A Brief History of Celtic New Brunswick

In the 2016 Census, New Brunswickers were asked to indicate the ethnic or cultural origins of their ancestors.  39.9 percent replied that they were of Celtic origin.

Although a small number of Celtic people arrived in our province as early as the late 1600s, to harvest the plentiful fishing stocks and take advantage of large tracts of harvestable lumber, more permanent settlers came by the mid 1700s and continued to arrive in large numbers well into the 19th century.  Celtic people continue to migrate to New Brunswick right up to the present day, but at a slower pace.

In the early days, many Celtic immigrants spoke their traditional languages – Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh.  Many would have also spoken English or French.  As time passed, educational policy highly favoured English as the school language, so that by the early 1900s the census shows only small numbers of Celts still speaking their native languages.  They had become predominantly anglophone and, in some cases, francophone.

This led to a tendency to lump Celts in ‘English’, though that was only their workaday language, not their culture.

From the 1700s to the present day, Irish, Scots and Welsh have continued to identify themselves by their origins and their culture, not by their language.  They have kept societies, dance, fiddling and piping alive through the years.  As travel became more affordable, they frequently travel to the ‘Old Country’ and welcome visitors who want to know what happened to ancestors who came to New Brunswick those many years ago. 

In recent years, occasions to foster business and cultural relationships between New Brunswick and the ancestral countries of our Celtic people have resulted in economic development opportunities, educational and cultural exchanges, and a growing awareness of just how Celtic New Brunswick really is.