My grandmother died a couple of years ago, at the age of 101. Oddly enough, my siblings and I were shocked by this. We thought the old bird too damn mean to die. While she did have her good qualities, she was possibly the most racist person I ever met. She made Rush Limbaugh look like hippie by comparison.
She once told me (somewhat proudly) that we were of Black Irish descent. Given her views on race relations, I was somewhat confused by this. Recently I did some research on the term.
I'm still confused.
The most popular story concerns a Spanish (in some versions, Portuguese) shipwreck in the late 1600's. Possible, but given the relatively small gene pool, I find it unlikely. I think they would have simply been assimilated in 2 or 3 generations.
Another story goes like this (from wikipedia):
In the 1700s Irish protestants and British formed a vigilante military called the"Orangemen" to keep the Roman Catholic Irish subservient. The Roman Catholic Irish countered by starting their own military called the "White boys" (I think I've seen these guys. No hair, lots of political ink?). Any Roman Catholic Irish that chose not to defy the orangemen or joined the whiteboys were known as the "black irish" of which most immigrated to North America. It has nothing at all to do with ones complexion, hair or eye colour.
Again, possible. But Black Irish are distinctive enough to be classified outside the normal range of any other Northern European ethnic group.
The last theory involves Celtic nomads, establishing trade routes to Asia, intermarrying and taking their families back to the west coast of Europe.
Hmmm. There were some recently discovered Celtic mummies found in the deserts of Western China...