Hundreds of thousands of immigrating Irish came to Toronto looking for a better life for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, it was difficult for them to find work other than menial jobs. Even farmers were hesitant to hire an Irish immigrant in fear of contracting a disease (from the voyage overseas where many became ill or died).
There was work for factories and the labour industry, but while they worked a hard dayís labour, these institutions did not provide adequate compensation. During the construction of St. Michaelís Cathedral on Church Street Irish workers were volunteers, but learned important skills and trades to obtain better employment later. Women found work before the famine only doing only tedious work such as laundry or seasonal jobs, but in an industrializing city like Toronto women could take such jobs as bakers, seamstresses, waitresses and shop girls.
Many Irish merchants became entrepreneurs to serve the Catholic church and their fellow Irish immigrants. This created a small, but growing, middle class that would carry down to their future generations.
Churches like the Little Trinity Church on King Street was created in the 1800s, which had free pews (unlike other churches like St. James) for the Irish working near the waterfront of the Son River.
The beginnings of an exclusive society, the Orange Order of Canada, was created to maintain bonds between Irish Protestants and those loyal to the Crown. While this group held great power in the 19th and early 20th century, membership died out as Canada moved into a more secular age.
The hundreds of thousands of Irish that came to Toronto had a difficult path ahead of them. While many assimilated into Canadian culture, they still left a lasting impression on our city and especially Cabbagetown.