black Irish

the term black Irish was started whet the U.S goverment was rounding up the last of the Indians and sending them back to or their first time to a reservation,so the old settlers that did not want to go to a reservation told they were black Irish. this is more common in Arkansas where the last of the old settlers were rounded up in 1960,the last roundup.It is a bad situation because my own family will still not admit of a Indian bloodline,so therefore you cannot be yourself,for fear of deportation. also if you did not registar with the Indian burea you have background. I hope you will post this because it will enlighten a whole bunch of people,thank you Hercules

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, hercules, glad to have you with us.

When you start a thread, it’s helpful to other readers if you provide a link to the Column that you’re discussing. Saves lots of searching time, and helps keep us all on the same page. In this case, it’s Who are the “black Irish”?

No biggie, you’ll know for next time. And, as I say, welcome. sorry,but I think if you look on this site under history ahd treaties you,ll find the rest of the story

I hope Dex doesn’t get mad about my correcting his link in his post. Just a bit of coding to make it work.

hercules. Welcome. Since you’re a guest at this point, you can’t search the board for follow-up threads to Cecil’s column(s) on this. In one of them, I posted this additional info:


We’ve also had the following:

If you have any print cites that predate the 1888 British use by Kipling, it would go a long way to increasing the knowledge about this term. Thanks.

No, actually. It’s dead, Jim.

I’m astonished and fascinated by all this. I’m basically English but far too dark to be an English rose, and I have a fair amount of Irish ancestors. If I go north into Scotland, Perthshire, say, most of the heads of hair are as dark as mine. The Welsh too can be pretty dark. It never previously occurred to me that ‘black Irish’ meant anything much more than that some Celts are very dark. Also my mother uses the term ‘black Irish’ to describe the - er, slightly wild streak in me and my father. He’s a black temper on him. She has no US contacts.

Jaizi, welcome to the Straight Dope Message boards. Do be sure to read Cecil’s column, there’s a link in my earlier post… and the various threads on this referenced by samclem. The interpretation presented by hercules is certainly a minority view, and I don’t think we’ve seen any substantiation of it.

One of the difficulties of tracking down word and phrase origins is that they get lost in the mists of time, and then someone makes up a seemingly plausible explanation that’s very hard to disprove or unscramble. “The whole nine yards” is a good example of that, and the mists of time are only about 50 years ago!

Hang around. There’s a whole lot more on this site that’s astonishing. Sit back & enjoy the madness.

The true term is ‘’ Black faced Irish’’.

A large number of Irish Tinkers and Irish Gypsies [not true Gypsies - but the Irish dispossessed - see Irish Land Clearances] came to Britain. They were a wild lot and it was rumoured the Black Faced Irish were by far the worst. They had a black, almost dark cast complexion. When i was a child, 1940S, they were about. Today, they are very rare indeed. I last saw one at Yarm Fair, North of England, about 15 years ago. I knew another from Haswell Horse Auctions about 20 years ago, and i know of two very attractive ladys, sisters, who were obviously from Black Faced Stock. Due to death, intermarriage, and who knows what they have all gone. These are what was known in the 1920S as ‘the poor Irish’, today due to great Industry mostly they are the wealthy and talented Irish.


Cecil comments, in the relevant column: << So people have come up with all kinds of fanciful tales instead.>>

TRUE-BRIT, you’ll find that unsubstantiated claims don’t get very far around here. We’re not picking on you in particular, it’s just that there are lots of wild, unproved theories about “black Irish.” And you’ll also find that you will do better on these message boards reading what others have said. Samclem, for instance, cites the OED with an 1888 usage. So, your comments about the 1920s and 1940s are at least 30 years too late.

Reply: I have not heard the term ‘’ Black Irish’’ used in actual conversation for at least 30 years, both my mother and father used it, and the poster above me who described herself as ‘the English Rose’ used it. She his from the same region/s as myself, so both of us have reported independently on the same expression and in the same context. I was unaware that your board members wanted every item itemised and literary quotes pointed out. i saw the reference about Rudyard Kipling in 1888 and assumed thanks to Rudyard that it was a familar term in England at that time. I was not aware that it was a term used in the USA.

I note that the ‘English Rose’ comment passed muster and mine didn’t. Even though we both made virtually the same comments. To be frank the term ‘Black Irish’ is not important , nor worth a great deal of research. My last comment on this is that in England, but, perhaps not in the USA, we once used the term freely ‘the black faced Irish’ but because of racist overtones it became disused.
It may well be that this expression in some quarters was bastardised by being used in another context e.g. ‘’ the black faced swine ’ or ‘the black faced Indian’.