The Glasgow Observer newspaper, founded in 1885 by and for the Irish community in Scotland regularly published both lengthy and brief funereal and elegiac obituaries of the Irish in Scotland in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They marshal an impressive, emotive and oftentimes contradictory body of evidence and anecdote of immigrant lives of the kind utilised, and as often passed over, by historians of the Irish in Britain. They contain, however, a unique perspective on the march of a migrant people bespoke of their experiences and, perhaps more importantly, the perception of their experiences in passage, in the host society and ultimately in death. Moreover, the changing sense of Victorian sensibilities over the solemnity, purpose and ritual of death into the Edwardian era finds a moot reflection in the key staples of Irish immigrant obsequies with their stress on thrift, endeavour, piety, charity and gratitude.
This article explores Glasgow Observer obituaries from the 1880s to the 1920s to see what they say about the immigrants, their lives, work and culture, the Scots, migration itself, the wider relations between Britain and Ireland, and the place where Irish and British attitudes to death meet in this period. It does so by drawing upon recent sociological perspectives on obituaries and their relationship with the formation and articulation of collective memory.