants directly from Ireland. Fr. Sinnett was an influential and active priest, who served in Regina before becoming Rector and Vicar-General of the Prince Albert Diocese. He established the parish of St. Ignatius in 1906 (a new church was constructed in 1915, replaced by a larger church in 1928), then St. Patrick's in 1908. Fr. Sinnett returned to Ontario in 1922 to rejoin the Jesuits, and died in 1928 without seeing the new church. Among Irish family names of homesteaders were Laverty, McEachern, Devine, McDonald, Hearn, Coughlin, Sullivan, Bevan, McGuire, and Doyle (including “Scots-Irish” originally from Northern Ireland). A railway line passed through Sinnett in 1921, and stores and Grain Elevators were established there and in nearby Leroy. Today, the railway closed and elevator gone, Sinnett has all but disappeared, and Leroy is dormant. Of 139,205 people in Saskatchewan claiming Irish origin (2001 Census), 11,155 (8%) claimed Irish-only origin and 128,045 (92%) partly Irish origin.

Alan Anderson

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Further Reading

Barry, B. 1997. People Places: Saskatchewan and Its Names. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center; Coughlin, J. 1995. The Irish Colony of Saskatchewan. Scarborough, Ontario: Lochleven Publishers.
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