Ireland and the Royal Navy in the Eighteenth Century
Ireland was of pivotal importance in the British Atlantic Empire and in the maintenance of the Royal Navy. This chapter focuses on the multiplicity of activities undertaken by the navy in ‘Irish waters’. Principal among these was the navy’s role in protecting Irish trade in times of both peace and war. The discussion also considers the contribution of Irish resources, both in terms of men and materials, to the eighteenth-century navy. Historians have largely neglected the substantial numbers of Irishmen, both Catholics and Protestants, serving in the eighteenth-century navy, preferring instead to concentrate on the barriers that restricted access to the army or on Ireland’s role in provisioning the fleet. This chapter argues that Ireland’s contribution to the navy was greater than many have previously realised and went far beyond the provision of bread, beef and beer.