Rochford Migration from Ireland to Scotland

19th Century Ireland

In the first half of the 19th century Ireland was a predominantly rural society. The Irish tended to marry young and have large families so that by 1841 the population had burgeoned to over 8 Million (around twice as many people as live in Ireland today). There was little manual work and it is estimated that as many as three quarters of men did not have regular employment. Poverty and begging were endemic. Between 1815 and 1845, over 1 Million Irish emigrated, mostly to North America.

The situation became critical in 1845 when an airborne fungus devastated the potato crop. Potatoes were the stable diet of the population and the failure of the potato harvest caused widespread famine, starvation and death. The famine lasted for six years during which time it is estimated that 1 Million Irish emigrated and 2.5 Million died of starvation.

Even after the potato famine was over, the population remained poor and heavily indebted. Evicitions by absentee landlords for unpaid rent were were common and many Irish continued to flee the country.

While North America was the principle destination of Irish immigrants, some of the poorest headed towards Scotland and England. The population of Liverpool swelled by 250,000 as a direct consequence of the Irish potato famine and there were reported to be 50,000 new Irish immigrants in Glasgow by 1849.

Scottish Rochfords

Rochford is the dominant name variant in Ireland and Rochfords were distributed throughout Ireland in the early 19th century. In contrast there were almost no Rochfords in Scotland. By looking at the the rise of the Rochford population in Scotland we can identify particular examples of Irish immigration in the 19th century.

The first Irish Rochfords landed in Galloway in South-West Scotland. By 1849 Patrick Rochford (c1825) was living in Pennighame, near Newton Stewart, where he worked as a lead miner. His wife Mary, who also came from Ireland, was a sewer. Over the next 13 years they had 7 children, all born in Penninghame.

Just down the road at Kirkmabreck, Timothy Rochford (c1811) settled with his wife Helen and daughter Mary. Timothy was an agricultural labourer. All three were born in Ireland.

The remaining Rochford immigrants headed directly for some of the larger towns and cities, with Rochfords being recorded in Dumbarton, Glasgow, Hamilton and Edinburgh. For example, Thomas Rochford (c1836) and his wife Catherine moved first to Cardross before settling a few miles away in Bonhill, near Dumbarton. Thomas and his family found work there in a printworks.

By 1881 we find families in Glasgow, Hamilton and Edinburgh as well as Dumbarton and Galloway. Several families which were listed as Rochford in some of the earlier censuses, were calling themselves Ratchford by 1871. Most of the Penninghame Rochfords moved to Glasgow by 1881, although Annie Ratchford (c 1876) from that family was still living in Galloway in 1901. The Rochford family living at Kirkmabreck also stayed in Galloway, but was another family which began calling themselves Ratchford.

In moving to Scotland all of the Irish immigrants readily found work in a variety of industries. Their occupations included miner, farm labourer, skinner, printer, dyer, soldier, boot manufacturing, general labourer, steel worker, grocer, glass maker, bleachfield worker and railway porter. The name Ratchford seems to have evolved in Scotland from Rochford and there are also instances of Rochford and Richford being interchanged.

Place 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Galloway 1 1 2 1 3
Dumbarton 1 1 3 1 2
Edinburgh 1 1 3 1 1
Glasgow 1 5 6 4
Hamilton 1
Number of Rochford/Ratchford Families in Scotland: 1841-1901

The Rochford Migration and Scottish Richfords webpages have been contributed by Douglas MacGregor, a descendent of Thomas Richford (1833-1888). If you have any further information about Scottish Richfords or Rochfords please get in touch.