In the 1930s in County Meath the Irish Land Commission undertook a remarkable social engineering project. Several large farms were acquired and tiny patches of the poorest land in the west of Ireland were exchanged for twenty-two acres of the best in the east. The government’s objectives were, firstly, to relieve congestion on the western seaboard, and secondly, to create an Irish-speaking microcosm in the Pale, 40 miles from Dublin, from which Irish would spread out and reverse the language’s centuries of decline.
In 1937, fifty households moved to Gibbstown. A small piece of their new farm was already planted with crops and vegetables. A week’s supply of groceries and a year’s supply of turf awaited them on arrival. And they were to be paid thirty shillings a week for the first year.
The Gibbstown immigrants came from Munster, Connaught and Ulster and, initially, experienced difficulty in understanding each other because of dialect differences.
This book, written in Irish with an English translation, is based on family photographs, oral histories and archival sources. It records the effects migration had on the fortunes of the families, their initial amazement at the lush grassland and broad meadows of Leinster, and the process of integration with the communities they found themselves among.
It is a story of hardship and courage, and a testament to the pioneering spirit of a generation which took a leap into the unknown to give the next generation.
Please note that the details of events listed above are provided by the relevant Local Authorities.