I’ve been researching the history of Britain’s Irish ethnic cleansing for historical accuracy in my novels, particularly the Angelica Brown Series, and to understand my Irish heritage.
As a Caribbean-American, I mine all of my ancestral origins for inspiration–whether African, Panamanian, Carib Indian or Irish. Unfortunately, there was very little information that could help me to paint an accurate picture of Irish-Caribbean history outside of the usual St. Patrick Day rhetoric and Irish-American rah-rah.
Fortunately, while milling around the South End branch of the Boston Public Library, I found To Hell or Barbados: The ethnic cleansing of Ireland. The author, Sean O’Callaghan, was a former member of the Irish Republican Army and highly qualified to render a reliable account of Oliver Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland.
Along with extensive internet research, this book shed light on how Irish Catholics were stripped of their livelihoods, dignity and property and shipped off to be slaves. I was shocked to learn that Irish slaves in Barbados were considered less valuable than their African counterparts. It was also disheartening to think about the many stories connected to these events that will never be told.
Nevertheless, Heart to Heart explores this part of history through the story of Charles Wright, a 19th century descendant of Barbadian Irish slaves who forms intricate ties with Angel’s family.
It felt pretty cool to weave this barely-discussed part of Irish history with the story of West African slavery in Barbados, and create a memorable character in the series.
The human experience of the Irish-Caribbean is not something typically portrayed in school “his story” books. However, very much like the atrocities of the African genocide, this is a part of our collective history that deserves to be honored and understood.
How I Researched My Irish Heritage for Heart to Heart: Book Two in the Angelica Brown Series