Irish immigration to Barbados
|about 400 people|
|Barbadian English, Bajan Creole|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Afro-Barbadian, English people|
Irish immigration to Barbados dates back to the seventeenth century, when Irish people began arriving on the island as indentured servants of the British planters. Many Irish rebels, Catholics and "stubborn" landowners and tenants were forced into indentured servitude in the English colonies in the Caribbean, Bermuda, and North America. The number of Irish laborers that were in Barbados is unknown but the figure is estimated at between 12,000 and 60,000 people.
The Irish, many of whom were prisoners of war or civilians, deported from Ireland following the Cromwellian invasion, arrived in Barbados alongside African slaves. The English overlords had used forced emigration as a way of pacifying Ireland since the start of the century, but the Cromwellian invasion greatly increased this. Between 1652 and 1659, another 50,000 Irish men, women and children were sent to the West Indies, Virginia and Bermuda. So many were sent to Barbados that being subjected to this forced emigration was described as being "Barbadosed".
The first 12,000 Irish prisoners sent to Barbados arrived in 1662. Although often described as indentured servants, the Irish were exiled and sold against their will. They could be physically punished, and might be mortgaged or resold, or given away in payment of debts.
In 1649, due to the harshness of the servitude to which they had been subjected, the Irish joined with the Africans in rebellion against the English colonists. In response to the rebellion, many were hanged, drawn-and-quartered and their heads deposited on pikes on high ground where the entire population of Bridgetown would see them as a warning against future rebellions. Despite this, attacks by Spanish and French pirates, as well as the loss of crops due to climatic shocks, led to further black and Irish revolts against the English. Rebellions increased the fear felt by white slave owners of the Africans, whom they perceived as savages.
In the 1660s, some 52,000 Irish laborers, mostly women and sturdy boys and girls, were delivered to Barbados and Virginia alone.
However, although African slavery in Barbados remained until 1834, Irish servitude seems to have disappeared over time. The 1880 census identified no Barbadian as Irish.
Currently, Barbadian descendants of the Irish are called Red Legs. This community has been endogamous, and now numbers only about four hundred people. Most live in poverty and are prey to infections and diseases. So, they do not have teeth or they have lack teeth or teeth in bad teeth due to poor diet and lack of dental care. Furthermore, hemophilia caused diseases (causing the fall of limbs) and premature deaths in the community, and excess sugar foods consumed by the community has aroused a high rate of diabetes in it, which has extended blindness among many them. Moreover, school absenteeism, poor health, the mixture between members of the same family (which causes severe disease in their descendants) and the poverty of the community, reinforced by the possession of small land, shortage of employment opportunities and maintenance large families (and therefore greater food shortages for each of its members), have adversely affected their presence on the island. So today, red legs are characterized by anomalies and difficulties to survive on the island are.
Only since the latter half of the twentieth century has the community begun to integrate and assimilate with the black people of Barbados, most on the island.
- Barbados Free Press: Irish Times: Most Barbados Red Legs have bad or no teeth. Many blind, without limbs.