In the early 17th Century, the Lower German Palatinate was rich with Protestant refugees from neighbouring lands. Families settled there to rebuild their lives and escape persecution. The Palatinate was repeatedly ravaged by attacks from France during the 17th Century.
Following a terribly harsh winter and responding to notices by New World landowners showing the benefits of emigrating to America, a substantial exodus of Palatine families occurred in 1709. Some of the Palatine emigrants of 1709 found their way directly to the New World, but over 13,000 were routed through London. The Landlords of Irish estates wanted to increase the Protestant tenant population, a goal supported by Queen Anne of England. In September 1709, almost 3000 Palatines were relocated to rural Ireland, with a roughly equivalent number being transported to New York and North Carolina. Over the following three years, more than two thirds of the Irish Palatine settlers left Ireland and returned to England and Germany.
Of the Landlords who successfully managed to induce their allotment of Palatine immigrants to remain in rural Ireland, the most successful was Sir Thomas Southwell of Castle Matrix near Rathkeale, Co. Limerick. He championed the Palatines to secure government support for the settlement venture and took care of many of their initial needs at considerable personal expense, being reimbursed only just before his death in 1720. In 1711, Southwell had retained only 10 families but by 1714 he had settled about 130 families on his lands, and the region around his demesne has retained the largest concentration of Irish Palatine residents to this day in Killeheen, Ballingrane, and Courtmatrix.