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Ireland and Gdansk

This we week we have started a new series of articles. Articles devoted to connections of different European Countries with the city of Gdansk over the ages. All text were written by a well-known expert on Gdansk – professor Andrzej Januszajtis.


Every week, we want to bring closer fascinating facts from the history of our city, which are not all that well known. A key counties will appear, including: Germany, Netherlands, France but also many others. We start with Ireland. Enjoy!


Gdansk’s relations with Ireland have barely been explored. In the Middle Ages, Gdansk ships would rarely visit Irish ports, and there is no information about any Irish merchants visiting Gdansk. Ireland’s most famous export product, broadcloth, would always arrive in Gdansk via England. In 1385, cheating merchants would sell it as cloth from Arras, which was known for its great quality. Canvas from Ulster was also one of the products sold in Gdansk. It is possible that our yew wood, used for crafting the finest British bows, could make its way from Gdansk to Ireland via England.

Foreign ports were also places where one could meet Irish sailors. In 1443 in Baie, where every country bought its salt from, when arguments erupted between several-hundred-strong groups of Dutchmen and Englishmen, who were also accompanied by the Irish, the Prussian sailors who were present there (including sailors from Gdansk) proposed that disputes (including religious disputes) should be settled in separate towns along the coast – Bonge for the Dutch and Bourgneuf for the British and the Irish. This solution helped keep the peace.

During the interwar period, the highest authority in the Free City of Danzig was (at least on paper) the High Commissar of the League of Nations. Between 1934 and 1936, this position belonged to an Irish diplomat, Sean Lester (1888–1959). The League received numerous reports from him concerning the violations of the Gdansk constitution and discrimination of the local Jewry by the Nazis, who had taken over in 1933. In 1936, he resigned from his post. From 1940, he was (the last) Secretary General of the League of Nations. His last memento is the 2010 Lester Hall in the old Gdansk residence of High Commissars (modern-day New City Hall).

Sean Lester
Sean Lester

In the German camp for Russian POWs in Przerobka, a group of Irish prisoners from the German-supported so-called Irish Brigade was held from 1916. The soldiers were supposed to start an uprising in Ireland against the English. However, the plan ultimately failed. Only 56 people volunteered to join the unit, and the uprising was crushed. After the war, some of the Irish settled in the areas surrounding Gdansk.