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The first Irish settlers came to South Africa in the 18th century and integrated well into both the English- and Afrikaans-speaking settler communities. During the Anglo-Boer Wars Irish fighters were an important element of both the British military and Afrikaner nationalist forces.  Most Irish settlers came to South Africa during the 19th century, either as part of the British military or in response to the booming extractive industries.

The Irish in Africa

The Irish diaspora can be found all over the globe, and the African continent is no exception. Irish communities are to be found in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, and Johannesburg, with smaller communities in Pretoria, Barberton, Durban and East London. A third of the Cape's governors were Irish, as were many of the judges and politicians. Both the Cape Colony and the Colony of Natal had Irish prime ministers. A large contingent of Irish troops fought in the Anglo-Boer War on both sides and a few of them stayed in South Africa after the war. Others returned home but later came out to settle in South Africa with their families.

Between 1902 and 1905, there were about 5,000 Irish immigrants. Place names in South Africa include: Upington, Portevill, Caledon, Cradock, Sir Henry Lowry's Pass, the Biggarsberg Mountains, Donnybrook and Belfast.

Click on the images below to read about some of our Africa-related Chronicles

Henry Bartman 1848  

Henry Bartman
Born in Kilfinnane in County  Limerick, Henry and his wife Eliza arrived in South Africa as indentured servants.

Charles Daly 1832  

Charles Daly
Originally from Gort in County Galway, Charles landed by fate in South Africa, as a survivor of the Birkenhead shipwreck. 

Edel Quin 1907 

Edel Quin
During her short life, Edel devoted herself to charitable works and established many branches of the Legion of Mary in Africa.

Did your Irish ancestors have connections with Africa? Share their story with the people living in their Irish place of origin and those descended from the same place, living all over the world.

A very touching and moving film charting the experiences of the Irish Missionary community in South Africa and how they responded to what they saw. Thier oral history and work behind the scenes has been recorded by the Irish Embassy in Pretoria.

Read More

The Irish in India

The Irish in Australia



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