19th century South Africa was prominent with Irish communities in Cape Town, Johannesburg, East London, Pretoria, or Kimberley, with individuals coming from all walks of life, especially the intellectual class. A third of Cape Town’s governors were Irish (Lord Macartney, Lord Caledon, and Sir John Francis Cradock), and lawyers, dentists, and doctors were often found among the common occupations of the Irish in the South African colonies. The Cape Colony and Colony of Natal had Irish-born prime ministers, and to name a couple: Sir Thomas Upington, known as the “The Afrikaner from Cork”, and Sir Albert Hime.
There were also Irish Catholic missionaries, led by Bishop Griffith, and journalists working on big publications of the time, most notable among them Frederick St. Leger, editor and founder of the Cape Times newspaper.
In 1818, a ship owner at the Cape by the name of Henry Nourse brought a party of Irish settlers on the subcontinent. Five years later, in 1823, John Ingram brought from Cork 146 more Irishmen, and on a few occasions single Irish women were also sent, arriving twenty by November 1849, and another 46 in March 1851. Most of the arrived aboard the Lady Kennaway in November 1857, and by 1905 there were about 5 000 Irish in South Africa.
Irishmen have a long tradition of progress and prosperity in South Africa. While settling there, they never retained their attachment to Ireland, their traditions, and Christian identity. Places such as Donnybrook, Porteville, Caledon, or Belfast, reflect the work and influence that the Irish communities undertook on the Southern part of the African continent in history.