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IRISH AMERICA June / July 2010

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IRISH AMERICA June / July 2010 Vol. 25 No. 4

FEATURES 28 REFLECTION ON THE GREAT HUNGER

Quotes from Irish America interviews on the legacy of the Famine.

32 THE SPOILERS OF OUR LAND How the British government responded to the Great Hunger. By Christine Kinealy.

38 HELP FROM AFAR Christine Kinealy writes about the international response to the Famine.

40 THIS HOLY GROUND Photographer Kit DeFever’’s extraordinary images of Famine Graves. Text by Don Mullan.

45 THE GHOSTS OF GROSSE ÎLE Just east of Quebec, Canada, this island contains the largest Famine cemetery outside of Ireland. By Aliah O’’Neill.

50 ARRIVING IN THE NEW WORLD What Famine immigrants encountered in North America. By Tom Deignan.

DEPARTMENTS immigrants including Georgia O’’Keeffe, Eugene O’’Neill and Henry Ford.

76 RETURN TO IRELAND Mary Pat Kelly writes about the ancestors calling her home.

80 THE ROAD TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Mastery of urban politics helped the Irish rise from huddled masses to the heights of political power. By Peter Quinn.

84 THE EDUCATOR Quinnipiac University president Dr. John Lahey tells Kara Rota about his quest to bring knowledge of Famine history to the public.

89 MEMORIALS Tara Dougherty explores Great Hunger memorials in North America.

92 LEAVES OF PAIN Jimmy Breslin tells the compelling story of blight, devastation and resurrection.

6 8 10 12 16 18 24 88 104 106 108 110 112 114

First Word Contributors Letters News from Ireland Hibernia Irish Eye on Hollywood Those We Lost Roots Book Reviews Crossword Music Slainté Photo Album Last Word

KEEPSAKE Your own pocket booklet featuring Quinnipiac’s Famine Collection. Pg. 27 “We entered a cabin. Stretched in one dark corner, scarcely visible from the smoke and rags that covered them, were three children huddled together, eyes sunk, voices gone, and evidently in the last state of actual starvation…” from William Bennett, Narrative of a Recent Journey of Six Weeks in Ireland, 1847

58 FACES OF THE FAMINE Stories and photos from readers, and some famous descendants of Famine Irish

98 THE GOOD SAMARITAN Maureen Murphy writes about American reformer Asenath Nicholson. Ireland’s Great Hunger

COVER: “Anguish” sculpture by Glenna Goodacre. (Inspirations from The Irish Memorial, Philadelphia). Quinnipiac University Collection. 4 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

A N G O R TA M Ó R : T H E Q U I N N I P I AC U N I V E R S I T Y C O L L E C T I O N Consulate General of Ireland | 345 Park Avenue, New York | May 21- September 3, 2010

PHOTO BY: KIT DEFEVER

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{the first word}

By Patricia Harty

IRISH AMERICA Mortas Cine

A Living

Pride In Our Heritage PHOTO: KIT DE FEVER

Memorial

““Pray for the dead, but fight like hell for the living.”” – Mother Jones

T

his special issue on the Great Hunger is an effort to tell the story of what happened in Ireland and explore more fully the story of those who survived the crossing and began a new life in America. While there’’s no denying the darkness of the story, the colossal loss of life, the fractured families, the perilous crossing, the Nativist Party, vigilante groups and ““No Irish Need Apply”” signs (which has an all too familiar ring in terms of what immigrants are facing today), ultimately, the story is one of amazing resiliency, great bravery, and humanity shown by strangers. The American side of the story is one that I longed to know more about when I was a child and was told: ““They got on coffin ships and left for America.”” No one told us what happened once those ships left the port. At the same time, many Americans are not fully aware of what their ancestors went though –– reports from that time would make it seem that the Irish were lazy and indolent and brought the ““blight”” on themselves. The reality, of course, is that they did not own their own land, and as Christine Kinealy brings to light, the amount of food that the British exported from the country was enormous. There is also a tendency to think of the emigrants of the 1840s in stereotypical clichés, poor and downtrodden; ““the huddled masses yearning to be free.”” The story was far more complex than that, as our writers show in this issue. These immigrants were remarkable people at a remarkable time in America, and each one was as individual as you and me. Life was tough, the work was brutal, but they got on with it. They dug canals, and laid the rail for the great railways, worked hundreds of feet underground in mines, and traveled across the country in covered wagons to homestead in faraway places such as Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. They were not quitters. And as we face hard economic times again, it does us good to remember that. Nothing will ever be that hard again. No photographs of the Great Hunger exist, but we see in the pictures submitted by our readers

6 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

the faces of those ancestors who survived the journey, and put down roots in America. The personal stories that go along with these photographs give us a wonderful insight into the lives of those early immigrants and their role in America. Sadly, many who embarked on the journey to America did not make it. They were the ““nameless”” who succumbed to ““ship’’s fever”” and found a watery grave at the bottom of the ocean or in mass graves on this side of the Atlantic. Some estimates put that number at one in six. But, there again, while working on this issue we unearthed records –– the names of thousands who died at sea, and in quarantine sheds in Canada. We print some of those records in this issue, including the name of a young boy –– Thomas Harty, 4 years old, who died on board a ship from Liverpool in January, 1847. Seeing one so young who bore my family name was a jolt to the heart. While we tend to think of the Famine as happening eons ago –– it was just two 80-year life spans ago. There are many memorials around the world that remember those who died but seeing the names in the Canadian archives, I wished for one more, one that would release these names and put them somewhere more visible. Perhaps those involved in planning the Irish American Museum we wrote about in the last issue will do just that. But even as I make this wish, I’’m reminded of Mother Jones, the great American Labor leader, who immigrated during the Famine, lost her children and husband to yellow fever, and became know as the ““Angel of the camps”” for her work with the miners. She said, ““Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”” I suspect those who died in the Great Hunger would have us direct our efforts towards a ““Living Memorial”” and focus our attention on today’’s hungry and homeless. There are many fine organizations who can help us do just that, IA including Concern Worldwide. www.concernusa.org.

Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing: Kate Overbeck Director of Special Projects: Turlough McConnell Art Director: Marian Fairweather Assistant Editor: Kara Rota Copy Editor: John Anderson Advertising & Events Coordinator: Kerman Patel Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Writers: Tara Dougherty Aliah O’Neill Anne Thompson Marketing Intern: Dianne Nora

IRISH AMERICA 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 2100, New York NY 10001 TEL: 212-725-2993 FAX: 212-244-3344

Subscriptions: 1-800-582-6642 E-MAIL: irishamag@aol.com WEB: http://www.irishamerica.com IMailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099 5277. Editorial office: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10001. Telephone: 212 725-2993. Fax: 212-244-3344 E-mail: Irishamag@aol.com. Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders: 1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries: 1-800-5826642, (212) 725-2993, ext. 16. Periodicals postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Postmaster please send address changes to Irish America Magazine, P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 080995277. IRISH AMERICA IS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.


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{contributors} JIMMY BRESLIN, journalist and author, was a columnist for the New York Herald Tribune, the Daily News, Newsday, and other publications. He ran for president of the New York City Council alongside Norman Mailer in 1969. Breslin has written numerous novels and works of nonfiction. THOMAS CAHILL is the author of best-selling books, including How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. His most recent book A Saint on Death Row is an unforgettable, sobering, and deeply spiritual account of the hard life and tragic death of Dominique Green.

PETER QUINN Essayist and novelist, Peter Quinn wrote the treatment for Abú Media’’s six-part documentary on Irish-American politics, Bothar go dtí an White House (““The Road to the White House””), which aired on TG4, in Ireland, in the fall of 2009. His next novel, The Man Who Never Returned, will be published this summer.

8 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

MARY PAT KELLY a long-time contributor to Irish America magazine, wrote and directed the feature film Proud and is the author of the historical novel Galway Bay. She is a former associate producer of Saturday Night Live and Good Morning America. CHRISTINE KINEALY is Professor of Irish History at Drew University. She is author of a number of books on the Great Hunger, including This Great Calamity: The Great Irish Famine and The Hidden Famine: Hunger, Poverty and Sectarianism in Belfast. Her latest book, Repeal and Revolution: 1848 in Ireland, was published by Manchester University Press in July 2009.

TOM DEIGNAN is a columnist at Irish America and The Irish Voice, where he was an editor from 19992004. As well as reporting on all things Irish in Hollywood, Tom’’s History column has proven a hit with readers. He is the author of Irish American: Coming to America, and teaches English at the Automotive High School in Brooklyn.

MAUREEN MURPHY is acting dean of the School of Education and Allied Human Services and equal opportunity advisor at Hofstra University. She is an assistant director of the Yeats Summer School in Sligo and the director of the Great Irish Famine curriculum for schools in New York State.

KIT DeFEVER is a New York-based photographer originally from Michigan. His Irish roots on his mother’’s side are in Connemara. Kit has been an invaluable contributor to Irish America, providing numerous covers. His many Irish photographs include the poignant Famine Grave series in this issue.


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{readers forum} ST. PATRICK’S DAY

THE SAN PATRICIOS

Many articles from your April/May issue moved me, including ““St. Patrick’’s Day Here, There and Everywhere.”” We had a wonderful St. Patrick’’s Day in Vancouver, where I had the privilege to collect Desmond Guinness at the airport a few days in advance of his Grand Marshal duties in Seattle. I drove Desmond over our Lion’’s Gate Bridge at night so he might see the bejeweled bridge that his family built and later sold to the government of British Columbia. Your feature ““Global Irish at the Winter Olympics”” re-instilled my hometown pride. So many stories unfolded over those two weeks in Vancouver, and yet the accomplishments of the Irish bobsledders, Aoife Hoey and Claire Bergin, will be forever celebrated. Finally, in your ““Those We Lost”” section my good friend Thomas Hayes of San Francisco was beautifully remembered. Thank you for keeping me connected to my Irish Canadian and Irish American culture. I appreciate your good works.

Regarding The Chieftains, San Patricios, and Liam Neeson’’s comment about playing John Riley if a movie was ever made. Sorry, Liam, Tom Berenger (of Platoon and Academy Award nominee) played Riley in a 1998 Mexican film, One Man’’s Hero.

John O’Flynn North Vancouver, BC

I was disappointed that you failed to mention the Quad Cities Parade in your ““St Patrick’’s Day Here There and Everywhere.”” This is the only interstate St. Patrick’’s parade in the United States. This year, the 25th, we again launched the parade in downtown Rock Island, Illinois, then crossed the Mississippi River and marched through downtown Davenport, Iowa. John M Dooley Davenport, Iowa

I was very much touched by your piece on the new Chieftains’’ CD The March of the Forgotten but could not secure same at Barnes and Noble. Where can I purchase the CD? Thomas A. McAuliffe Barefoot Bay, Florida

The CD is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/San-PatricioChieftains/dp/B0033AX26I

THE SCOTS-IRISH I was saddened to see the use of the phrase ““Scots Irish”” and the rehash of that old misconception that the only Irish in the Colonies at the time of the Revolution were Scots Irish in a quote from James Webb [Irish American Museum feature,

The Blackhawk Pipe and Drum Band march in the 25th annual Quad Cities Parade

ONE MORE PLACE Your article ““Building Our Place in History”” though interesting and important, omitted the plaque on Monument Hill in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. President Washington returned to this site to dedicate a monument to ““The Maryland Four Hundred,”” a largely Irish contingent who held the hill against the British long enough for the main body of troops to escape to Manhattan. It was one of the crucial events in the Battle of Long Island. Stanley Goldstein, Chairman American Friends of James Joyce New York, New York 10 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

John B. Casey Stony Point, New York

April/May]. While not attempting to denigrate anyone’’s pride of heritage, this does not bear scrutiny on several counts. Thomas Lynch who signed the Declaration of Independence was a descendant of Galway. Major General John Sullivan was a descendant of Kerry and Cork. John Barry was a son of Waterford, General Stephen Moylan of Cork. None of these areas were known for ““Scots”” immigration to Ireland. When Lord Mountjoy stated, ““We have lost America through the Irish,”” he did not say ““the Scots Irish.”” Why do we continue to make the distinction of Scots Irish? Ireland has suffered multiple periods of invasion and set-

tlement. We don’’t talk about ““Norman Irish,”” though anyone whose surname begins with ““Fitz”” is a descendant. We don’’t talk about the Norse Irish for all the influence the Vikings had in Ireland. Ireland has long been known for its ability to turn the progeny of invaders into ardent nationalists, ““Hiberniores Hibernis ipsis,”” (More Irish than the Irish themselves) was used to describe the phenomenon. Both Wolf Tone and Robert Emmet (Emmet was the great-grandson of one of Cromwell’’s soldiers) could rightfully be described as ““Scots Irish”” and yet they both are among the greatest nationalists of Ireland. The sad history of the term ““Scots Irish”” is that it has been used too often to divide people who have more in common than differences. It was developed as a ““code phrase”” to separate the descendants of earlier Irish immigrants who were Protestant and had prospered in America from the later poor and Catholic Irish immigrants who emigrated because of The Great Hunger. Of course one can only wonder at the irony that many of the ancestors of these earlier immigrants may not have had true ““Scots Irish”” roots, but arrived as redemptioners and political prisoners to the American Colonies where Catholicism was banned, as it was banned throughout most of the 18th-century British empire, and only became ““Scots Irish”” in America. The underlying premise behind ““Scots Irish,”” that the people of the province of Ulster are a ““different race”” than the rest of Ireland, was later taken up, most infamously by Randolph Churchill, for callous political reasons, the consequences of which we are still living with today. In a post Good Friday Agreement world, is it not time to stop misconceptions that divide us and instead embrace the common heritage that unites us? Should we not equally share pride in being Irish, whether our individual lineage traces back to Anglo/Scots planters, Norman French, Scandinavian Viking, Iberian Celt or aboriginal Irish? That would be a truly worthy mission of an IA Irish American Museum. Neil F. Cosgrove New City, New York

Send letters to: Irish America, 875 Sixth Ave., Suite 2100, NY NY 10001. Or e-mail irishamag@aol.com. Please include name, address, and phone #. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.


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{ news from ireland} Letters from the Irish Famine Auctioned in Dublin

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s we go to press, Adam’’s auction house is preparing to unveil on May 18 a collection of some 150 original letters written in the 1840s by landlords, clergymen, and desperate citizens throughout the Famine era. These firsthand accounts provide a window into the everyday concerns of those directly involved. ““Given that there is so much information and it’’s done on a sort of locality basis, a lot of people who are connected with the area or have family that go back that length of time to that particular area will feel a link to it and may well want to acquire some of the letters,”” said Adam’’s managing director James O’’Halloran. ““The sense of anguish and the heart wrenching details that are given in some of the letters, you really would have to be made out of stone to not feel drawn towards these poor unfortunates.”” The letters are from a collection kept by a Dublin firm, Stewart and Kincaid, who acted as landlords’’ agents and represented the owners of large tracts of land. Most of the letters were written by “Famine Figure” by Rowan Gillespie agents remitting rent or explaining why they were unable to do so. said one report from Limerick, written in ““Famine stares us in every quarter,”” 1845. ““Nothing can be worse than the

Bishop James Moriarty Resigns

O

n April 22, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Irish bishop James Moriarty of Kildare, the third Irish bishop to resign in four months in the wake of the Catholic sex abuse scandals that have plagued Ireland. In March, bishop John Magee resigned, and Bishop Donal Murray in December. Moriarty said his resignation came because “renewal must begin with accepting responsibility for the past,” and that “the truth is that the long struggle of survivors to be heard and respected by church authorities has revealed a culture within the Church that many would simply describe as unchristian.” Auxiliary Dublin bishops Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field have also offered to resign. Moriarty,Walsh and Field were all named last year in an Irish investigation of sex abuse cover-ups, which declared that all bishops through 1996 conspired to hide the rampant child abuse.The resignations of more Irish bishops have been demanded, including top prelate Cardinal Sean Brady, who allegedly assisted in the cover-ups. No cases of abuse were reported to police until 1996, after lawsuits began to confront the church. Pope Benedict XVI chided the Irish church for “gross errors of judgment” in a March 20 letter, which avoided placing blame on the general church hierarchy. – Kara Rota

12 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

state of the potatoes. I fear all will be lost by Xmas.”” Rather than being sold in one large lot, the letters have been split into some 300 lots for bidders. ““Perhaps a few years ago, this collection could’’ve been offered to the state here in Ireland, it could have ended up having sold to the museum or the national library. But given the state of public finances, that’’s just not going to happen. So that’’s why the owners had decided to go to the market with the collection and while it would be nice if it stayed together, at least we have catalogued the collection and given it a form that will exist going forward,”” said O’’Halloran. One letter sent from Roscommon in 1846 tells of families surviving on ““only some cabbage and salt to eat for three or four days.”” Other letters outline plans to obtain warrants for the arrest of tenants who cannot pay, and desperate pleas from clergymen to waive deadlines on tenants’’ rent. The auction will also include sculptures by Rowan Gillespie, who created the Great Hunger memorial ““Departures”” on the Dublin docks, and its counterpart, ““Arrivals”” which is in Ireland Park in Toronto, Canada. Said O’’Halloran, ““I do think it is fortuitous that we’’re beginning to pay cognizance to the Famine in a way we've never done before. I think it is an indicator of the way that Ireland has developed as a nation, that we can look back on more painful areas of our history. Perhaps it's sort of a sign of our maturity that we can actually look at this and examine it and begin to appreciate this sort of information. I don’’t think that 30 or 40 or 50 years ago there would've been that same desire to look at this in the same way, because people were only a couple of generations away from it.”” We will report the results of the auction in our next issue. – Kara Rota Visit www.adams.ie for more information.


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Mary McAleese Commemorates Fallen at Gallipoli

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n late March, President Mary McAleese traveled to Gallipoli,Turkey, to commemorate the sacrifice of thousands of soldiers in 1915 in the First World War. Nearly a century ago, over 3,000 Irish soldiers died in the battle of Gallipoli and now efforts are being made to ensure their memory lives on. The trip commemorated those who fell in the 10th (Irish) Division serving in the British Army as well as those who served in the Anzac forces of Australia and New Zealand. The Gallipoli landing marked the arrival of Allied forces whose failed attempt to secure approaches to the Black Sea left 44,000 Allied troops dead. McAleese’s visit was the first official recognition of Irish involvement in Turkey by the state. Campaigners have

President Mary McAleese unveiling plaque to 10th Irish Division. Pictured (left to right:) Col. Richard Robinson OBE, Defence Attache to the British Embassy Turkey, Carol Walker, Director Somme Association, President McAleese, Lt. Col. PAJ Walker, CO 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, Martin McAleese, Dr. Ian Adamson OBE, Chairman Somme Association.

been encouraging the government to recognize this six-month ordeal of 1915. McAleese’s trip included visits to two cemeteries where many Irish are buried and

to a Turkish monument where she attended a ceremony for the Irish and British soldiers who died at V-Beach, Helles. – Tara Dougherty

Irish Politicians Forgo Pensions

A

mid controversy over the wealth of Irish government offi(€€5,483). Fine Gael has been particularly vocal about the issue, cials and a still-shaky economy, former Taoiseach Bertie vowing that even if legislation is not passed, all of its members will Ahern agreed on April 27th to surrender his €€83,000 minforgo pensions. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny made a definitive isterial pension as a ““gift”” back to the State. The former statement on the controversy, publishing an amendment to the Taoiseach’’s decision comes after several politicians decided only Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial days earlier to forgo their pensions under pressure from the pubParliamentary Offices Act of 2009 to immediately remove penlic. Among them was Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, sions from sitting members. ““If the Government do not European Commissioner, who came under particular accept this Fine Gael amendment, I will force a vote in scrutiny because her ministerial and Oireachtas penthe Dáil next week to seek support for the content of the sions are worth over €€100,000. Combined with her Fine Gael proposal,”” he said. ““If Fianna Fáil and the salary, Geoghegan-Quinn’’s earnings were around Greens vote down this proposal, all Fine Gael ministerial €€250,000 last year. In response to her announcepension holders have voluntarily agreed to give up their ment, Taoiseach Brian Cowen stated that the issue of pensions either to the exchequer or to Irish charities.”” pensions comes down to an individual choice and Thus far, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has not expressed approval of the Commissioner’’s decision: acted on these proposals, despite members from all ““Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has now done that and I major parties giving up their pensions. Following want to acknowledge the gesture that she has made in Kenny’’s statement, former Fianna Fáil minister Frank solidarity with the situation here at home in Ireland.”” Minister Brian Lenihan Fahey gave up his pension of €€37,205. Former Labour Many argue that while the pension makes sense in Party leader Ruairi Quinn also announced in a statement retirement, awarding thousands of dollars in pensions to polition April 28th that he would be giving up the €€41,656 pension cians who are still in office is simply extravagant and harmful to he is awarded as a member of Dáil Éireann: That leaves only four already poor public finances. Fine Gael proposed legislation on sitting politicians who still have not agreed to give up their penApril 27th to remove ministerial pensions from all sitting sions: Fianna Fáil MEPs Pat ““The Cope”” Gallagher and Liam Oireachtas members. The Labour Party has also promised to proAylward and TDs Jim McDaid and Noel Treacy. Donegal East pose similar legislation. However, the Taoiseach says the pension TD Jim McDaid has said that he will not relinquish his pension ban would be unconstitutional, arguing that property rights are unless it is requested by Dáil Éireann. protected by the Constitution. Following the flurry of pension announcements, Senator The Fine Gael TDs who gave up their pensions include Michael Terry Leyden has called for a review of pension entitlements Noonan (€€39,944), Seán Barrett (€€28,667), Jim O'Keeffe throughout the entire public service system. He made the deci(€€17,770), Richard Bruton (€€13,242), Paul Connaughton sion to give up his pension of €€21,000 on April 28th. – Aliah O’Neill (€€16,092), Bernard Allen (€€5,485), and Bernard Durkan

FOR ALL YOUR IRISH

NEWS ALL THE TIME VISIT

www.IrishCentral.com JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 13


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{news from ireland & irish america}

What About McIlroy? N

orthern Irish Rory McIlroy, just days before his 21st birthday, won the U.S. PGA tour's Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina on May 1, with a final round of 62. Setting the course record, he finished with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. “I suppose I got in the zone,” said McIlroy. “I hadn’t realized I was going in 9, 10 under. I just know I got my nose in front and I was just trying to stay there.These last two days, it seemed as if everything had just gone right.You get yourself in a mindset like that, and you just keep going. It’s been a great day.” McIlroy’s incredible game allowed him to beat Master’s champion Phil Mickelson, as

News In Brief •• TWO CORK natives,

well as two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, and win for the first time in America. McIlroy became the youngest winner in America since Tiger Woods in 1996, who was 20 years and 10 months old when he won his first PGA tour event in Las Vegas. Said Mickelson of McIlroy’s win, “That's one of the best rounds of golf I have seen in a long, long time.” Irish golf star Padraig Harrington, who closed with a 68, told reporters, “If he can get across the line here, he can go from strength to strength...the win is significant, very significant, at this time.” – Kara Rota

by Kara Rota

Mike Jones and Peter Williams, were part of an international six-person crew that completed a 5,000 km row across the Atlantic Ocean on March 10, arriving in Bridgetown, Barbados. The journey, which began in Agadir, Morocco on January 12, took 57 days and 20 hours. It was the first voyage to use Agadir as a beginning port for an ocean row and the second ocean rowing trip ever beginning in a Moroccan port.

Support for the Atlantic 5,000 fundraised for two charities, the Milford Care Center in Limerick and the Marymount Hospice in Cork. ... APRIL 15th marked the 98th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. On that date in 1912, the ship made her final port of call at Cobh, and the tragedy is commemorated every year by Cobh Tourism. The names of the 79 passengers who boarded the Titanic in Cobh were read. In Mayo, the

••

The Atlantic 5,000 crew. L to R: James Kenworthy, Mike Jones, Mylene Paquette, Pedro Cunha, Peter Williams, Matt Craughwell

people of Lahardane Village in the Addergoole Parish remembered 14 emigrants who were on the Titanic 98 years ago, the most from a single town in all of Europe. Of the Addergoole 14, only three survived. The town commemorates the victims with an annual bell ringing, carried out by the descendants of the Addergoole 14. ... DR. MARION Dowd of Sligo IT led an excavation of Glencurran Cave in the Burren National Park that unearthed a 1,150-yearold Viking necklace, the type worn by high-status Viking women. Dowd said the necklace, from the mid9th century, could have come from Scandinavia in the late 9th or early 10th century through a trade between Vikings and Gaelic chieftains. ... FLIGHTS in and out of Ireland were temporarily disrupted on April 3 and again on May 4 due to volcanic ash from the eruption of the Icelandic

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••

14 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

volcano Eyjafjallajokull.A total of over 100,000 flights were canceled, inconveniencing 10 million travelers and costing the airline industry up to 2.5 billion euro. The last time this volcano erupted, in 1920, eruptions lasted over a year. ... A BOMBING TOOK PLACE on April 12 six miles northeast of Belfast, placed in an abandoned taxi by a republican splinter group identifying as ““the Real IRA.”” The explosion came less than 30 minutes after the deadline for the transfer of police and justice powers from the British government to the power-sharing government in Belfast. One pedestrian was slightly injured, and more than 60 homes were evacuated. Martin McGuiness claimed that ““the peace process is rock solid”” and that the ““Real IRA”” group is not in line with the politics of most republicans. That afternoon, David Ford was appointed the new justice minister in the Stormont assembly.

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PEOPLE

| HERITAGE | EVENTS | ARTS | ENTERTAINMENT

The Choctaw Legacy T

PHOTO: MAEVE HICKEY

his May, in three major cities across the United States, men and women from two distinctly different backgrounds commemorated one of the most extraordinary and selfless moments in the history of the Irish Famine. In Chicago on May 18th, Irish Americans and members of the Choctaw Nation joined together to remember shared tragedy and shared understanding. They gathered together to remember the Choctaw donation of Famine relief funds to the Irish people in 1847. In each of the three cities –– Chicago, New York and Boston –– the events began with a screening of The Great Irish Famine: Remember Skibbereen. The film was followed by a discussion panel led by Peter J. McCarthy, an Irish film producer working on a feature film about the Irish Famine. After this period of open discussion, the audience heard from a distinguished panel of speakers including Gary White Deer, a cultural leader and professor of Choctaw studies; Professor Maureen Murphy, an author and professor of Irish studies at Hofstra University; and the novelist Mary Pat Kelly whose latest book, Galway Bay, deals with the ravages of the Famine. This presented a wonderful opportunity to learn more about a rarely acknowledged but deeply moving connection, an act of humanity and generosity that has echoed down the ages. Good Dog Films, the American Irish Historical Society, New York, and the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago sponsored this event. The history of the Choctaw Indians is heartbreaking, and, in its continual pattern of discrimination and dispossession, it bears a resemblance to Irish history. The Choctaw Indians were loyal to the United States throughout the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, but, nevertheless, they fell prey to Andrew Jackson’’s policies of relocation in the 1830s. Even though General Jackson relied on the help

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of the Choctaw Indians in his victory against the French at New Orleans (they were the only Indian tribe represented on the American side in that battle), once he became president he showed no compunction about taking their land and ordering the 1000-mile forced march that must be remembered as one of the darkest events in American history: the Trail of Tears. The first-hand accounts of the displacement are heartbreaking. One soldier from Georgia, writing about the

vation and suffering in Ireland. They responded with amazing swiftness to a call for help from a faraway people. Despite their own struggles and poverty, the Choctaw nation gathered $170 to put towards relief efforts in Ireland. In 1995 President Mary Robinson traveled to Oklahoma to thank the Choctaw Indians for their timely and selfless generosity. There she described the incredible kindness and power of the connection: ““Thousands of miles away, in no way linked to the Choctaw Nation until then, the only link being a common humanity, a common Gary and Jane White Deer in Mayo. sense of another people suffering as the Choctaw Nation had suffered.”” Their desire to help in whatever way they could has continued to touch hearts for over 150 years. The connection has been repeatedly celebrated in recent years. Former Uachtarán na hÉireann (President of Ireland) Mary Robinson was made an honorary chief of the Choctaw Indians. She is their first female chief. In 1992, almost 150 years after the Choctaw Cherokee Removal, said, ““I fought donation, a group of Irish people walked through the War Between the States and the Trail of Tears and donated nearly have seen many men shot, but the $20,000 to the Choctaw Nation in Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work acknowledgement of their generosity. I ever knew.”” The French philosopher Chief Hollis Roberts and several other Alexis de Tocqueville described the members of the Choctaw Nation have Choctaw removal in his treatise gone to Ireland to participate in the annual Democracy in America: ““In the whole Famine Walk, which has since been chrisscene there was an air of ruin and tened, in recognition of the common destruction……one couldn’’t watch without tragedy of two peoples, The Trail of Tears. feeling one’’s heart wrung…….There was As Mary Robinson concluded in her one who could speak English and of speech in 1995, it is clear that we ““have whom I asked why the Chactas (sic) were in common that bond of humanity and it leaving their country. ‘‘To be free,’’ he should be an additional reason why we answered, [I] could never get any other should particularly reach out now to reason out of him.”” On the long march countries who suffer from poverty and from Mississippi to Oklahoma, nearly hunger.”” Robinson went on to say, ““We half of the 17,000 men, women and chilshould try……to encourage others to dren died from exposure, disease and understand that there are people today starvation. who need the support that the Choctaw In 1847, only nine years after the Trail Nation gave 150 years ago to the Irish IA of Tears, members of the Choctaw nation people.”” living in Oklahoma heard reports of star– Anne Thompson


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Above: Illustration of the trial of Irish patriots, including Patrick O’Donohue. Right: Patrick O’Donohue. Far right: Patrick O’Donohue’s gravestone at GreenWood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Grave of 19th-Century Irish Rebel Discovered in Brooklyn

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istoric Green-Wood Cemetery, the final resting place of countless Irish and Irish Americans, is now home to the newly unearthed gravestone of 19th-century Irish rebel Patrick O’’Donohue (1815-1854). As one of the leaders of the Young Ireland Rebellion in 1848, O’’Donohue was charged with sedition and sentenced to death. That sentence was later commuted to deportation to Van Diemen’’s Land, a British penal colony from which many Irish prisoners escaped to America. O’’Donohue had been involved in the Repeal Association, a group of nationalists led by Daniel O’’Connell working to repeal the Act of Union of 1800. The act had abolished the Irish Parliament, made the Anglican church the official church of Ireland, and denied Catholic Emancipation. While O’’Connell achieved emancipation, O’’Donohue and other followers eventually became disenchanted with O’’Connell’’s attempt to work within the system for piecemeal reform, breaking off to form the Young Ireland movement around 1840. The movement reignited the calls to repeal the Act of Union and fight for Irish independence through The Nation, an influential radical newspaper started in 1842. In 1848, the movement culminated with rebellion amid widespread Famine-related deaths and tenant evictions. Gathering locals and Young Ireland members, William Smith O’’Brien launched an unsuccessful attack on a police party barricaded in a house in Ballingarry, Co. Tipperary. O’’Brien, along with O’’Donohue, Thomas Francis Meagher and Terence Bellew McManus, were transported to Van Diemen’’s Land in 1849. Upon arriving at the penal colony six months later, O’’Donohue wasted little time reviving the nationalist agenda, publishing a weekly newspaper called The Irish Exile.

Although the paper was shut down and O’’Donohue was sentenced to a year in a chain-gang –– hard labor with non-political prisoners –– he immediately restarted the paper upon his return in 1851. Eventually, through a series of escapes with the help of Irish sympathizers, O’’Donohue made his way to Melbourne, San Francisco, and finally New York. O’’Donohue died in Brooklyn on January 22, 1854, the same day that his wife and daughter arrived in New York City. This was the end of the story until about a year ago, when a letter came from Ireland inquiring whether O’’Donohue was buried at Green-Wood. Cemetery historian Jeff Richman found a record of the interment but no trace of the headstone in the corresponding lot. Because over time headstones may sink into the soil, workers inserted a metal rod into the ground and hoped for reverberations from something buried below. The crew recovered a large ledger stone, about six feet long, with the words ““Patrick O’’Donohue”” and ““Irish Rebel”” stamped across it. The stone is also engraved with a cross. Announcing the exciting discovery, cemetery president Richard J. Moylan remarked, ““Green-Wood Cemetery is the final resting place for countless prominent Irish Americans whose legacies and stories are kept alive by our willingness to remember and honor them. Green-Wood is proud to announce the recovery and restoration of O’’Donohue’’s headstone. The site is, once again, a place where people can visit a piece of Irish history and pay respects to this historic revolutionary.”” The gravestone is within walking distance of the memorial marker for Thomas Francis Meagher, fellow Irish nationalist and escapee from Van Diemen’’s Land who went on to become IA a Civil War hero. – Aliah O’Neill

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{ irish eye on hollywood}

By Tom Deignan

For awhile, Saoirse Ronan’s life looked like a fairy tale ride from Northern Ireland to Hollywood. In fact, the wunderkind actress’’s latest stop was supposed to be Sherwood Forest, by way of Cannes, France. Ronan (Atonement, The Lovely Bones) had originally been cast in a new adaptation of the Robin Hood legend starring Russell Crowe. Simply entitled Robin Hood, the film is slated to open the Cannes Film Festival on May 12, and will hit theaters across America two days later. However, Ronan ultimately backed out of the project in order to star in a new film from director Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Dead Poets Society) entitled The Way Back. This film, due out later this year or Saoirse Ronan in The Way Back. early next, is a grueling tale of World looks like a mythical cross between the Tom Hanks-Daryl War II and features not one but two Irish actors portraying Hannah comedy Splash and the unjustly obscure John Russians. Ronan will play a young woman who meets up Sayles Irish film The Secret of Roan Inish. Farrell portrays a with prisoners of war hailing from Poland (Jim Sturgess), America (the always brilliant Ed Harris) and another fisherman who –– go figure? –– finds a mystical woman while Russian, played by none other than Colin Farrell. out at sea. Ondine will hit select U.S. theaters on June 4. Incidentally, Saoirse Ronan’’s decision to leave the cast of Robin Hood does not mean the Russell Crowe flick is without an Irish link. Danny Huston, son of Irish-American filmmaking legend John Huston and half-brother to Anjelica Huston, will portray King Richard in Robin Hood. Look for Huston down the road in The Warrior’s Way (alongside Geoffrey Rush and Kate Bosworth) and in the Robert Redford-directed Abe Lincoln assassination thriller The Conspirator. Also expected at the Cannes festival is Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Irish theater veteran Fiona Shaw. The film has been directed by the reclusive Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line, Badlands), who directed Colin Farrell in 2005’’s The New World. Plot details for Tree of Life have been hard to come by, but reports suggest the film is a multi-generational saga in which Brad Pitt plays a father in scenes set in the past, while Sean Penn plays the son of Pitt’’s character in present-day scenes.

Ondine was just one of many Irish flicks which were shown as part of New York’’s Tribeca fest. First, there was the premiere of the latest film from actor-director Ed Burns. Entitled Nice Guy Johnny, the film, which Burns wrote and directed, revolves around a playboy (Burns) who spends a day gallivanting around the Hamptons with his twentysomething nephew. It’’s been slow going of late for Burns when it comes to movies he’’s written and directed. In recent years he has released films such as Purple Violets, The Groomsmen, Looking for Kitty and Ash Wednesday, all generally to critical yawns. Perhaps Nice Guy Johnny will be the film in which Burns returns to Brothers McMullen form.

Speaking of Colin Farrell and film festivals, the film Ondine, directed by Irish master Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Michael Collins) and starring Farrell was scheduled to be screened at the Tribeca Brad Pitt and Fiona Shaw in Tree of Film Festival in late April. The film Life. 18 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

Also at Tribeca was My Brothers, an Irish road movie set during a Halloween weekend in the 1980s. Produced by the same team which put together Conor McPherson’’s film The Eclipse, My Brothers revolves around shy Noel, who steals his boss’’s van and takes his younger brothers along for the ride. The trio ends up discovering a whole new dimension to their familial relationship. My Brothers was directed by Paul Fraser, who wrote the film Somers Town, and features a cast of newcomers including Timmy Creed, Paul Courtney and TJ Griffin.


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Where My Brothers is a drama-comedy of brotherly love, Snap –– also shown at Tribeca –– takes a more psychologically dark look at family dynamics. Snap stars Aisling O’Sullivan as a mom whose teenaged son abducted a child in the past. The film explores the complex family dynamics which led up to this horrible crime. Rookie writer/director Carmel Winters (best known thus far as a playwright) uses a bag full of visual as well as storytelling tricks to keep the viewer guessing. Finally, on Tribeca’’s lighter side, there was Zonad, the latest film from director John Carney, who had a huge smash with the musical love story Once. Zonad is about an escapee from a rehab facility who is mistaken for a superhero in a quaint –– probably too quaint –– Irish town named Ballymoran. The locals believe the titular hero posses super powers and so they transform him into a local celebrity. That Top: Jennifer is, until another escapee shows up, threatenConnelly. ing to undermine everything. Below: Colm Away from the film fest beat, this June, Colm Meaney will yet again show the world what a versatile actor he is. Meaney joins the everexpanding troupe of actors in the Judd Apatow universe (Superbad, 40-Year-Old Virgin, Funny People) when he stars alongside Jonah Hill and British bad boy Russell Brand in Get Him to the Greek. In this film, Brand reprises the role he played in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, as an obnoxious rock-n-roll singer, while Jonah Hill is charged with getting the temperamental singer from London to L.A. for a gig.

Meaney.

Another Irish American, Jennifer Connelly, is teaming up with Irishman Pierce Brosnan for

Salvation Boulevard, which will begin shooting soon. Dubbed a comic-thriller (not an easy combo to pull off), Salvation Boulevard will also star Ed Harris, Greg Kinnear and Marisa Tomei. Salvation Boulevard is about a private eye looking into a professor’’s murder. The investigation leads to the inner workings of a religious cult. Some say the film may even get some American Christian groups fired up when it is released. Brosnan has been very busy of late. He appeared in The Greatest (which he also produced, starring alongside Susan Sarandon), Remember Me, The Ghost Writer and Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Broadway star and Tony winner Donna Murphy, who has also appeared in TV and

Since we’’re talking about summer flicks, buzz is building big time for Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Cillian Murphy, and directed by Christopher Nolan, his first flick since the mega-blockbuster Dark Knight. Inception is due to be released in July. Meanwhile, Murphy is also doing some writing these days. ““I’’m putting my toe in the water a little bit, just very cautiously,”” he said in a recent interview with the Irish Independent. ““I have a couple of projects that I’’m talking about. I think at a certain age you think ‘‘I must be able to do something more than just learning the lines and saying them and standing on the right spot.’’ I think it must be an age thing.”” Murphy was also recently seen in the straight-to-DVD release Peacock, featuring Ellen Page (Juno) and Susan Sarandon. While surfing for other DVD releases you might also want to check out Jason Patric in The Losers. Patric’’s career has had its ups and downs. The actor (whose grandfather was legendary Irish-American comic Jackie Gleason) appeared in gritty flicks such as Rush in the 1990s but recently saw his Lost Boys co-star Corey Haim die of a drug over-

dose. His appearance in the April comic book action comedy The Losers may signal a return of sorts for the intense IrishAmerican thespian.

movies, is currently in a studio but she’’s not recording a new album. Instead, Murphy is doing voiceover work for Tangled, a new Disney film based on the classic Rapunzel. Murphy recently told Playbill.com: ““Mandy Moore is playing Rapunzel, and I’’m the woman who claims to be her mother, who’’s got her locked up in the tower.”” Tangled is Murphy’’s first foray into animation. ““I’’ve done voiceovers for commercials and some narration,”” she said, ““but I’’ve never done animation. I thought it would be fun……It’’s the kind of character that is so wild, and turns on a dime.”” Murphy joined the Encores! production of Sondheim’’s Anyone Can Whistle in April. Tangled will hit theaters in 3D in November. Finally, two quick TV notes. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is currently wrapping up the final season of The Tudors of Showtime, and in June, get ready for Denis Leary starring as troubled IrishAmerican firefighter Tommy Gavin in Season 6 of Rescue Me. IA

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New Independent Irish Films Wow Critics

hard to tell if the film is autobiographical or fiction because it’’s so well observed that it feels personal, as if it were the record of an actual life experience replayed in front of your eyes. It’’s the slow-motion death of their hree remarkable new Irish films Next in line is a new Irish drama that father and the three boys’’ individual wowed festival goers at the looks unlike anything that’’s come out of responses to the fact that makes the film Tribeca Film Festival this spring. Ireland before. My Brothers, written by unforgettable. Noel, the oldest boy, is Independently made on shoestring budgIrish screenwriter Will Collins, 33, and already haunted by the inevitable, but ets but featuring remarkable performances directed by British man Paul Fraser, 37, is Paudie (Paul Courtney), the spirited 12by both newcomers and Hollywood heavy an immensely powerful story about three year-old middle kid, has decided the way hitters, each of the three films shared young working-class Cork brothers who to get through it is by telling jokes (even something in common: their unmistakable take an impromptu road trip together to though there’’s real pathos hidden beneath commitment to Irish writing, Irish acting pick up a new watch for their dying father. all his playacting). That leaves Scwally, talent and even the Irish landscape. As metaphors go, that may sound like a the 7-year-old Star Wars-obsessed kid, The first of the three films to make its gauche one, but the performances by the who can’’t quite grasp the gravity of the debut at the festival was Zonad, situation they’’re facing into. the genre-busting laugh-outThe 1987 milieu and the loud comedy by John Carney relentless reality of the tone (director of the recent Irish and setting make this a new Oscar winner Once). Starring Irish film not to be missed. newcomer Simon Delaney in a Neither Colin Farrell nor breakout role, Zonad is part Neil Jordan need an introducCarry-On comedy, part 1950’’s tion at this point, but their Sci-Fi potboiler, and part hearty decision to work together on revenge on America for decades Ondine, a beguiling Irish yarn of overly sentimental Irish nonabout a man who falls for a sense like The Quiet Man and woman who may well be a Darby O’’Gill. mermaid, works like a dream. Part of the fun of Zonad is There’’s a late Shakespearian that you have literally never feel to this tale of discovery seen anything quite like it from and forgiveness that was shot Ireland before. When the title on an independent budget. character (played by Delaney) Farrell plays a divorced arrives in the little village of County Cork fisherman, the Ballymoran (looking like recovering alcoholic named Britney Spears’’s overweight dad Syracuse (or Circus, as he’’s in a red jumpsuit), he’’s instantly mockingly nicknamed by the accepted by the overly friendly locals). Syracuse is a good locals. Somehow they never get TOP: Alicja Bachleda and real life partner Colin Farrell star in Oscar winner man brought low by his own around to asking the so-called Neil Jordan’s Ondine. ABOVE LEFT: Ballymoran’s teenage girls fall for Zonad weaknesses but there’’s still Delaney), the spaceman from another world. ABOVE RIGHT: spaceman difficult questions like (Simon some fight in him, and the Scwally (T.J. Griffin), Noel (Timmy Creed) and Paudie (Paul Courtney) in ““where’’s your spaceship?”” or the heartrending Irish family drama My Brothers. temptation to see the overlap ““how come you speak English?”” between the character and the Instead they excitedly welcome him to young Irish cast and the assured cinema actor playing him is at times overwhelmtheir community the way they’’d welcome verité direction lift this film far above its ing. anyone, with a stone-cold pint of occasional contrivances to turn it into As Farrell gets to grips with the considGuinness. something deeply affecting. My Brothers erable challenge of a Cork accent, there’’s After the international success of eventually hits you with the cumulative also the pleasure of seeing the star reconOnce, Carney had the perfect excuse to force of an avalanche. nect with his own talent. Jordan was astute pursue a small-budget film without conAs the film begins, the three boys’’ freeto cast the young actor whose own persontroversy and he took a chance on this spirited father (Don Wycherley) is already al life was becoming a five-alarm fire. It’’s labor of love. Zonad is, to put it mildly, close to death and the eldest boy is busy love that restores Syracuse to himself, and as nutty as a fruitcake but it has cult hit storing his fears in a private journal. it was Ondine that introduced Farrell to written all over it. It’’s also introduced ““Soon it will be over,”” writes 17-year-old his real-life partner, the gorgeous Polish Simon Delaney to the U.S. public (he Noel (Timmy Creed, in an impressive actress Alicja Bachleda, his co-star in the picked up a new agent and a representascreen debut). ““Soon it will be every man film. That dual awareness makes the IA tive at the Tribeca Festival), a fact we for himself.”” happy ending all the sweeter. — Cahir O’Doherty should all be grateful for. As you’’re watching it, it’’s increasingly

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Top 100 and Media 30

Hotelier John Fitzpatrick was honored as our Irish American of the Year and NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd accepted our Irish Spirit award, while the Irish Voice celebrated their Media Top 30 list at the American Irish Historical Society on March 15.

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1) Irish Spirit Award winner Maureen Dowd and Irish American of the Year John Fitzpatrick. 2) Honoree Jackie Hyland. 3) Joe Byrne of Tourism Ireland. 4) Honoree Magee Hickey. 5) David Cronin, Kieran McLoughlin of The Ireland Funds Worldwide, and Tony Condon of UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. 6) Commissioner Brian Andersson. 7) Consul General Niall Burgess, Ambassador Anne Anderson, Tom Moran. 8) Honoree Kristen Shaughnessy and publisher Niall O’Dowd. 9) Honoree Kimberly Gilfoyle. 10) Patricia Harty and Chuck Feeney. 11) Patricia Harty with honoree Jack Haire and his wife Kathy (photo by James Higgins). 12) Turlough McConnell, Minister Barry Andrews, and Ray Kelly. 13) Honorees Keith Kelly and Margaret Brennan. 14) Honoree Megan Meany. 15) Honoree Erin Moriarty. 16) Honoree Alexis Glick. 17) Honoree Michael Daly. 18) Peggy Dowd. 14) Honoree Bill O’Reilly, Maureen Dowd and Niall O’Dowd. Photos by Nuala Purcell.

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The Donner Party Revisited

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nthropologist Gwen Robbins of Appalachian State University has recently come forth with evidence that the cannibalism associated with the famous Donner Party tragedy never, in fact, took place. The university’’s press release claimed, ““The legend of the Donner party was primarily created by print journalists, who embellished the tales based on their own Victorian macabre sensibilities and their desire to sell more newspapers.”” In 1846, over 500 wagons full of American pioneers left their homes in the East to head west in search of fortune, most following a route from Independence, Missouri to the Continental Divide. The Donner Party was a group of eighty-seven members who chose to take the Hastings Cutoff after reaching Wyoming, which resulted in the party’’s losing cattle and wagons, as well as significant delays. A month and a half behind schedule, the party became susceptible to snowfall and ran out of food. Approximately half of the Donner Party did not survive the trip. Ever since the 47 survivors arrived in California, stories abounded that they had come through the ordeal by eating the human flesh of members of their party. In 2003, two archaeologists in the process of excavating the Donner family’’s camp discovered a hearth containing thousands of small burned bone fragments. The next year, Gwen Robbins, a graduate student working on her PhD at the University of Oregon, was assigned the task of establishing evidence showing whether the bone fragments were human. In 2006, an analysis determined that none of them were. Despite this, the connection of the Donner Party with cannibalism has persisted. Robbins continued her study of the remains found in the Donner family’’s hearth as a professor at ASU, doing more intensive examinations of the bone fragments. A thorough microscopic investigation determined that, almost certainly, no human remains were eaten.

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The team led by Robbins was able to identify food that did sustain the Donner family as coming from cattle, deer, horse and dog. Archaeologists also discovered broken crockery and slate pieces around the hearth, a suggestion that the members of the Donner Party attempted to remain civilized and hopeful even in the face of tragedy.

gious. They saved things up, they used to share, but they had to get their own large family to California. I’’m very proud of them and the courage they showed,”” said great-great-granddaughter Dorothy Avila. ““Many accounts, like Jack King’’s book, vindicate my great-great-grandfather and show how bravely he and his family behaved. The Breens came from

Above: Patrick Breen. Left: Plaque commemorating the Donner Party.

The 47 survivors of the Donner Party disaster –– 11 men, 36 women and children –– had long denied tales of cannibalism, and it is known that other travelers with the Donners did not resort to cannibalism. A piece written by Elgy Gillespie explores the family history of the Breens, one of the families who made it to California. Patrick Breen, his wife Margaret and children Edward, Simon, John, Patrick, James, Peter and Isabella made it safely to San Juan and opened a hotel there around the year that California joined the Union. Two years later Patrick, who had kept a diary during the ordeal, wrote the account that was published by the California Star on May 22, 1847, which makes clear no cannibalism took place on the part of the Breen family. Patrick Breen’’s descendants attended the 150th-year reunion of Donner descendants near the Pass at Truckee in 1996, where they spoke about the need to correct the gruesome charges associated with the Donner story. ““They were very serious, very reli-

Ireland, then came west. They joined the Donner Party in Missouri. My greatgreat-grandfather was John Breen, son of Patrick, and one of the survivors on the relief parties. He later became a supervisor in Monterey, and I remember my father saying that he never talked about the Donner Party and never liked hearing about it. The family experienced hardship that they just did not wish to remember. And so many false tales and nasty stories went around and multiplied.”” Gwen Robbins’’ research will be published in the July issue of American Antiquity, and a book manuscript to be published in 2011 is underway. With the forensic evidence discovered in a hearth from 1847, the physical remnants of how families in desperation managed to survive, perhaps the horror-movie legends will be put to rest, and the story of families who, through courage and wit, came through an impossible journey and surIA vived will remain. – Kara Rota


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{those we lost} By Kara Rota

Peggy Delaney 1924-2010

Peggy Delaney, lovingly known as the ““matriarch of the Irish community”” in Toronto, Canada, died April 5 of cancer. She was born and raised in Dublin and arrived in Canada in 1954 after a career with Radio Eireann, the Abbey Theatre and Aer Lingus. In the 1960s, she served as district sales manager for the Canadian division of Avon Cosmetics, and in the 1970s served as director of Eaton’’s Art Gallery, where she worked with senior management of the Bank of Montreal to advise them on their acquisition of the Nicholas de Grandmaison Collection of ninety portraits of North American Indians. In the mid-1980s, Delaney joined cosmaceutical firm Cellex-C International. While raising four children, Delaney was one of the founding members of the Ireland Fund of Canada, as well as its first executive director. She was involved with cultural and aid organizations including the Irish Immigrant Aid Society, the Toronto Irish Players (of which she became president in 1994), the Rose of Tralee, Inner City Angels and the Canadian Rhett Syndrome Society. She was Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick’’s Day Parade in 1997 and Irish Person of the Year in 1998. Delaney is survived by her sister, four children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

from the University of Pittsburgh. In the late 1960s, Hughes’’ seminal work in drug addiction and recovery played an important role in the changing understanding of drug addiction as a disease rather than a moral failing. Hughes worked with the Black Panthers and other groups in his research as a University of Chicago professor, then published the book Behind the Wall of Respect on his findings. He traveled to Indonesia, Iran, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, India, Burma and other countries to understand drug addiction around the world, as Principal Investigator for the World Health Organization. He then served 20 years at the Tampa Bay Pines V.A. and researched physician drug abuse at the University of South Florida. He was a featured doctor in People magazine in 1978. Hughes is survived by a daughter and four siblings.

Charles Moore 1931-2010

Charles Moore, a civil rights-era photographer who shot seminal images that played a role in the passage of civil rights legislation, died March 11 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He died at age 79 of

Dr. Patrick H. Hughes 1935-2010

Professor and researcher in the field of drug addiction and treatment, Patrick Hughes died March 27 at age 75 in Fort Myers, FL. Born in Latrobe, PA, he graduated from Columbia University, did his medical internship at Stanford University and earned his MD 24 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2010

One of Charles Moore’s seminal photographs. Birmingham, 1963. From Powerful Days: The Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore.

natural causes. Born in Alabama, Moore grew up the son of a white Baptist minister who condemned racism. He served in the Marines as a photographer, and then studied at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, which landed him a job as a newspaper photographer in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1958, Moore photographed the arrest of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and in 1963 the use of dogs and high-pressure hoses on peaceful civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham. In 1965, Moore photographed a white lawman beating a black demonstrator during the Bloody Sunday march from Selma, Alabama. These images, which appeared in Life magazine, garnered popular support for the passage of civil rights laws. Moore was awarded the inaugural Kodak Crystal Eagle Award for Impact in Photojournalism in 1989. Moore is survived by his brother, two sons and two daughters, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


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{hibernia} Elinor Smith 1911-2010

Born Elinor Patricia Ward on Long Island in 1911, Elinor Smith Sullivan was one of the youngest pioneers of aviation and part of the group of women that made a name for themselves flying airplanes in the first half of the 20th century. She died March 19 at age 98 in a nursing home in Palo Alto, California. Smith’’s father, Tom Ward, was a vaudeville performer who changed the family name to Smith as there was already a Tom Ward in vaudeville. Due to a severe dislike of trains, he traveled by airplane and took Elinor on her first flight as a child. Her father took aviation lessons and purchased a Waco 10 biplane, which Elinor learned to fly. She made her first solo flight at age 15 and earned her pilot’’s license at 16. Quickly gaining a public following and corporate sponsors, she set a record for women’’s solo endurance flying at 13.5 hours in

January 1929, then broke it with a 26.5 hour flight just three months later. She also set and broke the women’’s altitude record, first at 27,419 feet in 1930 and then at 32,576 feet within a year. This latter flight nearly killed her when she lost consciousness during landing after motor trouble on the Bellanca monoplane. Smith married Patrick Sullivan II, an ex-New York State assemblyman, who died in 1956 after 23 years of marriage. She is survived by a son, three daughters, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Patricia Travers 1927-2010

Patricia Travers, child prodigy violinist who appeared at age 11 to solo with the New York Philharmonic, died February 9 at age 82 of cancer. At age 13, she starred in the Hollywood

comedy There’’s Magic in Music, and in her early 20s recorded Charles Ives’’s Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano with Columbia Records. She played with the London and Berlin Philharmonics as well as the Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, and was heard often on national radio. In the early 1950s, she withdrew completely from public performances and lived quietly with her parents well past her middle age. She never married or had children, and her death, in a Montclair, NJ nursing home was confirmed by her IA lawyer, John Sullivan.


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{hibernia} Irish poet Seamus Heaney speaking in Hunter College’s Distinguished Writers Series.

Heaney

Speaks at AIHS and Hunter

O

n April 20, renowned Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney participated in Hunter College’’s Distinguished Writers Series. He read a selection from his works and answered questions which gave insight into his writing process. The event was held at Hunter College in New York City and was open to the public. The next night, Heaney was honored at the American Irish Historical Society in New York with their annual Cultural Award. The Cultural Award, inaugurated in 1998, was designed by artist Patrick Ireland and is given each year to an individual who

has made an extraordinary contribution to the cultural life of Ireland and Irish America. Previous recipients include actors Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson, musician Elvis Costello, poet Billy Collins, architect Kevin Roche, and educator Maureen Murphy. At the same event, Heaney also delivered the inaugural Thomas Flanagan Lecture in American Irish Studies, a new annual series honoring the life and work of novelist and scholar Thomas Flanagan. Heaney’’s lecture was entitled ““Flanagan’’s Fosterling: Readings and Reminiscences.”” – Kara Rota

Heaney with Hunter College president Jennifer Raab.

Who Do You Think You Are?

G

lucksman Ireland House, the home of Center for Irish Studies at New York University, hosted its inaugural university day ““Who Do You Think You Are,”” on Saturday, April 17. The event, attended by some 125 people, was remarkable in content and variety of presenters. Professor Pádraig Ó Cearúill, a popular Irish language lecturer at NYU, set the tone for the day by examining Irish place names, the true meaning of which is often lost in English translation. Trinity College Professor Dan Bradley and Brian Donovan, Dublinbased heritage research specialist, explored the themes of Irish DNA and genealogy research. Bradley, one of the foremost scientists in Irish genetic history (he unveiled Professor Henry Louis Gates’’s Irish

26 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

genes for PBS’’s African-American Lives documentary series) talked about Niall of the Nine Hostages (one in five New Yorkers of Irish descent have his DNA). Donovan discussed materials available for genealogical research such as deeds, land surveys and other documents that are often overlooked sources of information. Professor Marian Casey and Glucksman Ireland House Oral History Project colleague, Professor Miriam Nyhan, introduced excerpts of tapes of interviews that they have already carried out in a session entitled ““Our Stories, Our Memories.”” Meanwhile, an illustrious panel explored the theme of what it means to be Irish in America. Speakers were William Kennedy, Pulitzer Prizewinning novelist (Ironweed); Alice McDermott, National Book Award-win-

ning novelist (Charming Billy); John Patrick Shanley, Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and director (Doubt); and (Moonstruck) Academy Award-winning screenwriter. Kennedy talked about rediscovering ““the parish”” when he was writing his Albany cycle. Shanley talked about rural Ireland, visiting his aunt and uncle on the family farm and their wonderful use of language, while Alice McDermott talked about her son finding his way to his cultural heritage through music. To top it off, Kennedy read from a new work. The remarkable day was brought nicely to a close by Niall Burgess, Consul General of Ireland in New York, who talked about the relationship between Ireland and America. –– Patricia Harty


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Ref lections on the

GreatHunger The following commentaries, from writers, politicians, actors, activists, artists and business people, culled from 25 years of interviews and articles in Irish America, offer unique, personal perspectives on the starvation of our forefathers.

PHOTO: RACHEL GIESE BROWN

““The first time I ever went back to Ireland, I met a very old man named Paddy Kennedy, who as a little boy had grown up with my mother’’s father. He was so excited when I came to see him that he poured me a glass of whiskey and we sat and drank the whiskey and he told me about the day my grandfather left Ireland. My great-grandfather walked my grandfather down to the end of the road where he was to be picked up and taken to a train. And my great-grandfather put his hand on grandpa’’s shoulder and shook his hand, didn’’t kiss, didn’’t embrace –– very Irish. Shook his hand and said, ‘‘Go now and never come back to hungry Ireland.’’ A whole class, a whole race of people, who thought it was finished where they came from. And who had –– luckily for the American gene pool –– enough grit and optimism and wit to come here.””

– Peggy Noonan, author and political commentator, interview, July/August 1990

““In 1845 my grandfather Patrick O’’Neill, then only 13, was brought to this country with his three brothers to work with the New England Brick Company. In 1856, at the age of 24, he returned to Ireland, married Julia Fox from his hometown and ten years later they came back to America. …… Growing up as a youngster you were instilled with three things. The first was the ““No Irish Need Apply”” signs and what those signs were doing to the Irish, the second was the way your fathers came over here –– off Famine ships –– and you thanked God they were able to work to provide for their families. I thought of my poor great-grandmother, for instance, seeing her three boys, including my grandfather, leave, thinking she would never see them again.””

–Tip O’Neill, interview, October 1986

““My great-grandparents witnessed food riots with loss of life when the 1st Royal Dragoons fired into the hungry crowd September 29, 1845 in the seaport town of Dungarvan as ‘‘steely ships’’ sailed away with good Irish corn and oats.””

– Robert Lyons, Kennebunkport, Maine, letter to the editor, March/April 1997

“. . . thousands of my fellow countrymen came to this country with only the clothes on their back and an average life expectancy, when they got here, of six years. America has given a lot to the Irish. The Irish have given a lot to America as an immigrant population. We have worked hard, and thrived in industry, commerce, government and the arts.” – Liam Neeson in a speech accepting the American Ireland Fund’s Heritage Award, January/February 1996 28 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010


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Grosse Ile gravesite where thousands of Irish are buried.

“I think most Irish Catholics in this country are only dimly aware of the Famine. I often wonder how many of the Famine Irish survived. The death rates were appallingly high. The people who died on ships; the diphtheria epidemics; the cholera epidemics. You go to cemeteries and you see a lot of graves of the young…My grandparents all came in the 1870s and 1880s after the so-called little Famine. Our family memories are not of Famine but the memories of growing up poor. It’s a typical American story. We grew up poor but we made it.”

– Andrew Greeley, interview, June 1986

““You can’’t acknowledge something as massive as the Famine followed by the evictions, cheating people out of their land and so on. It’’s too massive to encompass, and so I think revisionism is a response. It astounds me as an outsider to read history that seems to blame the Famine on the exuberance of either the Irish or the potato. The potato is that well known exuberant, volatile plant, and the cause of the Famine. And it’’s the fault of the Irish for being eight million instead of a more manageable population. It’’s a little bit like blaming the Jews for the Holocaust. …… It’’s never ceased to fascinate me since I was a kid that Ireland is the only nation in Europe whose population is roughly a bit more than half of what it was in 1841. In 1841 the population was 8.2 million, now it’’s about five million. Between the 1830s and the 1880s, by which time the last of the Fenians had escaped from Australia or been liberated, you had a halving of Ireland. I think that created a culture of loss in Ireland and I think Ireland, in a sense, is a traumatized nation, the way the Jews are a traumatized people.””

– Thomas Keneally, interviews, July/August 1991 and March/April 1997

““My mother’’s maiden name was Finnegan; I believe her family was from Mayo. She was one of five children. Her grandfather and grandmother on both sides of the family were 100 percent Irish. The Finnegans came over during theFamine, around 1845. The other members of the extended family all came in that period through to about 1880.””

Joe Biden with his mother.

– Joe Biden, interview, April 1987

““There is a whole school of thought that regards the Irish Famine as genocide, and there are arguments that can be legitimately made for that under the United Nations Charter, and it’’s only now beginning to be examined. …… The inherited legacy of colonialism includes this internalization of shame and the inability to deal with it so we just pass it on to the next generation. …… I think poets and artists have always been aware of that.””

– Fionnula Flanagan, interview, January/February 1997

““As a typical American with Irish heritage, my roots are a little fuzzy. The precise time of emigration I’’m not certain of –– my guess is that it was during or near the Famine. I’’m quite certain the family came from Wexford. The name has different forms, as you know –– Keough, Keogh, Kehoe –– a lot of it was Anglicized spelling by authorities. The family settled in Massachusetts, near Pittsfield, and right after the Civil War, my great-grandfather moved out to the Midwest. He and a group of Irishmen went out to homestead land in Northwest Iowa near Sioux City, close to a little village called Maurice, where I was baptized. They homesteaded the land through some very tough Iowa winters, and created some wonderful farmland, in the tradition of many Irishmen who were interested in farming.””

– Donald Keough, CEO Coca-Cola Company, interview, December 1989 JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 29


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Reflections on the

GreatHunger ““[My father’’s grandfather came to New York from Mayo during Famine times]. He was a young teenager when he got off the boat with his brother and sister. And my mother’’s family has a similar story. [They were] very young people traveling without parents. They got here and fortunately the family structure was strong enough that it helped them survive and succeed.””

– Anne Sweeney, President of the Disney Channel, interview, November/December 1997

““All students will learn that, while there was a potato blight, the British exported food out of Ireland, out of the mouths of two million starving Irish men, women and children. History teaches us the Great Hunger was not the result of a massive Sir Charles Trevelyan. failure of the Irish potato crop but rather was the result of a deliberate campaign by the British to deny the Irish people the food they needed to survive.””

– New York Governor George Pataki on the introduction of the Famine into school curriculum, November/December 1996 Irish Madonna sculpture by Glenna Goodacre

Ships docking at Grosse Ile

““Do you know about Grosse Île? It’’s an island in the St. Lawrence River in Canada where thousands of Irish are buried in mass graves. Estimates are that one in seven famine immigrants never [survived the journey]. And that their life span was seven to fourteen years if they did. All we ever learned in Ireland was they got on the coffin ships. We didn’’t learn what happened to them once they got here. It is my dream that Ireland, the mother country, would care enough to know what happened to her children, and teach that history in the schools in Ireland. – Patricia Harty, speaking at the U.S.-Ireland Forum, New York. February/March 2008

““My grandfather Ambrose O’’Brien, born in 1840, lived through the Famine and was a Fenian who worked closely with Michael Davitt on land reform. My mother, born in 1891, often spoke to me about the Famine, about how Mayo was one of the hardest hit countries. I believe strongly that I have benefited from those Irish who came to Boston and struggled before me. When I arrived here in 1950, I was able to find a level playing field in the business world largely thanks to their efforts.””

– Thomas J. Flatley, real estate developer who emigrated from Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo in 1950. Interview, March/April 1997

““The tragedy of An Ghorta Mór contrasts with the outstanding achievements and contributions of Irish Americans and provides me with a unique opportunity to capture the range of human experience.””

– Glenna Goodacre, designer of Philadelphia Famine Memorial, feature article, April/May 2000

30 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

““Grosse Île was a place that led to the original Irish settlement in Maine in the 1830s. There was a downturn in the Irish economy in 1829 and 1830, often called the small Famine, and a lot of them came over and landed on Grosse Île. They had no means of transport and so they walked to the United States and they walked through Maine. There was a lot of violence along the Maine border in 1830, and a number of them stayed in Maine, in fact, there was quite a substantial settlement, while many more went to Boston. So I’’m quite familiar with Grosse Île. It led to the first large wave of Irish immigration in Maine.””

– George Mitchell, former Maine senator and peacemaker for Northern Ireland. Interview, May/June 1995

““The Famine was a defining event in the history of Britain and Ireland. It has left deep scars…… [It] is something that still causes pain as we reflect on it today. Those who governed in London at the time failed their people through standing by while a crop failure turned into a massive tragedy. We must not forget such a dreadful event. It is also right that we should pay tribute to the ways in which the Irish people have triumphed in the face of this catastrophe.”” – Excerpt from a letter from British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the 150th anniversary of the Famine, which stopped short of formally apologizing for Britain’s role in the Famine, but remarked on the failure of the British government to properly address the developing tragedy. – IA report on the 150th Anniversary commemoration, which took place in Cork. July/August 1997


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“One hundred and fifty years [after the Famine], the spirit of the Irish people was the backbone which America relied upon during the worst attack in our nation’s history.”

– Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City. IA feature: October/November 2002

““I am tempted to conclude that we might be potato Famine Irish immigrants. It’’s certainly clear that going back to my grandparents, I may be third or even fourth generation American. …… I have no memories of a prejudice because of my identity –– a position no doubt earned for me by the broken heads of my Irish ancestors in the labor movement and other places. Nobody ever called me a Papist or a Harp. I’’m a very lucky guy having been raised in what I perceived at the time as a mainstream ethnic and religious identity.””

““We take so much for granted: Our ancestors came over and built all these schools, churches, hospitals, the unions, the Democratic party –– a whole world. But they had to build it all from nothing. There were a lot of reasons why they should have fallen apart or just disappeared. You know, if it were just a matter of skin complexion they could have become Protestants, but something deeper and more complex was going on. …… ““There’’s a line by Samuel Eliot Morison in the Oxford History of the United States, published in 1961, I believe, that I read in high school. It said, ‘‘The Famine Irish made surprisingly little contribution to the economics or culture.’’ Yet look at popular entertainment: They made a tremendous contribution, beginning with the minstrels theater and traveling shows. And the economic contribution –– who does Morison think dug the canals, the reservoirs; who dug the Erie Canal? Yet a leading American historian could write that the Irish almost didn’’t exist.”” – Peter Quinn, author, interview, December/January 2009

Phil and his sister Kathy.

–Phil Donahue, talk show host, interview, October 1990

–William Brennan, Supreme Court Justice, interview, June 1990

–Tom Hayden, California senator, in a letter to Irish America, February/March 1999

““We need Irish and Americans to learn a lot from each other and the heritage of immigration, what it’’s about and how to react to it and how to be smart about it. . . . What you want for the future will tell you how to fix the mistakes of the past.”” – Bruce Morrison, former congressman and sponsor of the Immigration Act of 1990 which allotted 48,000 “Morrison Visas” to the Irish. Feature article, February/ March 2008

““Perhaps the haunting memory of the Famine helps to explain the remarkable generosity of Irish people across the world. [The Famine] was the greatest disaster in the history of Ireland, but out of that tragedy emerged a blessing for our nation, the men, women and children who crossed the ocean to build new lives in America.””

– President William Jefferson Clinton on the 150th Anniversary of the Famine, feature article, July/August 1997

CARTOON FROM PUCK MAGAZINE.

You know how terrible things were [in Ireland] then? I would suppose, if there were any kind of work at all, that they would have taken the chance. But they saw a chance for a better life in America. That’’s what I think. I don’’t know all the details –– neither mother nor father talked about it that much.””

““Why the Irish starved is a question for students and historians to examine. Was it British indifference, racism, religious bigotry, laissez-faire economics, poverty, overpopulation, or other factors? Those are legitimate questions, but to simply delete the colonial dimension and describe Ireland as a sort of hardscrabble environment is intellectually outrageous. …… The impact of this misleading history is to reinforce images of the Irish as a helpless people whose suffering was caused by fate, images which surface again and again in contemporary society.””

““There’’s a lot of, I think, sadly, negative self-images, to use modern jargon, amongst the Irish. They internalize what the British thought of them. It took a long time. It didn’’t happen immediately. And I think without the Famine it might never have happened. It took the disaster of the Famine for those negative self-images to really take hold.””

– Thomas Cahill, interview, March/April 1996 JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 31


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The Spoilers of Our Land How the British Government Responded to the Great Hunger By Christine Kinealy

I

n January 1847, The Nation magazine published a poem entitled ““The Stricken Land.”” It was a searing indictment of the policies of the British Government in the wake of the second failure of the Irish potato crop a few months earlier. It was written by a young woman, Jane Elgee, who was drawn from the Protestant Ascendancy, but who became a member of a group of radical nationalists known collectively as ““Young Ireland.”” She wrote using the pen-name ““Speranza.”” Weary men, what reap ye? –– Golden corn for the stranger. What sow ye? –– Human corpses that wait for the avenger. Fainting forms, hunger-stricken, what see you in the offing? Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger's scoffing. They guard our masters' granaries from the thin hands of the poor. Pale mothers, wherefore weeping? –– Would to God that we were dead –– Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread ... We are wretches, famished, scorned, human tools to build your pride, But God will yet take vengeance for the souls for whom Christ died. Now is your hour of pleasure –– bask ye in the world's caress; But our whitening bones against ye will rise as witnesses, From the cabins and the ditches, in their charred, uncoffin'd masses, For the Angel of the Trumpet will know them as he passes. A ghastly, spectral army, before the great God we'll stand, And arraign ye as our murderers, the spoilers of our land.

These words, even from the eloquent pen of Speranza (mother of Oscar Wilde), did not do justice to the desolation and horror of the period of devastation remembered as ““the Great Hunger.”” Like other famines, the Irish Famine was not solely the consequence of food shortages, but resulted from political decisions that made the suffering of the 32 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010


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PHOTO: KIT DEFEVER.

cent of the Irish potato crop, a repeal of the Union appeared no closer to being achieved. Moreover, O’’Connell, weakened by age and illness, was no longer the political force that he had been. As the potato crop failed repeatedly, the Irish poor became increasingly dependent on policies made in London to save their lives. In the first year of shortages, Opening page (top): A deserted village on Achill Island. Left: Bronze castings by sculptor Rowan Gillespie from “Departure” Famine memorial on the Dublin waterfront. Above (left): Daniel O’Connell who tried to overturn the Act of Union. Above (right): Sir Robert Peel, leader of the Conservatves who used the potato failure to repeal the Corn Laws whch had kept the price of grain products artificially high. Right: 1846 illustration in London News titled “Turbulent opening of the store in Cork selling Peel’s Indian Corn.” KIT DEFEVER

poor secondary to economic greed, political ambition and ideological prejudice. In 1997, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, belatedly acknowledged that the all-powerful British government had ““stood by”” while the Irish people starved in the years after 1845.

A

s a consequence of the Act of Union of 1800, by the 1840s England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales were governed by a single parliament based in Westminster in London. Despite Ireland accounting for almost half of the population within the United Kingdom, she sent only 105 members (from a total of over 600) to the London-based parliament, and they tended to be divided along political lines –– belonging to the Tory (Conservative), Whig or Repeal Parties. In 1841, Sir Robert Peel, leader of the Conservatives, had won a massive electoral victory. One of his main political adversaries was Daniel O’’Connell, leader of the Irish Repeal Party, who aimed to overturn the Act of Union by legal and constitutional means. In 1845, when a mysterious and previously unknown blight destroyed approximately forty per-

nobody died of Famine in Ireland. The lack of excess mortality was attributed to the quick and comprehensive response by the Conservative government of Sir Robert Peel. At the same time, however, from the outset relief policies were combined with attempts to bring about social change in Ireland, including ending the dependence of the poor on the potato, and getting rid of landowners who were judged to be unenterprising. Overall, potato cultivation and dependence were regarded as perpetuating the perceived backwardness of the Irish economy and its people. In the words of Sir Randolph Routh, who had overall responsibility for the relief operations: ““The little industry called for to rear the potato, and its prolific growth, lead the people to indolence and all kinds of vice, which habitual labour and a higher order of food would prevent. I think it very probable that we may derive much advantage from this present calamity.””

O

verall, therefore, the policies introduced in the first year of shortages reflected the government’’s longer-term aspirations for Ireland. Peel also used the

potato failure to repeal the Corn Laws, which had kept the price of grain products artificially high. However, Peel himself became a political casualty of the Famine as many landowners in his party abhorred his action in repealing the Corn Laws. As a consequence, a minority Whig government headed by Lord John Russell assumed power in the summer of 1846, just as news of the reappearance of the blight was emerging. The fact that the disease appeared earlier in the harvest season than in the previous year had ominous implications for the potato crop. In 1846, almost the entire potato crop was destroyed; moreover, the corn harvest was smaller than usual. A second, and more extensive, year of food shortages was inevitable. Yet, regardless of this, the program of relief introduced by Russell’’s administration was more restrictive than that of the previous year. Public works were the primary form of relief, but the ways in which the works were provided made them unsuitable to provide effective support to a hungry people. Numerous bureaucratic checks were imposed, which meant the works were slow to be established; wages were based on ““piece work,”” disadvantaging people already weakened by hunger; a wages ceiling was imposed despite spiraling food prices; furthermore, the works undertaken were to be of no value to the community but were simply intended to act as a test of genuine destitution. Consequently, the people who did manage to get employment on the public works (and not everybody did) were occupied in hard physical labor, usually for twelve hours a day, engaged in useless projects –– building roads that led nowhere and walls that surrounded nothing. The fact that the winter of 1846-1847 was one of the coldest on record, with snow falling as late as April, added to the misery and vulnerability of those so employed. By the end of 1846, there was a sharp increase in mortality. As in any famine, hunger-induced disease rather than starvation was the main source of mortality. For the victims, death was slow, painful and undignified. One of the main causes JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 33


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deaths were not being kept. He repeatedly protested that it was within the capability of the British government to do so. At the beginning of 1847, the British government decided to close the public works; not because they were failing to save lives, but because they were expensive and cumbersome to administer. At this stage, 15,978 people had been employed, at a cost of £410,000; meanwhile, the cost of providing relief for less than six months had reached four and a half million pounds, most of which was provided as a loan to the Irish taxpayers. Yet, despite this high expenditure, the public works had not only failed to save lives, but had exacerbated existing prob-

COURTESY:THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF IRELAND

of death was dysentery, which caused aching in the legs, arms and head, a swelling of the limbs, and an inability to keep anything in the stomach. A doctor in Skibbereen in County Cork, which was to achieve notoriety for the suffering of its population, recorded that ““all talk of exaggeration is at an end. The people are dying –– not in twos or threes –– but by dozens; the ordinary forms of burial are dispensed with.”” In the winter of 1846-47 excess mortality increased throughout Ireland, from Skibbereen to Belfast. No part of Ireland escaped the horror. A member of the Society of Friends who visited Lurgan, near Belfast, in the spring of 1847, likened what he saw to the worst scenes that he had witnessed in County Cork. The British Parliament was fully aware of the deathly situation unfolding in Ireland. At the beginning of 1847, Lord George Bentinck, leader of the divided Tory Party, had led a sustained attack on the Whig Party, pointing to the deteriorating situation in Ireland. Bentinck, supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, condemned many aspects of the Whig government's relief policies, including the fact that they had reduced the size of rations to the Irish poor, they had left food importation to private traders and speculators, and they had exaggerated the

Above: A family from Carraroe, County Galway. This photo was probably taken in the 1860s. Top: Illustrated London News cartoon showing Sir Robert Peel suppressing Irish leader Daniel O’Connell who tried to repeal the Act of Union which united Ireland with Britain.

quantity of foodstuffs imported into Ireland. Apart from censuring the government for allowing such high mortality, he criticized the fact that records of Famine 34 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

lems; the works had diverted people from their normal agricultural pursuits, while requiring vast amounts of energy from an exhausted and hungry population.

To replace the public works, a Temporary Relief Act, popularly known as ““the soup kitchen act”” was introduced. As its name suggested, it was to be an interim measure, until the Poor Law could be modified to enable it to provide for both ordinary and Famine relief. The soup kitchens marked a break from earlier relief provisions, which had viewed the giving of gratuitous relief to be both ideologically flawed and financially perilous. The soup kitchens, however, despite the paucity and lack of nutrition of some of the food provided, marked a high point in Famine relief. By July 1847, over three million people (approximately forty percent of the population) were receiving free, daily rations from their local soup kitchen, at relatively little cost to the government. This short-term measure demonstrated that it was both logistically and financially possible to feed the Irish poor. Politically, however, such a solution was unacceptable. There was a general election in the United Kingdom in the summer of 1847, which was won by the Whigs. One of the first acts of the new government was to oversee the introduction of an amended Poor Law, which made the much-detested workhouse system the main provider of relief, and meant that the Famine poor were now to be classified as ““paupers.”” More significantly, responsibility for financing relief was to pass to local Irish rate-payers through the mechanism of local Poor Law taxation. The question of food exports and imports also proved to be controversial. Prior to 1845, Ireland had been a major exporter of food to Britain, including vast amounts of high-quality grain products, earning it the title of ““the bread basket of the United Kingdom.”” Following the failure of the potato crop, many within Ireland, including the corporations of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Belfast, had asked the government to close the ports to allow foodstuffs to remain within the country. Similar measures had been used during earlier periods of food shortages and had proved to be effective. Moreover, other governments in Europe were responding to crop shortages in their own countries by acting to keep food within their country, as a way of increasing supplies and stabilizing prices. The British government, which at the time was one of the most interventionist in the world, refused to do so, arguing instead the efficacy of non-intervention and laissezfaire. Consequently, massive amounts of foodstuffs left Ireland, even from impov-


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Relief works, Inverin Hill, County Galway c. 1890. From the collection of Sean Sexton

The people who did manage to get employment on the public works (and not everybody did) were occupied in hard physical labor, usually for twelve hours a day, engaged in useless projects – building roads that led nowhere and walls that surrounded nothing. erished areas such as Dingle, Killala and Kilrush, while inadequate amounts of highly-priced, generally low-quality, corn was imported. The senselessness of the situation was explained by The Nation: ““Let us explain to you Irish farmer, Irish landlord, Irish tradesman, what became of your harvest, which is your only wealth? Early in the winter it was conveyed, by the thousand shiploads, to England, paying freight; it was stored in English stores, paying storage; it was passed from hand to hand among cornspeculators, passing at every remove, commission, merchants’’ profits, forwarding charges and so forth; some of it was bought by French or Belgian buyers and carried to Havre, to Antwerp, to Bordeaux, meeting on the way other corn, from Odessa or Hamburg or New York, which also earned for merchants, shipowners and other harpies, immense profits, exorbitant freights, huge commissions ... In other words, you sent away a quarter of wheat at 50 shillings, and got it back, if you got it at all, at 80 shillings.”” Criticism of this policy was not confined to nationalists. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Clarendon, a political ally of the British Prime Minister, wrote to him in private, making it clear that he believed the Irish poor had been

the victims of the greed of merchants and the political ambitions of John Russell: ““No-one could now venture to dispute the fact that Ireland had been sacrificed to the London corn-dealers because you were member for the City, and that no distress would have occurred if the exportation of Irish grain had been prohibited.”” Belatedly in 1847, the government temporarily removed the restrictive Navigation Acts, which had limited the ability of foreign-registered ships to bring goods to the ports of the United Kingdom. This measure was too little and too late. In 1847, the British government had used public works, soup kitchens and the Poor Law as a way of dealing with the crisis, but the high cost of food and the draconian ways in which relief had been provided had added to the problems of the poor. Mortality and suffering in 1847 earned the year the enduring sobriquet, ““Black ’’47.”” But this year marked neither the apogee nor the end of the suffering in Ireland. The decision to leave Ireland to its own resources following the harvest of 1847 proved to be disastrous. It also demonstrated that the Act of Union, enforced on Ireland only fifty years earlier, meant little in reality. For members of Young Ireland, the failure of both the Irish landlords and the British government to pro-

tect the lives of the poor pushed them reluctantly to a path of rebellion, culminating in a small, unsuccessful rising in Ballingarry in July 1848. However, nationalists were not the only people dismayed at the seeming indifference of the British government to the Irish poor. In October 1847, the Earl of Clarendon wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Wood: ““I hope Lord John Russell will not persist in his notion that Irish evils must find Irish remedies only, for it is impossible that this country will get through the next eight months without aid in some shape or another from England –– it may be very difficult –– very disagreeable. Irish ingratitude may have extinguished English sympathy, and the poverty of England may be urged against further succour to Ireland, but none of these reasons will be valid against helpless starvation.”” Clarendon’’s warnings were unheeded, with many politicians in London continuing to justify minimal intervention by laying the blame for the situation on the Irish poor themselves, their laziness and their ingratitude. Clearly, the Irish people were not regarded as equal partners with the Union even at a time of crisis. After 1847, hunger and disease were compounded by the increasing problem of JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 35


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homelessness. The tax burden imposed by the amended Poor Law had created an incentive for landlords to evict tenants, while the draconian ““Quarter Acre Clause”” had forced tenants with small plots of land to make the stark choice between giving up their holdings or facing starvation. At the same time, the additional responsibilities placed on the Poor Law proved to be untenable in a number of unions, forcing them to stop providing relief, or doing so at an inadequate level. Faced with a deteriorating situation, the government, through the channel of Charles Trevelyan, the scrupulous, but parsimonious Secretary of the Treasury, made small, piecemeal grants to unions considered to be most in need. Again, Clarendon made his colleagues aware of the consequences of this policy, warning that the outcome would be ““wholesale starvation”” that would not only be ““shocking, but bring deep disgrace on the government.”” The unpopularity of giving even small amounts of assistance to Ireland resulted in a further change in policy –– but one that confirmed the desire to make Irish suffering a burden on Irish taxpayers. In 1849, the ““Rate-in-Aid”” was introduced. It provided for a fixed tax to be placed on each Poor Law union in Ireland, which would then be redistributed to the poorest unions by Trevelyan. The new tax conformed to the principle that the tragedy was an Irish, not an imperial, responsibility. The new tax was unpopular throughout Ireland, but was especially disliked in the northeast of the country, which was recovering from the Famine, helped by a revival in the linen industry. The strongest opposition to the new tax, however, came from two Englishmen close to the government. Clarendon believed that it undermined the idea of a United Kingdom, and would serve to increase support for separation from Britain. While Edward Twistleton, who had been the Irish Poor Law Commissioner since 1847, resigned in 1849 on the ground that the tax was an unfair burden on Ireland, which he could not implement ““with honour.”” Over the previous two years he had disagreed frequently with the policies he was overseeing, and had had many angry encounters with Charles Trevelyan over the parsimony with which the Treasury had released funds. Before leaving office, he informed Trevelyan that as he and his colleagues had repeatedly been denied sufficient funding, they were ““absolved from any responsibility [for] deaths which may take 36 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

some parts of the country the recovery was slow and partial, with mortality and emigration being even higher in 1849 and 1850 than in 1847. The deteriorating conditions in the Kilrush Union in County Clare led to an official enquiry, which found that the union had lost approximately fifty percent of its population since 1846. The Commissioners believed that the local poor had been doubly abandoned –– by their landlords and by the British government. They concluded their report by saying: ““Whether as regards the plain principles of humanity, or the literal text and admitted principle of the Poor Law of 1847, a neglect of public duty has occurred and has occasioned a state of things disgraceful to a civilized age and

Top: Charles Trevelyan who described the Famine as “The judgment of God [who] sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson.” Above: Skibbereen, Co. Cork, National Famine Memorial Day, May 17, 2009. Inscription on memorial marking mass Famine grave reads: “A million a decade of human wrecks. Corpses lying in fever sheds. Corpses huddled on floundering decks, and shroudless dead on their rocky beds. Nerve and muscle and heart and brain, lost to Ireland – lost in vain.”

place on account of those privations.”” A few weeks later, he told a parliamentary committee that deaths, even in the poorest unions, could have been prevented ““by the advance of a few hundred pounds.”” The 1849 harvest was blight-free in many parts of Ireland, and industry, especially the linen trade, was reviving. Yet in

country, for which some authority ought to be held responsible, and would long since have been held responsible had these things occurred in any union in England.”” This report, as did the private and public comments made by English officials including Bentinck, Clarendon and Twistleton, revealed the diversity of response to the Famine within the British establishment. In the end though, it was men lacking vision and compassion who determined how the British government responded to the unfolding tragedy. The political cost of reacting in this way proved to be high, but the human cost –– which extended far beyond the numbers who died or emigrated –– remains IA incalculable.


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An Gorta Mór —1845-1849—

Statistics complied by Tara Dougherty

Evictions in Ireland It has been estimated that, excluding ““voluntary”” surrenders, over a quarter of a million people were evicted from their homes between 1849 and 1854.

• • •

The total number of people who had to leave their holdings in the period is likely to be around half a million, and 200,000 small holdings were obliterated. 144,759 families (about 580,000 people) were evicted in the period 1846–54, and 97,248 families were evicted in 1846–48 alone. 1,431 tenants were evicted in 1847 by Major Mahon, landlord of County Roscommon.

The level of evictions in Tipperary was some twenty times that of Fermanagh, the county with the lowest incidence of clearance, and in Clare it has been calculated that one in every ten persons was permanently expelled from house and holding in the years between 1849 and 1854.

Immigration to the U.S. The five major points of arrival in the U.S.: New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; and New Orleans, LA.

During Famine years, Irish made up

45%

of the population of immigrants coming into the United States. Germany was not far behind with

33%

Official U.S. Statistics, Irish Emigration to U.S. 1825 1831 1836 1841 1846

to to to to to

1830: 1835: 1840: 1845: 1851:

42,500 72,100 134,900 186,900 814,600

From 1850 to 1900 an estimated

$260 million

poured into Ireland from America, bringing over more family members and helping those left behind.

Before the Civil War, immigrants usually arrived in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, New Orleans, and Baltimore. Once most immigrants arrived in steamships by the 1860s, New York City was the main arrival port.

Exported Food The British government decided not to interfere in the market place to provide food to the poor Irish, but they left food import and distribution to free market forces. Moreover, they allowed foodstuffs –– vast

••

Immigration to Canada 136,678 Irish immigrated to Canada 1844-1849

DECLINE IN IRISH POPULATION

The 1841 census recorded an Irish population of 8.2 million. By 1851 this figure had been reduced to 6.5 million. DECLINE IN POPULATION 1841-1851

Leinster Munster Ulster Connaught

DEATHS IN IRELAND

In 1847, 400,000 Irish people died due to starvation.

Often called ““two-boaters”” were those who arrived first in Canada and later (at times a generation later) would migrate to Boston or New York. Toronto received a great number of Famine immigrants. Saint John, New Brunswick; Quebec City and Montreal, Quebec; Ottawa, Kingston and Hamilton, Ontario also received large numbers of Irish. British government put restrictions on immigration to Canada by 1847, creating more of a flow into the United States.

The largest Famine grave site outside of Ireland is at Grosse-Île, Quebec, an island in the St. Lawrence River used to quarantine ships near Quebec City. BY 1851: More than half the inhabitants of Toronto were Irish. A quarter of the population in Liverpool was Irish-born. A quarter of the populations of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore were Irish. 1/5 of Chicago’s population was Irish.

•• • •

amounts of foodstuffs –– to be exported from Ireland. Merchants made large profits, while people starved. At the same time, public works, which entailed hard physical labor building roads that led nowhere and walls that surrounded nothing –– were made the primary form of relief. By the end of 1846,

deaths from hunger, exhaustion and Famine-related diseases were commonplace. The Famine had commenced –– and no part of the country, from Belfast to Skibbereen, had escaped. –– Christine Kinealy

In 1847, 4,000 ships carrying peas, beans, rabbits, salmon, honey, and potatoes left Ireland for English ports. 9,992 Irish cattle sent to England. 4,000 horses and ponies sent to England. Approximately 1,000,000 gallons of butter sent to England. Approximately 1,700,000 gallons of grain-derived alcohol sent to England.

••

15.3% 22.5% 15.7% 28.8%

Further information: www1.assumption. edu:80/ahc/irish/ overview.html

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Help From Afar The Irish Famine was the first national disaster to attract international fundraising activities.These activities cut across traditional divides of religion, nationality, class and gender. Such a response was unprecedented. By Christine Kinealy

T

he first international fundraising A number of fundraising comactivities for the Irish Famine mittees were established in both began in 1845, following the iniIreland and Britain. One of the tial appearance of the potato most successful and well-respectblight, and picked up in the wake of the ed was the Central Relief second, and far more devastating, failure Committee of the Society of of the potato crop in 1846. Outside interFriends, which was established in vention was short-lived, however, and by Dublin in November 1846, at the suggesentist and explorer. He traveled to 1848, most of the donations had dried up. tion of Joseph Bewley (a tea and coffee Counties Mayo and Sligo in 1847, where Sadly, the Famine was far from over, merchant). Though the Irish Quakers were he established schools at which free food with more people dying in 1849 than in small in number (c. 3,000), they were was given to the local children. ‘‘Black ’’47.’’ very successful in raising money outside Unfortunately, the involvement of relief The first place to send money to Ireland Ireland. These funds played an important organizations has been tainted by the was Calcutta in India. The fundraising role in providing relief, particularly memory of proselytism or, as it is known effort was initiated in 1845 by British citithrough the establishment of soup in Ireland, souperism, that is, giving relief zens who believed that their actions would kitchens. By the end of 1847, when their to the Catholic poor in return for their conshow the Irish people the benefits of being funds dried up, the Quakers had distribversion to Protestantism. Proselytism was part of the British Empire. Over forty peruted approximately £200,000 worth of not new in Ireland, but its use during this cent of the British army serving in India relief throughout Ireland. period of suffering seems particularly repwere Irish-born and they gave generously. An even larger relief organization was rehensible. However, although it is generDonations came from wealthy Hindus and the British Relief Association. It was ally associated with the main Protestant a number of Indian princes, but also from formed in January 1847 by Lionel de churches in Ireland (the Anglican and the those who were less well off, including Presbyterian) in reality it was only sepoys in the army, and from many practiced by a minority of evangellow-skilled and low-paid Indian sericals, who genuinely believed that vants. Within a few months, the they were saving souls, not merely Calcutta Committee had raised lives, by their actions. By the end £14,000 for the relief of the Irish poor. of 1848 the number of ““Bible Just as relief efforts were getting schools”” had grown to 28, despite underway in India, a committee was ““priestly opposition.”” established in Boston in the United In popular memory, Queen States. In America, perhaps inevitably, Victoria is remembered as ““The Famine relief became tied up with Famine Queen”” for allegedly only demands for Irish political independgiving £5 to help the starving Irish. ence, with the committee being formed Top: “Irish Famine” painting by G.F. Watts. Above: In reality, she donated £2,000 to the at the initiative of the local Repeal Queen Victoria, remembered as the Famine Queen, and British Relief Association in the Sultan of Turkey both contributed to Famine relief. Association (followers of Daniel January 1847. This made the Queen O’’Connell). Predictably, the food shortRothschild, a Jewish banker in London. the largest single donor to Famine relief. ages were cited as the most recent example Again, its fundraising activities were interShe also published two letters, appealing to of British misrule and of the failure of the national, with donations being received Protestants in England to send money to British Empire. At a meeting in early from locations as diverse as Venezuela, Ireland. Her involvement was widely critiDecember 1845, at which $750 was raised Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Russia cized at the time, notably by the influential for the Irish poor, one speaker claimed that, and Italy. In total, over 15,000 individual newspaper the London Times, which due to ““the fatal connection of Ireland with contributions were sent to the Association, argued that giving money to Ireland would England, the rich grain harvests of the forand approximately £400,000 was raised. have the same effect as throwing money mer country are carried off to pay an absenThis money was entrusted to a Polish into an Irish bog. tee government and absentee landlords.”” Count, Paul de Strzelecki, a renowned sciAnother head of state to send money to 38 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010


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Ireland was the Sultan of Turkey. He had an Irish doctor but he was also trying to create an alliance with the British government. He initially offered £10,000 but the British Consul in Istanbul told him that it would offend royal protocol to send more money than the British Queen. As a result of this diplomatic intervention, Sultan Abdulmecid reduced his donation to £1,000. Support for the Irish poor also came from the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome, Pope Pius IX. The involvement of a Pope in the secular affairs of another country was unusual. Nonetheless, at the beginning of 1847, Pope Pius donated 1,000 Roman crowns from his own pocket to Famine relief. In March 1847, he took the unprecedented step of issuing a papal encyclical to the international Catholic community, appealing for support for the victims of the Famine, both through prayer and financial contributions. As a result, large sums of money were raised by Catholic congregations throughout the world. Most of this aid was put in the hands of Archbishop Murray in Dublin. Other high profile donors included the tsar of Russia (Alexander II) and the President of the United States, James Polk. The latter, who donated $50, was criticized for the smallness of his donation. Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewing magnate, also made some modest contributions. Inevitably, a large portion of relief came from the United States, not only from the Irish Catholic community, but from a wide variety of groups, including Jews, Baptists, Methodists and Shakers. At the beginning of 1847, the American Vice President, George Dallas, convened a mass meeting in Washington to raise money for Ireland. He urged that every American state should follow suit. The Washington meeting was attended by many senators, notably the young Abraham Lincoln. During the meeting, letters were read from Ireland, including one from the women of Dunmanway in County Cork. It was addressed to the Ladies of America. It said: ““Oh that our American sisters could see the labourers on our roads, able-bodied men, scarcely clad, famishing with hunger, with despair in their once cheerful faces, staggering at their work ... Oh that they could see the dead father, mother or child, lying coffinless, and hear the screams of the survivors around them, caused not by sorrow, but by the agony of hunger.”” Remarkably, even though America was

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at war with Mexico, Congress gave permission for two navy vessels to be used to take supplies, on behalf of the Boston Relief Committee, to Ireland and to Scotland, where the potato had also failed. The resolution authorizing the use of the ships by private individuals, even to this day, remains unique in the history of Congress. On 17 March 1847, foodstuffs were loaded onto the Jamestown. It left Boston for Cork a week later, taking only 15 days and 3 hours to complete the transatlantic journey. All of the crew were volunteers. The captain, Robert Forbes, caustically commented that as the food supplies had taken only 15 days to cross the Atlantic, they should not take a further 15 days to reach the Irish poor. His comment was apt. The labyrinth of bureaucracy attached to the ““public works”” meant that it took between 6 and 8 weeks for the works to be operative –– far too long for a people who were starving. Forbes declared himself to be impressed with the women of Cork –– because ““they shake hands like a man.”” Although he was feted, he shied away from publicity and, significantly, refused an invitation from

most invisible groups in society. This included former slaves in the Caribbean, who had only achieved full freedom in 1838, when slavery was finally ended in the British Empire (Daniel O’’Connell played a role in that). The British government had given the slave-owners £22 million pounds compensation for ending slavery; the slaves received nothing. Donations to Ireland included ones from Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts and other small islands. Donations were also sent from slave churches in some of the southern states of America. Children in a pauper orphanage in New York raised $2 for the Irish poor. Inmates in Sing Sing Prison, also in New York, sent money, as did convicts on board a prison ship at Woolwich in London. The latter lived in brutal and inhuman conditions, and all of them were dead only twelve months later from ship fever. A number of Native Americans, including the Choctaw Indians, also sent money to the Irish poor. The Choctaws had themselves suffered great tragedy, having been displaced from their homelands and forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1830s –– the infamous Trail of Tears. They sent $174 to Ireland. Although the amounts that these

Top: Polish Count Paul de Strzelecki, who established schools in Mayo and Sligo. Right: The Choctaw “Trail of Tears.” The Choctaw contributed to Famine relief.

the authorities to travel to Dublin to receive an honor from the British government. This fantastic endeavor on behalf of the Irish poor was only diminished by the fact that on the return journey, a man was lost overboard –– and he was the only Irishborn member of the crew. These examples represent only a small portion of the assistance that was given to Ireland during the years of the Great Hunger. Contributions came from people who were themselves poor, politically marginalized, and had nothing to gain through their interventions. Throughout 1847, subscriptions to Ireland came from some of the poorest and

poor and dispossessed people sent to Ireland were relatively small, in real terms they represented an enormous sacrifice on behalf of the donors. Towards the end of 1847, the British government announced that the Famine was over. It wasn’’t. In 1848, over one million people were still dependent on relief for survival. Moreover, evictions, emigration and deaths were still rising, with proportionately more people dying in 1849 than in Black ’’47. Unfortunately though, most of the private fund raising efforts had come to an end by 1848 and the Irish poor were again dependent on Irish landlords and the British government for relief. IA JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 39


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This Holy Ground “I pined for the knowledge of someone whose name I might utter.”

Hundreds of unmarked and forgotten mass graves scattered across the Irish countryside are a silent testimony to a human tragedy of appalling and unimaginable dimensions. Photographs by Kit DeFever. Story by Don Mullen.

I

n the late spring of 1985, I asked a local historian in Westport, Co. Mayo, if he knew of any burial places associated with the Famine. He brought me to the outskirts of the town and pointed to what appeared to be a huge mound set against an embankment. It is known locally as ‘‘The Rocky.’’ He told me there had once been a cross atop the mound to mark the burial place of over five thousand people. I went in search of the cross. It took me all of 15 minutes to cover 70 yards. The mound was a thicket of brambles, rushes and overgrowth which at times made passage almost impossible. Mud oozed over and into my shoes. Thorns pulled at my clothing and nettles stung my flesh. The mound was flanked by a hedgerow of pink and white hawthorn trees and a low boundary wall. I could feel the earth rise and taper as I made my way to the top. There, enshrouded with weeds and lichen, the outline of a broken stone cross could be seen. I stood there in silence. The thickets throbbed with the busy

40 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010


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chatter of linnets and thrush. Here, I sensed again the awfulness of anonymity. Below me were thousands of my forebears but I had no idea who or what they were. In great destitution and shame they had entered the Westport workhouse. Cartloads of dead emaciated bodies had once trundled this Famine graveyard. Whole families, no doubt, lay below me. I pined for the knowledge of someone whose name I might utter. But I had none. As I looked around, a moss-covered rock outcrop caught my attention. Close by, a little sprig of pale blue forget-me-nots swayed gently in the breeze. Most of the suffering of Ireland’’s so-called Great Famine was experienced by people whose names we do not know. Perhaps this is the ultimate indignity. However, there are some people whose images and names have been captured and present us with a snapshot of a horrific experience endured by hundreds of thousands of families. One such story is told by An t-Athar Peadar O’’Laoghaire in his epic journal Mo Scéal Féin (My Own Story), of a poor family who lived in his neighborhood near Macroom, Co. Cork. In 1847 a young couple, Cáit and Patrick Buckley, in extreme destitution, brought their two children, Sheila and Jeremiah, to the workhouse in Macroom. Entering the workhouse the entire family was split up. Not long afterwards, little Sheila and Jeremiah became ill and died. When the young couple learned of the death of their children they left the workhouse to return to their little house eight miles away in the hills around Macroom. They went first to the mass grave nearby where, Fr. O’’Laoghaire tells us, ““they wept their fill.”” After this they began the arduous journey home. The next day, they too were found dead, ““……the feet of the woman on Patrick’’s bosom, as if he had been trying to warm them.””

OPPOSITE PAGE: TOP LEFT: Croagh Patrick: The white line that seems to dissect the photograph is actually a Famine wall, one of the many walls and roads to nowhere built during the Famine years. Workers were expected to put in 12-hour days, six days a week for as little as 2 pence a day. BOTTOM LEFT: Cross erected in 1989 in memory of the poor who walked the road and who died in the Great Hunger. THIS PAGE: TOP: On March 31, 1847, over four hundred starving men, women and children walked ten miles from Louisburgh (Co. Mayo) over the mountain to Delphi Lodge where the Board of Guardians were meeting. Turned away without food, they set out to return home. As they passed by Doolough, a storm struck. Some of the poor unfortunates died of exposure; others, their bodies so light from lack of food, were blown into the lake. Doolough means the black lake (the sun seldom shines on the lake because of the mountains). ABOVE: “Grave of the innocents.” Children’s grave near the village of Cleggan, Co. Galway. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 41


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ABOVE: The island of Grosse Île in the St. Lawrence River in Canada where thousands are buried. White crosses mark the graves. RIGHT: This shed in Ballinakill Co. Galway, dating to the Famine, stands guard over many unknown buried in the vicinity. BELOW: Stone boulders were used as grave markers.

In 1996, I brought Choctaw artist Gary White Deer to visit the mass grave outside Macroom where the Buckley children are buried –– somewhere. The presence of little Sheila and Jeremiah were foremost in our thoughts. Precisely because we knew their names and knew their story, the mass grave of Carrigastyra had an intimacy and a meaning which was overwhelming. The rasping cries of circling crows died away as White Deer prayed in his native Choctaw tongue for the Buckley children. A crude, unattractive concrete cross became the focal point of our remembrance. Here in the sheltered and peaceful glade of Macroom’’s mass grave, this sensitive and compassionate Native American man wept sorrowfully too.

Burial Mound in the Sand

Achill Island, devastated by the Famine. You see here the remains of a deserted village and the ghostly remains of potato ridges. 42 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

In 1990, I had the privilege along with Afri (Action From Ireland) of hosting representatives of the Oklahoma Choctaw, whose ancestors sent $170 to Ireland in 1847, to take part in the now famous annual ““Famine”” Walk from Doolough to Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, I was conscious of the presence of a little six-week-old baby being carried by a man. There was something curiously appropriate about this newborn life as part of this dignified pilgrimage of remembrance. Later that evening, a small convoy of cars traveled 10 miles beyond Louisburgh to Silverstrand beach, to visit a mass ““Famine”” grave. Locals informed us that in the winter of 1847, many famine dead had been buried in the sand because the living were too weak to break to frozen earth. A mound rose to a height of almost 15 feet from the beach. At high tide the Atlantic surf broke around its base, revealing an island graveyard. Large flagstones and flat rocks had been reverently placed throughout the mound in a dual effort to mark the burial place of loved ones and to prevent marauding Atlantic storms from robbing them of their final semblance of dignity. It stood now, a place apart. A place where the reverential silence of


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the visitor was broken only by crashing waves, western winds and the distant cry of the curlew. Salt-washed bones were recognizable around its base. The little six-week-old bundle of living reappeared at this sacred sand tomb. I asked to hold him and inquired of his father the whereabouts of its mother. ““Don,”” he said, ““my wife died in childbirth.”” In the poignancy and pain of that moment I understood the significance and sacredness of the place where we now stood. We were not standing in the presence of mere bones or statistics. Rising from the western shore, this mounding cried out with the pain of precious human relationships, prematurely and savagely severed by an artificial hunger that traumatized my nation just a few generations ago. All over the island that pain is engraved into the land, especially in the west. From Silverstrand one can look towards the surrounding hills and mountains and see the human struggle for life and existence etched into the landscape. Hundreds of acres of potato ridges create fascinating patterns in tiny fields which often climb towards the sky. Here we can sense a time when the earth literally groaned to provide sustenance for a dispossessed people who had been forced to subsist on a single crop. The Silverstrand sand tomb rests under the imposing presence of Mount Mweelrea. Hidden high on Mweelrea’’s shoulders are a number of deserted villages. Deserted villages are common in the West of Ireland. One of the most evocative is to be found on Achill Island, off Mayo’’s northern coastline. Here one can sense the presence of a vibrant community that once was. One looks towards the great Atlantic Ocean, its endless horizon once an inviting mirage in a desert of death and despair. The words of the poet Brendan Kennelly seem to capture the dying breath of this and all deserted villages: Upon the headland, the encroaching sea Left sand that hardened after tides of Spring. No dancing feet disturbed its symmetry And those who loved good music ceased to sing. Only God knows how many men, women and children were committed to the Atlantic depths, as their flight from famine descended into disease and death on board the infamous coffin ships. Beyond where the sun sets on the far horizon, other mass graves hold the sacred remains of our people. Quebec, Montreal, Boston, New York and Philadelphia are but some of the cities where chronically sick Irish refugees ““found in America but a grave.”” Nowhere is this tragic irony more focused than on the quarantine island of Grosse Île, some 30 miles downstream from Quebec City, in the St. Lawrence Estuary. At one point, during the long Summer of Sorrow in 1847, some 335 ships, awaiting inspection with 12,000 Irish immigrants on board, formed a line three kilometers long. Today, Grosse Île is known locally as I’’lle des Irlandais. Estimates of Irish burials range from over 5,000 to almost 20,000. The main graveyard on the southern end of the island has the sardonic appearance of potato ridges from the West of Ireland, marked with the small white botonné crosses. Here again one is struck by the pitiable anonymity of so many whose hopes and dreams are buried on this hallowed place. IA Editor’’s Note: The above text is edited from a story that ran in the August/September 1997 issue of Irish America. The photographs were also taken in 1997, thus the landscapes may have changed.

TOP: Silverstrand beach, about ten miles from Louisburgh. Many who died of hunger and disease were buried in the sand because the living were too weak to break the frozen earth. The stones were later added to cover the bodies. LEFT: The cross that marks the Carrigastyra grave. Inscription reads: “Pray for the souls of the faithful departed may they rest in peace.”

The ruins of Cáit and Patrick Buckley’s cottage. They walked to Macroom, some eight miles away, seeking assistance. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 43


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The Ghosts of Grosse Île

One of the major ports of entry for Irish Famine immigrants, Grosse Île lies in the St. Lawrence River, just east of Quebec. It contains the largest Famine cemetery outside of Ireland. By Aliah O’Neill.

BATEMAN ARCHIVES

Immigrants arriving at Grosse Île. Top: Dedication of Celtic Cross in 1909

W

hen the authorities in Quebec heard news of ships arriving with sick passengers, they quickly set up Grosse Île as a port of entry and quarantine station at which all ships were required to dock before moving on to the mainland. The island had dealt with epidemics before. In 1830, about 30,000 immigrants arrived in Quebec, and two-thirds were Irish. These huge waves of immigration were concurrent with cholera epidemics in Great Britain and Europe. Areas in the west of Ireland –– mostly Mayo, Donegal and Galway –– were also experiencing potato crop failure. In fact, the crop failed to various degrees all over the country throughout the 1830s, though no one is sure exactly when the blight that caused the successive crop failures of 1845-49 arrived in Ireland. In 1847, 100,000 Irish traveled to Grosse Île to escape the starvation, unaware of the hardships they would encounter upon arrival.

The first ““Famine ship”” arrived on May 17th, 1847, the ice still an inch thick on the river. Of that ship’’s 241 passengers, 84 were stricken with fever and 9 had died on board. With the hospital only equipped for 150 cases of fever, the situation quickly spun out of control. More and more ships arrived at Grosse Île each day, sometimes they lined up for miles down the St. Lawrence River throughout the summer. On these coffin ships –– named for their crowded and deadly conditions –– the number of passengers stricken by fever increased exponentially. The Virginius, from Liverpool on May 28, had 476 passengers on board but, by the time she reached Grosse Île, ““...106 were ill of fever, including nine of the crew, and the large number of 158 had died on the passage, including the first and second officers and seven of the crew, and the master and the steward dying, the few that were able to come on deck were ghastly yellow looking spectres, unshaven and hollow cheeked, and without exception, the worst looking passengers I have ever seen...”” wrote Dr. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 45


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October of 1847, more than 38,000 Irish arrived at the Toronto waterfront. The city’’s population was only 20,000. Some of the city’’s officials and religious leaders were sympathetic to the Irish people, setting up ““emigrant sheds”” and offering medical care. Typhus and cholera, however, remained a danger as many invalid Irish had been allowed to leave Grosse Île and enter Toronto due to lack of resources. These ““healthy”” Irish could barely walk when they arrived, and those who could often developed the fever only weeks later. An entry from Robert Whyte’’s 1847 Famine Ship Diary describes starving, homeless Irish families succumbing to the harsh Canadian winter. Just as before, more and more fever sheds were built, ineffectively run and infecting doctors and nurses in the process. By the end of 1847, 1,100 immigrants had died. Toronto’’s Ireland Park now serves as a memorial site for the Famine Irish. The park features Rowan Gillespie’’s ““The Arrival”” sculptures, a response to his ““Departure”” figures that stand on the Liffey quayside in Dublin and depict Irish men, women and children waiting to leave Ireland on ships. The Ireland Park figures are just west of Reese’’s Wharf where the immigrants landed and south of where the fever sheds were built. The park also includes a limestone memorial engraved with the names of those Irish immigrants who died in Toronto in 1847. Of the 1,100 victims, 675 names have IA been recovered so far.

PHOTO: KIT DEFEVER

46 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

PHOTO: KIT DEFEVER

Douglas, Medical Superintendent at Grosse Île, in the 1847 Immigration Report. The island was ill equipped to say the least –– hastily built, the quarantine hospitals lacked proper sanitation, supplies and space to accommodate all the sick patients. Many of the doctors dispatched to Grosse Île had never even seen the effects of cholera let alone treated it, and all were overworked. Being taken to a quarantine hospital was soon viewed as more of a death sentence than an opportunity to get better. Between 1832 and 1937, Grosse Île’’s term of operation, the official register lists 7,480 burials on the island. In 1847 alone, 5,424 burials took place, the majority for Irish immigrants. In that same year, over 5,000 Irish on ships bound for Canada are listed as having been Top: The Black buried at sea. Today the island is a National Stone Monument. Historic Site that serves as a Famine memoBelow: One of Roman Gillespie’s rial, dedicated in 1996 after a four-year-long campaign to protect the mass gravesite. The “Arrival” sculptures in Toronto’s Grosse Île Celtic Cross, erected by the Ireland Park. Ancient Order of Hibernians in 1909, turned 100 last year. It bears an inscription in Irish commemorating the victims of the epidemic and condemning colonial rule. In English, it reads: ““Children of the Gael died in their thousands on this island having fled from the laws of foreign tyrants and an artificial famine in the years 1847-48. God’’s blessing on them. Let this monument be a token and honour from the Gaels of America. God Save Ireland.”” Visitors to the island may also see the lazaretto, the only remaining quarantine hospital from 1847. Those who survived the trip and could not be accommodated in the Grosse Île hospitals were transferred to Windmill Point, another quarantine area where almost 6,000 Irish died from typhus. The sick were crammed into poorly built quarantine houses called ““fever sheds”” where the Grey Nuns of Montreal acted as nurses, many contracting illness themselves. Meanwhile the city of Montreal was in a panic over the epidemic. According to John Loye, his grandmother Margaret Dowling witnessed ““a young Irish girl, stricken by the disease……dressed in a nightgown and holding a tin cup in her hand.”” The girl had wandered into the city of Montreal and was apprehended by a policeman to keep citizens away from her for fear of contamination. ““A military cordon had to be established around the area of the sheds to contain the infected immigrants,”” Loye said. When workers began construction of the Victoria Bridge in the area in 1859, they uncovered the remains of immigrants who had died of ““ship fever”” at Windmill Point. Wishing to commemorate the victims, the workers erected a large boulder from the bed of the St. Lawrence River as a natural tribute to the 6,000 Irish who died in 1847. Officially the ““Irish Commemorative Stone,”” most Irish and locals know it simply as ““Black Rock.”” Though the death tolls were high at Grosse Île and Windmill Point, large numbers of Irish were able to get through the port, arriving in Toronto during 1847 and 1848. Between May and


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The Care of the Sick

O

n June 17, 1847, news reached the Grey Nunnery in Montreal that hundreds of Irish immigrants were dying untended in the sheds by the waterfront. Mother Superior McMullen went to see for herself what the situation was, taking Sister Sainte-Croix with her. When they entered the sheds the horrors appalled them. On return to the convent Mother Superior reported the situation thusly: ““Sisters, I have seen a sight today that I shall never forget . . . hundreds of sick and dying huddled together. The stench emanating from them is too great for even the strongest constitution. The atmosphere is impregnated with it, and the air filled with the groans of the sufferers. Death is there in its most appalling aspect. Those who thus cry aloud in their agony are strangers, but their hands are outstretched for relief. Sisters, the plague is contagious.”” At this point she is said to have broken down. When she had recovered her voice, she added simply ““In sending you there I am signing your death warrant, but you are free to accept or refuse.”” A few minutes’’ silence followed while the nuns recalled their vows. Then together they said, ““I am ready.”” As more immigrants arrived and more fever sheds were built, Sister McMullen called for more sisters to serve. On June 24th, two of the nuns came down with fever. Day by day, more fell ill, until thirty of the convent’’s forty nuns were at the point of death. When the Grey Nuns could no longer carry on their work at the sheds, their place was taken by the Sisters of Providence. Soon after, Bishop Bourget gave the sisters of the Hotel Dieu permission to leave their cloister and join the work among the immigrants. But the Grey Nuns had withdrawn only

long enough to heal the sisters who were sick and bury the seven who had died. By September they had again taken their places at the sheds. Clergymen were also risking their lives at the sheds. The losses among the priests in Montreal were so heavy that a call for help was sent to New York, to the Jesuits of Fordham. They responded at once. A group of

cope with the anger of Montrealers who were demanding to know why these immigrants were being allowed to land, bringing the typhus with them. Anger mounted when a ship arrived with sick tenants from the Irish estates of the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston. Rumors went about that a mob of outraged citizens might descend on Pointe St. Charles to toss the fever sheds into the river. Mayor Mills not only urged “Typhus.” Artist: restraint upon the citizens, but Théophile Hamel, 1849. A sister of Providence became a voluntary nurse in and a Grey Nun nurse the sheds. He contracted Irish immigrants with typhus and died on November typhoid. 12, 1847. The victims of the typhus in the immigrant sheds were not only those who died. As one account reads: ““Children were counted by hundreds –– the infant taken from its dead mother’’s breast, or from the arms of some older one trying in vain to still its cries, the creeping baby shrieking for the father and mother who would nevermore respond to that call, and older ones sobbing and frantically trying to escape to search for parents already beneath the sod. This scene in the children’’s shed was beyond description, adding a new pang in the agony of the expiring father or mother.”” The Grey Nuns took over the care of many orphans. The St. Fordham Jesuits came to Montreal and Patrick’’s Orphan Asylum of Montreal, went to work in the sheds. opened in 1846, had been given into The Anglican clergy of the city also their charge. The Roman Catholic gave any help they could. Among them Bishop of Montreal, Msgr. Ignace was the Reverend Mark Willoughby Bourget, did all he could to find homes who organized a band of workers. for the orphans. He appealed to the Willoughby contracted typhus. He died country people. They came from all on July 15, 1847, aged fifty-one. the surrounding parishes. Many famiMayor John Easton Mills had to lies adopted not one but two. IA Thanks to Brendan Flynn, Project coordinator for the Ireland Canada Monument. For more information on the monument or to make a contribution: http://www.irelandmonumentvancouver.com The above is an edited version of a piece written by Marianne O’’Gallagher which can also be found on the same site.

JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 47


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“I pined for the knowledge of someone whose name I might utter.”

While the number of deaths at sea and burials at Grosse Île are vast, and the young ages of many of the victims are heartbreaking, the presence of marriage and baptism records make tangible the sense of hope that immigrants felt upon their arrival in North America.

E

llen Keane was the first person to die in quarantine on Grosse Île in the summer of 1847. She was four years and three months old. She was brought ashore on May 15 from the ship The Syria and died the same day. Within the week 16 others followed Ellen in death: Nancy Riley, 24; Thomas Coner, 40; Edward Ryley, 30; Ellen Murtilly, 50; Ellen Murtilly, 46; John Colville, 84; James Managin, 55; Patrick Fagan, 13; Patrick Jordan, 8; Mary

Mark, 2; Eliza Whalen, 3: Ann Hooper, 10; Thers. Hooper, 5; Thomas Bennet, 4; John Whalen, 4; and Brid. Monaghan, 3. Between 1832 and 1937, Grosse Île’’s term of operation, the official register lists 7,480 burials on the island. In 1847 alone, 5,424 burials took place, the majority for Irish immigrants. The following is a list of some of those who died in 1847 and were buried in mass graves on the island.

BURIALS AT GROSSE-ÎLE: 1847 Name

Age

Allen, David Anderson, John Anderson, Frances Anderson, James Ansley, Ann Armstrong, Ann Armstrong, John Austin, Hamilton Bailey, Eliza Baker, Mary Barnes, Jane Barron, John Barron, Robert Benson, John Blakely, William Blank, William Bradshaw, Margaret Brady, Joseph Brierly, Edward Bryan, Judith Byrne, Thomas Campbell, James Clark, Mary Clarke, James Cootes, Margaret Corbit, Lucinda Corrigan, Irvine Corrigan, James Davis, John Delanay, Henry Dodson, William Douglas, Thomas Drumm, John James Earl, Edward Elliot, Andrew Fannen, Margaret Farley, Francis Farren, Eliza

57 4 mos. 20 5 76 4 1

Date of Death

9/16/1847 9/6/1847 9/1/1847 6/16/1847 6/6/1847 5/29/1847 5/23/1847 5/27/1847 3 6/6/1847 7/1/1847 30 6/12/1847 5 6/6/1847 7 6/14/1847 45 5/26/1847 5 mos. 6/5/1847 24 6/28/1847 25 6/13/1847 40 8/23/1847 45 7/5/1847 6 5/14/1847 26 5/26/1847 3 6/5/1847 22 9/24/1847 35 9/2/1847 33 8/24/1847 18 9/22/1847 5 6/18/1847 22 6/8/1847 50 5/31/1847 15 9/5/1847 19 7/5/1847 7 6/7/1847 6 6/16/1847 30 9/15/1847 50 6/6/1847 11 mos. 5/20/1847 8 mos. 6/2/1847 19 5/22/1847

48 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

County of Origin

Name

Age

Date of Death

County of Origin

Sligo Fermanagh Fermanagh

Finlay, Margaret Gallaway, Margaret Gault, Margaret Gilmour, John Hawthom, John Hayes, William Henry, James Hill, Francis Hungerford, Francis Jameson, Eliza Ann Kane, Ellen Kennedy, Margaret Kerr, Marianne Kerr, Samuel Lee, Ann Lindsay, Ann Macpherson, Ellen McCall, John McComb, William McMullen, Rosanna O’Hare, Sarah O’Reilly, Edward Orr, Dorothy Patterson, Thomas Prestage, Elle Purcell, Alexander Reid, Elisa Reynolds, Margaret Rice, Elizabeth Robbs, Eliza Scott, George Scott, Robert Skews, John Soolivan, Margaret Sweedy, Robert Tremble, Joseph Walker, James Wilson, Mary Wright, Margaret

18 2 year 11 34 54 41 2 20 13 mos. 12 4 3 42 50 22 20 1 15 7 mos. 9 48 30 11 15 2 2 5 6 55 12 31 28 1 30 34 25 5 54 5

8/23/1847 6/1/1847 6/2/1847 8/20/1847 6/2/1847 8/30/1847 5/29/1847 9/2/1847 5/20/1847 6/30/1847 5/15/1847 5/28/1847 8/20/1847 6/4/1847 9/10/1847 8/18/1847 5/21/1847 9/2/1847 5/29/1847 9/4/1847 9/14/1847 5/18/1847 9/16/1847 8/29/1847 5/30/1847 5/21/1847 6/7/1847 6/2/1847 6/7/1847 6/15/1847 9/9/1847 7/5/1847 6/1/1847 5/15/1847 9/1/1847 9/10/1847 5/31/1847 6/4/1847 6/3/1847

Monaghan Antrim Monaghan Armagh Armagh Tipperary Monaghan Cavan Cork Armagh Mayo Fermanagh Cavan Down Cavan Sligo Armagh Monaghan Down Louth Tyrone Fermanagh Tyrone Cavan Wicklow Dublin Roscommon Antrim Antrim Tyrone Cavan Cavan Cork Tipperary Down Tyrone Armagh Armagh Cavan

Armagh Fermanagh Cavan Antrim Tyrone Armagh Armagh Armagh Kilkenny Fermanagh Tyrone Antrim Monaghan Cavan Tipperary Mayo Fermanagh Wicklow Wicklow Cavan Tyrone Fermanagh Fermanagh Wicklow Cavan Tipperary Castle Knokles Wexford Donegal Dublin Monaghan Donegal

For more information visit Parcs Canada: www.pc.gc.ca


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DEATHS AT SEA: 1847

P

arcs Canada has recorded information on 4,936 individuals who died on ships at sea, on the St. Lawrence River or on quarantined ships at Grosse Île, from 1832 to 1922. This list names a small portion of those who were buried at sea during 1847. Just a glance at the list shows us that in some cases, several members of the same family died enroute. Name

Age

Date of Death

Ship

Port of Departure

Anderson, Jane Armstrong, Ann Bailey, Eliza Blakely, William Blakely, Francis Campbell, James Campbell, John Coyle, George Coyle, Robert Doherty, Ann Doherty, Patrick Doherty, Sarah Fitzpatrick, Bridget Fitzpatrick, Dennis Fitzpatrick, Eliza Gallagher, Peter Harty, Thomas Kelly, Bridget Kelly, Mary Kyle, Eliza Kyle, Joseph Kyle, Robert Kyne, Christiana Leslie, James Lindsay, Nancy Mahoney, Catherine Mahoney, Jane Malone, Matthew McConaghy, Francis McConnell, John McCray, Alexander McCullough McKinney, Mary McMillan, Samuel Moore, Anthony Moore, Arthur Murphy, Ann Murphy, Bridget Murphy, Bryan Murphy, Catherine Murphy, Charles Murphy, Darby Murphy, James Murphy, Johanna Murphy, John Murphy, John Murphy, Mary Murphy, Patrick Neal, Daniel Neale, Margaret Neill, John Noonan, Dennis O’Hara, Catherine O’Hara, John Prendergast, James Roach, Mary Ryan, Allen

60 4 3 1 16 3 40 3 12 1 18 35 50 2 14 1 4 50 32 8 1 13 8 45 4 28 2 4 1 1 52 4 24 1 50 3 1 16 27 61 13 3 50 5 6 41 50 50 20 50 50 20 17 8 2 60 18

1847 1847 June 6 1847 June 5 1847 1847 June 5 1847 1847 June 1 1847 May 27 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 Oct. 7, 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847 1847

Christiana Christiana Christiana Christiana Christiana Christiana Christiana Christiana Christiana New York Packet Sisters Christiana Minerva John Francis Progress Christiana Lord Ashburton Avon Christiana Christiana Christiana Christiana Christiana Christiana Christiana Wakefield Urania Free Trader Christiana Christiana

Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Liverpool Liverpool Londonderry Galway Cork New Ross Londonderry Liverpool Cork Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Cork Cork Liverpool Londonderry Londonderry Londonderry Liverpool Belfast Liverpool Liverpool New Ross Liverpool New Ross Cork Liverpool Liverpool Liverpool Liverpool Cork Liverpool Liverpool Liverpool Cork Cork Cork Cork Liverpool Liverpool Cork Cork

Ryan, Bridget Ryan, Jenny Ryan, Lawrence

6 3 48

1847 1847 1847

Christiana Wellington Rosalinda Triton Triton Progress Sarah Margaret Avon Lord Ashburton Sarah Ann John Bolton Gilmour Naomi Naomi Naomi Avon Avon Avon Avon Naomi Naomi Avon Avon Lady Flora Hastings John Munn Bee Emily

MARRIAGES AT GROSSE ÎLE Galloway, John O’Neill, Maria

Religion

Occupation

Date

Catholic

Sailor

8/4/1847

Name

Date of Birth

Date of Baptism

County of Origin

Baldin, William

2/9/1847

7/9/1847

Waterford

Carrol, Catharine 9/29/1847

10/1/1847

Roscommon

Conway, Rosanna

5/23/1847

6/1/1847

Kilkenny

Gaffney, John

6/12/1847

7/18/1847

Roscommon

Kildy, John 6/21/1847

7/18/1847

Roscommon

Maher, James

PHOTO: KIT DEFEVER

P

Spouse

BAPTISMS AT GROSSE-ÎLE

Cork Liverpool Cork Cork

arcs Canada maintains information on 46 marriages that were celebrated at Grosse Île from 1832 to 1937. A search of the records revealed just one Irish couple who married on the island in 1847.

Name

P

arcs Canada maintains information on 554 children baptized at Grosse Île between 1832 and 1937. Some of those babies listed below for the year 1847 may have been born aboard ship.

7/15/1847

7/15/1847

Kilkenny

McBrien, Mary Jane 8/16/1847

8/22/1847

Fermanagh

Morisson, James 7/11/1843

7/14/1847

Down

Murphy, Molly

9/14/1847

Antrim

Ryan, May 5/5/1847

8/21/1847

5/18/1847

Tipperary

Sullivan, Patrick

7/17/1847

7/17/1847

Kerry

Woods, Owen

4/21/1847

5/15/1847

Monaghan

Top: The Celtic Cross at Grosse Île was erected by the Ancient Order of Hibernians in 1909 in memory of those who are buried on the island. Left: The infirmary at Grosse Île, which tended to the Famine Irish, still stands today. Opposite page: White crosses mark the mass grave on Grosse Île. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 49


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Arriving New World in the

What we know from literature about what Irish Famine immigrants encountered upon their arrival in North America. By Tom Deignan

I

f you ever spend the day at the Silver Lake golf course on the north shore of Staten Island, New York, pay attention. It’’s not that the greens are particularly speedy or that the course is unusually challenging. What you should keep your eye out for, instead, is a simple stone surrounded by flowers near the clubhouse. A plaque on the stone reads: ““The Forgotten Burial Ground: Here lies the unmarked graves of Irish immigrants who fled the famine in search of freedom

eventually torched and destroyed by nativists. In fact, just last year, former New York Archbishop Edward Cardinal Egan presided over a memorial mass in honor of Irish immigrants who died at the same hospital and were buried in other unmarked graves on Staten Island.

What Was It Like? This regrettable slice of history sheds light on an easily forgotten aspect of immigration during the Great Hunger. Much time

Such big-picture questions make it easy to forget what the actual arrival of individual Irish immigrants –– those who survived the treacherous journey to North America –– was like. What did they experience once they’’d crossed the Atlantic and entered the ports of Manhattan or Boston, Quebec or Brooklyn? What kind of entrance process was there –– if any? What obstacles did they face when it came to health, housing, and jobs? Or, for that matter, personal safety? The docks, after all, were often rife with criminals who sought to exploit the desperate new arrivals.

The First Illegals One problem with attempting to understand a Famine immigrant’’s first experiences in the U.S. is that there are relatively few first-hand accounts from the 1840s. Other traumatic historical horrors, such as the enslavement of African Americans or the Holocaust, are simply better documented. We do, today, commemorate the immigrants who landed at Grosse Île, Canada, where typhus, dysentery and cholera left thousands dead. [See artiLeft: The slums of New York in the 1800s. Right: A family in a nineteenth-century tenement on the cle in this issue on Grosse Île.] Lower East Side in New York City. In Peter Quinn’’s landmark hisis spent debating why the Famine …… They will not be forgotten.”” torical novel The Banished Children of occurred, what could have been done to From 1849 –– 1858, beneath what is now Eve, one character lands at Grosse Ile prevent it, and the ways it changed not the golf course, a cemetery was created to after a five-week journey from Ireland only America, but also Canada, Australia, bury immigrants who perished at a notorithat left 48 people dead, ““one fifth of England and other nations. ous quarantine hospital nearby, which was those who sailed.”” 50 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010


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Above: Painting by Ray Butler depicting Irish immigrants tended to by Dr. George Harding. Right: Cover of John McElgun’s novel Annie Reilly.

An official in a blue jacket arrived and went about the entire ship poking into every corner. …… He said that a boat would be sent to bring the sick to the island, where they would temporarily be held in quarantine, but that the bodies of the dead must be brought immediately……. The flies made a frenzied hum in the air……. [A] woman delirious with fever [was] praying and cursing in Irish. Of course, not every crossing to North America was so deadly. The famous Jeanie Johnston ship crossed from Ireland to Quebec in relative safety over a dozen times. In addition, not every Irish immigrant who arrived in Canada stayed in Canada. Quite a few (such as the character Jack Mulcahey in The Banished Children of Eve) went to the U.S., making them the first large wave of border-crossing illegal aliens. Indeed, whether they went from Canada to Boston or New York or Chicago (a city which only began to grow in the 1840s), the first thing many Famine immigrants did was move yet again, in search of work, shelter or, at the very least, stability.

Melville, Thoreau and the Irish By now, we do know a fair amount about conditions aboard the ““coffin ships”” on which many immigrants traveled. Books by Famine-era Irish writers

such as Mary Anne Sadlier, Peter McCorry and Father Hugh Quigley often included scenes of the ““crossing to America,”” which is ““seen as a wrenching rite of passage, the violence of which is often symbolized by a fierce storm at sea,”” according to acclaimed Irish-American literary scholar Charles Fanning. In addition, some of the greatest American writers of the Famine era have explored the experiences of newly arrived Irish immigrants. In 1849, Moby Dick author Herman Melville wrote the short novel Redburn, about a journey from Liverpool to New York. The ship’’s passengers include the O’’Briens and O’’Regans. Redburn, however, is mainly about the journey of the young American at its center. Melville never follows the O’’Briens or O’’Regans once the ship docks. As is often the case with the Irish in 19th-century American literature, the immigrants in Redburn are peripheral, not to mention stereotypical. (““Pat, ye divil, hould still while I wash ye,”” Mother O’’Brien says at one point while washing her sons. ““Ah! But it’’s you, Teddy, you rogue. Arrah, now, Mike, ye spalpeen, don’’t be mixing your legs up with Pat’’s.””) Walden author Henry David Thoreau, in his journals, also writes of recent Irish immigrants picking through the rubble of what was once the ship St. John. It had left Galway but sailed into a storm and broke apart a mile from Boston Harbor.

““All their plans and hopes burst like a bubble,”” the horrified author writes. ““Infants by the score dashed on the rocks by the enraged Atlantic Ocean. No! No!”” Thoreau’’s tone changes later. He sneers at ““ill-dressed, ill mannered boys –– of Irish extraction……a sad sight to behold,”” ominously adding: ““The opening of this valve for the safety of the city.”” But Thoreau also details the lives of hard-working Irish laborers, farmers and a ““washwoman,”” eventually declaring: ““The simple honesty of the Irish pleases me.”” (It must be added that Thoreau says this after chatting with a drunken immigrant potato-digger.)

What We Do Know The observations of these famous writers are interesting. Still, we are without an Irish equivalent to Uncle Tom’’s Cabin or The Diary of Anne Frank, an account that vividly outlines the common experiences of Famine immigrants during their arrival and traumatic first days in a strange new land. So, what do we know about the first experiences of the Irish once they’’d arrived in America? Irish writer John McElgun explored this in his best-selling 19th-century novel Annie Reilly: Or the Fortunes of an Irish Girl in New York. The book was recently excerpted in the invaluable new collection Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing (edited by Ilan Stavan, with a foreword by Pete Hamill). McElgun writes about his title character’’s immigrant companion James O’’Rourke, who had a ““comparatively safe and speedy passage,”” and who later thinks: ““How beautiful New York Harbor looked!”” Since it is ““early day, the passengers were not delayed at Castle Garden overnight,”” and in a matter of a few paragraphs James (who left Ireland a few years after the Famine) is gleefully walking the streets of Manhattan in search of employment. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 51


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This is certainly a more benign take than usual on an Irish immigrant’’s arrival. In recent years, historical novelists, painters and filmmakers have explored its more difficult aspects. In Kevin Baker’’s epic 2002 novel Paradise Alley, the characters Ruth and John disembark not in bustling Manhattan but on a desolate Staten Island beach, ““covered with every manner of debris, natural and man-made.”” Ruth passes out and wakes up in a hospital with a raging case of ““ship’’s fever,”” but is abruptly booted out because ““there’’s two more ships already lined up in the Narrows.”” Such quarantine hospitals were common, from Staten Island to Partridge Island, near New Brunswick, Canada. This, in fact, is the subject of a vivid historical painting by Ray Butler, which depicts the shore filled with ailing Irish immigrants being tended to by Dr. George Harding, who is said to have cared for over 2,500 immigrants in a single day. Meanwhile, though it is set in the years after the Famine, Martin Scorsese’’s film Gangs of New York depicts immigrants disembarking while nativists pelt them with rocks. This would ring true to immigrants who arrived in 1840s Philadelphia or Boston, hotbeds of

Left: Archbishop John Hughes, born in Co. Tyrone, who presided over the Archdiocese of New York during the crucial years of Irish immigration and helped to end the draft riots in 1863. Above: An illustration of immigrants’ arrival.

nativism where new arrivals would have heard about riots or arson initiated by members of the fledgling, antiimmigrant, anti-Catholic Know Nothing Party. Despite such hostile greetings, many Famine immigrants, such as those to Cleveland or New Orleans, did not venture far from the sea that bore them to America. A shanty village known as Irishtown Bend formed along the banks of the Cuyahoga River, while in the riverfront town of Lafayette, near New Orleans, parishioners of St. Alphonsus faced an out-

break of yellow fever, which killed an estimated 20 percent of the area’’s Irish immigrants. Outbreaks of cholera, yellow fever and malaria were also common in New York City. This was partly due to the trash that piled up in the streets. Close to 200,000 horses used for transportation contributed to the mess. Sewers weren’’t created until the 1850s.

Absence of Authorities The horrors of Lafayette and the more benign Manhattan of McElgun’’s Annie Reilly have one thing in common: the generally low presence of bureaucratic

List of those who died while in Staten Island Quarantine Name Ahearn, Jane Allen, George Besley, Margaret Blake, Margaret Booke (O), James Boylan, Mary Brady, Bridget Brady, John Brady, Mary Brady, Rose Brennan, Bridget Brennan,Thomas Brien, Mary Broderick, Patrick Brown, Ann Brown, John Buckley, Johana Bulger, Mary Burnes, Alice Butler, Mary C?, Margaret C?, Patrick Campton, Judy Canfield, Ann Carmody, Michael Carney, Richard

Age 50 25 26 25 28 21 4 32 9 29 20 20 20 26 29 25 18 23 30 20 38 55 21 17 16 19

Carrigan, Edward Carter,William Caslin, Ann Clancy, Michael Clancy, Owen Clark, Patrick Clark, Peter Clusky, Mary Cochran, Richard Cody,Thomas Cohill, Anne Cohill, Bridget Cohill, John Collender, Adam Collins, Mary Collins, Mary Conner, Michael Conners, Margaret Conners, Maria Conners, Mary Connolly, Maria Connor, Michael Conroy, Jane Costelo,Thomas Cotton,William Coyle, Margaret Crawley, James Crawley, Mary

52 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

50 23 12 30 35 41 20 20 23 11 10 7 16 21 24 21 18 30 23 20 18 2 ? 24 30 17 29 20

Crosby, J.R. 40 Crosby, Mary 30 Crotty, Owen 30 Crowley, Nicholas 22 Cuddyha, Michael 40 Culleman, John 7 Cullen, Anastacia 7 Cullen, Bridget 30 Cusock, Bridget 16 D?, Patrick 22 D?,Thomas 40 Davids, Mary 27 Day, Margaret 36 Delancy, Ann 17 Delancy, Elsey 20 Dillon, Mary 30 Dolphin, John 26 Donnell, James 25 Donohoe, Catherine 40 Donovan, Michael 30 Doyle, James21 Dray, Andrew 35 Du?, Catherine 23 Du?,William 3mo Duffy, Ann 26 Duffy, Catherine 4 Duffy, Frances 6 Duffy, John 6

Duffy, Patrick Dunham, Mary Dwyer, Cornelius Dwyer, Johana Dwyer, John Dwyer, Richard Eagan, Ann Eagan, Ann Eagan, Catherine Eagan, Michael Egan, David Empernion, Patrick Empernion, Patrick F?, Mary Fagan, S. Farrell, Catherine Fielding, Sarah A. Finnegan, Patrick Fitsgerald, James Fitspatrick, Barneby Fitspatrick,William Flack, Robert Flannagan, John Fleet, Sarah Flin, Mary Flood, Rose Floyde, C. Flynn, Mary

32 20 28 26 20 21 20 18 12 27 4 18 35 21 24 21 26 13 30 22 21 24 35 17 20 27 30 20

Fox, James Fulton, Mary G?, Bridget G?, Mary Gaffney,Thomas Galligan, Susan Garrity, James Gilkington,Thomas Glynn, Bridget Gorey, Elisabeth Gorey, Patrick Gorphy, Richard Gough, Bridget Grady, Mary Graham,Thomas H?, Bridget H?, James H?, Mary Hallahan, Michael Hallahan, Mary Hallahan, N. Halligan, Patrick Halligan,Thomas Halloran, John Hamilton, Ellen Hammill, Peter Hanlan, Patrick Hanley, Matthew

40 20 13 19 27 19 20 19 23 4 18 18 25 56 21 23 40 22 4 19 1 50 20 36 20 25 18 40


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authorities regulating Irish immigration. Annie Moore may be fixed in the American consciousness as the quintessential Irish immigrant, the first lassie to land at Ellis Island. But that was 60 years after the Famine. Even the famous Castle Garden mentioned by McElgun did not become a processing station until 1855, a decade after the famine began. Local police, medical authorities or (often ruthless) representatives from the shipping company might have been on hand as the Irish disembarked, maintaining order or pointing the way to quarantine hospitals. But generally speaking, the Famine immigrant experience is unique in that the Irish –– for better or worse –– were entering a nation with only a patchwork system for processing newcomers.

do. Irish immigrants generally carried very little with them, often having sold valuable possessions back in Ireland. Finally, newly arrived Irish during the Famine often sought out church and

Above: An image of Castle Garden in Gleason’s Pictorial, Boston, 1852. Below: Illustration of the burning of the Marine Quarantine Hospital.

Preying Upon the Vulnerable What this means, of course, was that the Famine immigrants were vulnerable. In the aforementioned Annie Reilly by John McElgun, we learn that Irish immigrants were preyed upon at the docks by socalled ““runners”” or ““man-catchers.”” James, for example, is swindled by a man who claims he can locate employment –– for a price. Some runners might affect a good Irish accent, or even speak Gaelic. On the other hand, there was only so much damage the runners could

political officials. Both offered shelter, food and guidance, asking only for an immigrant’’s soul and vote in return. New York’’s Archbishop John Hughes swiftly saw that American officials were not going to care for the Irish, so he set about creating a Catholic nation within a nation, providing education and health care. Political machines, meanwhile, gave the Irish a way to fight the nativists at the ballot box –– or, if necessary, on the street corner. So, having survived the traumatic journey, the nativists and scam artists, there is one more thing the Irish developed in the U.S. –– a concern for the land they had left behind. This devotion to Ireland would infuse many of the institutions the Irish would come to dominate in the decades which followed the famine –– the Catholic Church, City Hall, big-city fire and police departments. Having risen from the docks to Wall Street, the Irish began building a bridge across the Atlantic. This monumental project is still underway, though its origins stretch back 150 years, to traumatic voyages across the sea, and subsequent simple questions such as the one James O’’Rourke is asked by a fellow Irishman in John McElgun’’s novel: ““How is things [in Ireland] now; any better? …… [T]he people an’’t [sic] starving as they IA wor [sic] when I left there?””

May 1849 - Dec. 1850 Hannon, Joseph Harnott,William Hogan,Thomas Hopkins, Elisa Howe, Mary Kavanaugh, Philip Keinhan, Mary Kelly, Bridget Kelly,Thomas Kelsey, Ellen Kennedy, Dennis Kilfoyle,William L?, Bridget Lavin, Bridget Lawrence, Henry Leary, James Lenhard, Ann Levy, Ann Mara,William Marshall, Robert Martin, Mary Martin, Mary Matthew, Patrick McAuliff, McCabe, Mary McCarty, John McConley, Patrick McDade, John

26 26 24 19 20 38 24 24 21 25 20 18 14 16 20 24 20 37 28 21 28 25 30 45 50 26 42 15

McFarlane, Philip McG?, Patrick McGinnis, Patrick McGrath, James McKay, Ann McKenny, Catherine McLewry, John McManus, Mary McMenamin, Bridget Melia, Bridget Melia, Mary Mitchel, Samuel Mohan, Bridget Mohan, James Mohan, John Mohan, Mary Moody, Mary Moran, John Moran, Rose Morrow, Michael Mullen,Thomas Murphy, Hanorah Neagle, Patrick Neal,William Niblo, James O’?, Morris O’Brian, James O’Brian, John

18 23 50 28 16 32 40 27 30 27 18 14 16 18 24 26 30 21 24 10 14 30 28 53 52 37 30 16

O’Brien,William O’Dea, Catherine O’Hogan, John O’Loughlin, Mary O’Neal, Andrew O’Neil, Bernard Page, Ann Pende, Mary Pepper, James Perry, Ellen Phillips, Catherine Powell, Mary Powell,Thomas Quinn, Catherine R?, Bridget Redmond, Catherine Regan, Bridget Rich, Elizabeth Richdale, Jane Richdale, Johnson Riley, Ann Riley, Mary Riley, Philip Riley,Winifred Rourke Ryan, Alice Ryan, Ellen Ryan, Judith

36 22 50 18 35 24 21 18 27 21 18 30 3 20 30 21 23 28 7 ? 18 22 30 20 8 18 18 40

Ryan, Michael Ryan, Michael S?, Edward Savage, John Savage, Robert Scanley, John Scanlan, Patrick Sexton, Anthony Sexton, Margaret Simon, John Slattery, Ann Smith, Mary Smith, Rose Stewart, Samuel Sullivan, Catherine Sullivan, Daniel T?, Michael Tarseny, Nelly Tierny, Bridget Tierny, Peter

24 15 22 26 18 35 16 25 24 24 6 35 22 40 26 36 22 22 33 19

Timmons, Ann Unknown, Ann Unknown, Ann Unknown, John Unknown, Margaret Unknown, Mary Unknown, Peter Victory, Hugh Walsh, Hanora Watson, Jane Wein, Ann Wein, Margaret Weir, David Welsh, Alice Welsh, James Welsh, James Welsh, Rose Welsh,Thomas Welsley,Thomas

28 23 21 24 25 30 22 27 22 18 4 4 50 3 7 25 35 9 9

Note:This list of the 1850 Richmond County Census of Irish Immigrant Patients at the Marine Hospital was compiled by Jennifer Hyatt-Morgan. Published on Olive Tree Genealogy with permission of Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries, Inc. Staten Island JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 53


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The Hands That

Between 1845 and 1855, some 1.8 million left Ireland for Canada and the United States. Those who were lucky enough to survive the brutal journey to the New World were motivated by the hope of new possibilities, including the promise of employment. Kara Rota reports.

Ten thousand Micks They swung their picks To build the new canal But the choleray was stronger’’n they And killed ’’em all away. Ballad, 1800s.

I

rish labor became an invaluable resource for the development of America in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the Midwest and Far West, the Great Lakes region and upstate New York, farming and ranching were common trades for Irish immigrants. In the East, labor contractors hired men to work in ““labor gangs”” that built railroads, canals, roads, sewers and other construction projects. Their work provided a significant portion of the labor that built infrastructure in expanding cities. Over 3,000 Irish helped to build New York’’s Erie Canal, which had to be dug with shovels and horsepower, and thousands more worked on railroads, farms and in mines. In mill towns in New England, Irish provided low-cost labor at textile mills. Some, including children, worked long and dangerous hours at factories. Within view of the Western New York Irish 54 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

CALIFORNIA STATE LIBRARY

Built America Famine Memorial are the Erie Canal and the grain and steel mills where the Irish helped to build American industry and solidify their place in the country. Many men who had in Ireland been unemployed or worked as basic laborers and farmers found work in mines. The work was dangerous and caused many health problems, and only low wages for long days were offered as reward. Miners lived in ““mine patch”” communities, overcrowded and crudely built towns in which the housing, the community stores, and the land were all owned by the mining companies, characterized by mine bosses whose practices included intimidation and oppression to avoid worker unrest or complaint. Miners’’ children worked in ““breaker rooms,”” where they picked off slate from coal and broke coal lumps. In the Southern United States, slave owners considered the Irish less valuable than slaves, as they were not property, and therefore a better population to execute cheap and highly dangerous labor. They were usually employed for construction projects, in the course of which hundreds and thousands of Irish would die, often paid only a dollar a day for their trouble.

In New Orleans, the Irish played a major role in the building of the New Basin Canal. An outbreak of yellow fever meant that workers were dying in large numbers, and as slaves were judged to be too expensive to lose, Irish immigrants who were desperate enough to take on the dangerous and difficult work for $1 a day became the preferred labor. As boatloads of Irish continually arrived, the New Orleans Canal and Banking Company had no trouble replacing the Irish that died by the thousands. By the time the canal opened in 1838, 8,000 Irish laborers had succumbed to cholera and yellow fever. Over the following decade, the canal was enlarged and shell roads were built alongside it. While there are no official records of immigrant deaths, somewhere between 8,000 and 30,000 are believed to have perished in the building of the New Basin Canal, many of whom are buried in unmarked graves in the levee and roadway fill beside the canal. Mills also began to hire more Irish during the influx of Famine immigration. ““No Irish Need Apply”” signs were prevalent through the 1830s, and some Irish


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Far Left: Panning for gold, head of Auburn Ravine, California, 1852. Left: Young glass factory workers form a baseball team in Indiana. Photo by Lewis Hine. Bottom: The Coal Creek mine in Tennessee. Pictured is James O’Dell, who is twelve or thirteen and has worked pushing coal cars for four months. Photo by Lewis Hine.

women were segregated when first hired in mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, where Yankee Prostestants called ““Lowell Girls”” had previously held the majority of the jobs. However, by the 1850s mills were hiring the Irish regularly because they would work for less money and did not make the same demands for reasonable working conditions that Yankee mill girls were beginning to stand for in their historically famous strikes. Between 1828 and 1850, Lowell’’s population grew from 3,500 to 35,000. In 1860, approximately 62 percent of Lowell’’s textile workers were immigrants, half of whom were Irish. The Connecticut River Valley saw a large number of Irish immigrants in the wake of the Great Famine, and many set-

tled in Hadley Falls, Massachusetts, the upcoming industrial center upriver from Springfield which was renamed Holyoke in 1850 to fight negative attitudes towards ““the Irish Parish.”” Some 5,000 Irish settled there by 1855 and built a dam and a series of canals that would provide water power to mills and factories, primarily for textiles and paper. Local Catholic churches played a vital role in forming a sense of community and pride to the Irish in Holyoke, a legacy that continues to this day in the Holyoke St. Patrick’’s Day Parade. Some Irish immigrants went west towards California, especially San Francisco, to seek their fortune in the Gold Rush of 1848-1855. San Francisco’’s Irish population grew to 4,200 by 1852 and 30,000 by 1880, and the Irish were the largest group of foreign-born workers in the city by that year. There was no easy way to travel to California, either by ship or the treacherous 2,200 mile journey by land from trail heads in Missouri or Iowa that could easily take three or four months. Gold mining was difficult and time-consuming work, and one bucket of soil might turn out only ten cents’’ worth of gold. One estimate is that one in five miners to arrive in California in 1849 died within six months of disease, hunger, accidents and injury, or violence.

In 1859, two Irishmen named Peter O’’Reily and Patrick McLaughlin found silver in what is now Virginia City, Nevada, in the famous Comstock Lode of silver ore. Their discovery brought thousands of Irish to Nevada, and Virginia City was one-third Irish by the mid-1870s. The ““Bonanza Kings”” or ““Irish Four,”” John Mackay, James Flood, James Fair and William O’’Brien, made their fortunes organizing the Consolidated Virginia Silver Mine near Virginia City, Nevada. The earliest gold discovered in Montana was in 1858 in Gold Creek. More discoveries followed in Bannack in 1863 and then Virginia City. Ultimately Montana would become known for its rich deposits of copper, and an Irish man, Marcus Daly, who was born in County Cavan in 1841 and immigrated to New York at the age of 15, became known as The Copper King for the fortune he made from the Anaconda Copper Mine in Butte.

T

he Civil War and war with Mexico provided situations for many Irish men to serve. Men were enlisted to fight in the Civil War as they arrived in the U.S. at Governor’’s Island in New York. A full 150,000 Irish-born Americans fought with the Union army, about one-third of whom came from New York, and while statistics for the JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 55


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Confederacy are less solid, the Irish were certainly among their ranks as well. Thomas Francis Meagher and Michael Corcoran led the Irish Brigade and the Corcoran Legion to fight for the honor of their home country and the salvation of their adopted one on the Union side. With the exception of the 116th Pennsylvania, which carried the state flag, the regiments in the Irish Brigade and Corcoran Legion carried the Irish green flag with gold harp, and a Gaelic battle cry was often added for effect. During the Civil War, the Medal of Honor was created and has since been awarded to 3,401 men. Ireland is the birthplace of the largest number of medal recipients, with 258 Medals of Honor. Five of the 19 men who won a second Medal of Honor were also born in Ireland. In fact, the recipient of the Medal of Honor for the first action in which one was awarded, Bernard J. Irwin, was born in Ireland in 1830. By 1860 some 4,000 miles of canals were spread out across America, mostly dug by Irish immigrant labor. Many of those same immigrants and newer immigrants moved on to work upon the railroads. There was an expression heard among railway men: ““an Irishman was buried under every tie.”” If a worker was injured, he was fired. If he was killed, his widow and family went without. Many new immigrants, women in particular, found employment as factory workers, or as domestics, cooks and maids, in affluent homes such as those on Boston’’s Beacon Hill and along New York’’s Fifth Avenue. Studies have shown that women emigrated as often as men from Ireland, and at equally young ages. Some sociologists give the role of female Irish domestic workers credit for neutralizing American attitudes in regards to Irish immigrants, as they experienced personal interaction in the intimacy of family lives and the private American home. Irish women, known familiarly as

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Left: Young worker at Merchants Mill. Photo by Lewis Hine. Bottom: Irish railroad workers. Below: Irish servant girls.

““Bridgets”” or ““Biddys,”” were often hired as servants at hiring fairs, and were usually taken on for a six-month or other given time period, largely as indentured servants or paid only a small compensation aside from room and board. However, these domestic jobs were luxurious compared to the tragedy unfolding in Ireland or the cramped spaces of ““Shanty Towns”” where Irish immigrants were crammed in urban areas. ““Bridgets”” sent significant portions of what money they did earn home to Ireland, an estimated total of $260 million between 1850 and 1900. Whether running American households, building American infrastructure, fighting American wars, manufacturing consumer goods or seeking their fortune out West, Irish immigrants sacrificed their lives in great numbers in the name of the country on whose shores they had arrived, in huddled masses, tired and poor but not necessarily welcomed by the nativists that met them there. The labor that the new Irish Americans contributed cemented their role in the development of the country they now IA called their own.

Irish servant girls sent significant portions of what money they earned home to Ireland, an estimated total of $260 million between 1850 and 1900. 56 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010


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The Search for

Missing Friends From 1831 through 1916, the national Boston Pilot newspaper printed some 45,000 “Missing Friends” advertisements placed by friends and relatives in attempts to locate loved ones lost during emigration.These ads, consolidated into edited volumes, provide a valuable record of a poor emigrant population trying to reach one another. Several of these volumes were edited by Emer O’Keefe, who recently spoke with Kara Rota about what the listings provide for the descendants of Famine emigrants. ““Since it was a very large movement of people, many of whom left little behind, it’’s hard to know the personal stuff,”” said Emer. ““This is what the ads provide; they speak directly to us, and this intimacy makes them appealing. John Fallon ‘‘had light hair, blue eyes; was about four feet, four inches in height; wore a blue spencer, a new scoop shovel cap, a fancy pants and had a freckled face.’’ You can really see this boy! You can often glimpse a personality. Thomas Sullivan was described by his wife as ‘‘of medium height, brown hair, fair complexion, and free in conversation.’’ The vulnerability of individuals left stranded is also clear. James Rourke’’s

wife and children were ‘‘daily mourning his absence.’’ Catherine Kelly sought her husband, signing herself ‘‘the mother of his four living children.’’ The voices of these emigrants resonate still.”” In their own words, through the Boston Pilot listings, emigrants express their hope, fear and loss. ““The ads run the gamut of immigrant experience and the tone reflects this,”” Emer O’’Keefe said, ““From personal emotions –– vulnerability and loss, hope and pride when things are going well –– to the larger social movements. The tone of the 1847 listings, for example, is very different from that of the 1890s when the immigrants are more

prosperous and social networks much more evolved. …… [Famine emigrants] certainly didn’’t give up the hope of locating [their loved ones]. Many immigrants placed ads again and again for family they might not have seen or heard from in decades. And the ads weren’’t cheap: thousands paid their daily wage and more ($1) for an ad that would run three times.”” Emer O’’Keefe embarked on this project with a personal resonance. ““I came to the U.S. in 1983 to attend Northeastern University’’s graduate history program,”” she told Irish America. ““The 1980s was a very grim time economically in Ireland, with huge numbers of people emigrating to the U.S., England, and Australia. Most of my undergraduate class ended up emigrating. But I was the only member of my large family to leave home, and back then it wasn’’t as easy to stay in touch. We didn’’t have cell phones or e-mail, and phone calls were more expensive. We wrote a lot of letters! It was easy to empathize with the homesickness many of the immigrants experienced; as well as the need to stay connected with family and to create an Irish community in America.””

Boston Pilot Listings From 1847 16 OCTOBER 1847 Of DENNIS MCCARTHY, late of Killmichael, co’y Cork, who sailed from Liverpool on the 1st of last May, and left his wife, Ellen Ahearn, in Quarantine near Quebec, in June. She is now in Troy, N. Y., and wishes to know his whereabouts. Any information respecting him will be thankfully received by addressing a line to Ellen McCarthy, care of Stephen Duffy, Troy, N. Y. Of JOHN QUILMAN, late of the parish of Inch, co’y Tipperary, who sailed from Waterford with his family last April. His daughter, Mary Harrington, wishes him to know that her husband, James Harrington, died on their passage to this country; also her two children since. She is now in Troy and wishes to know where her father is.

Any information respecting him will be thankfully received by Mary Harrington, care of S. Duffy, or Mrs. Daly, Fifth street, Troy, N. Y. 27 NOVEMBER 1847 Of ANTHONY and PATRICK WATERS, natives of co. Mayo. They are informed that their sister, Mary, who was married to Patrick Boyle, is anxious to hear from them. Her husband died on the passage. Should this meet their eye they will write to her immediately, care of the editor of the Pilot, Boston, Ms. 4 DECEMBER 1847 Of BERNARD MURPHY, who emigrated from co. Armagh, parish of Grangemore, townland of Aughmagorgan, in April last, with his father and 2

sisters. He parted from his father at Quarantine Island, below Montreal. It is supposed he went to Kingston. Any information respecting him will be thankfully received by his father who is now living in Dover. If by letter, address Patrick Grimes, Dover, N. H., or John Doran, No. 6 Canal street, Boston, Ms. 11 DECEMBER 1847 Of CATHERINE GILLEN, who landed in Boston last spring, with her father and family. She was sick and went to hospital and has not been heard from since. Any one knowing anything of her would confer a favor on her father, Hugh Gillen, by writing a letter to him in care of John Devlin, Pawtucket, R.I. 18 DECEMBER 1847 Of BRIDGET CARROLL, a

native of Killacooly, parish of Drumcliff, co. Sligo, who was taken into Grosse Isle hospital, below Quebec, in June last, and has not been heard from since. Any information respecting her will be thankfully received by her brother, Patrick Carroll, care of Mr. Samuel Downer, Second street, South Boston, Ms. 1 JANUARY 1848 Of PETER and ELLEN CARR, natives of county Down, parish of Gervathey, who left home in April and landed in St. John, 4th July. They came in the ship Ambassadress. Ellen had the fever and was taken to Patridge Island, and Peter remained with her. Any information of them will be thankfully received by their brother, John Carr, Lawrence City, Ms.

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Faces

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or those of us who enjoy the personal side of history, the following photographs and stories from our readers offer a glimpse into the lives of the Irish in America in the 1800s. They are miners, homesteaders, a widow who provides for her six daughters by running a boarding house for oil workers, a railway worker, and a soldier who fought in the Civil War. These then are the photographs of the survivors, the ancestors who immigrated during the great starvation, who help us now to put a face on that great calamity, of which there are no photographs from Ireland. They are the so-called “Famine Irish,” who took those first brave steps into the unknown in search of a better life. They found, more often than not, a hardscrabble existence, but they persevered, and put down firm foundations for future generations to build on. They are not forgotten. – Patricia Harty

Photographs compiled by Anne Thompson 58 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

Famine

Catherine

Catherine was 10 years old when the blight first hit the potato crop in 1845. She survived, married a man from a neighboring village and they left for America in the 1860s. N EAL M ORAN WRITES ABOUT HIS GREAT-GRANDMOTHER. Catherine Flannely, born in Porturlin, County Mayo, around 1835, married Anthony Moran from the nearby village of Baralty. They immigrated together in the 1860s, settling in a small coal-mining town near


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Catherine’s cottage in Co. Mayo as it appeared in 1971.

Margaret

Margaret lived through the Famine and emigrated to America in 1851. When her husband died she supported her six daughters by running boarding houses for oil workers. DAVID K OEGAL WRITES ABOUT

HIS GREAT-GRANDMOTHER.

W Photos: Page opposite (Top): Catherine Flannely with her son-in-law Edward Donnelly and her daughter Mary Ann. The children (L-R): Kathleen (the author’s grandmother), Nellie, Anthony, Mildred, Edward, Carmella, and Gervaise. The youngest child (sitting on her mother’s lap) is Mildred, born in 1907. Two older boys are not in the picture and three youngest were not yet born. Regina, born in 1908, and Anthony, born in 1910, died in childhood. Marcella, born 1911, lived until 2001. (Bottom L-R): Marcella Donnelly pictured at a Donnelly family reunion in 1980, with her niece Grace Gibbons Moran, an unidentified member of the Donnelly clan, and Kathy Moran Dempsey, the author’s sister. Below (Seated L-R): Frank X. Moran, Grace Gibbons Moran, Tim Schauder. (Standing L-R): Patrick Schauder, Nancie Moran Schauder, Neal Moran (the author), Liam Dempsey, Kathy Moran Dempsey, and Kathleen Schauder.

Scranton, Pennsylvania, and had twelve children. We were able to see her cottage on a family trip in 1971. Catherine is pictured [opposite page] with her daughter Mary Ann, her son-in-law Edward Donnelly and some of their 17 children. My grandmother is to the far left of the photograph. Kathleen married Patrick Gibbons. Her daughter Grace married my father, Frank X. Moran. I sometimes get a double take when people hear that there are ancestors on my mother’’s side also named Moran. Most of my immigrant ancestors worked in the anthracite coal mines in the Scranton area. The one exception was my father’’s maternal grandfather, Anthony Nealon, who worked at a blast furnace, also in Scranton. They were tenant farmers in Ireland, primarily in Co. Mayo.

hen Margaret Green, my great-grandmother, emigrated from Ireland via Liverpool in 1851, she was listed in the manifest of the Kalamazoo as ““19, spinster.”” At the time of the photo, she had become Margaret McCabe. But the six daughters (Back row: Agnes, Mary Catherine, Bridget Elizabeth; middle: Margaret McCabe, Roseann, Margaret; front: Frances) were the offspring of Margaret’’s first marriage to Frederick Treaster, an immigrant from Wurtemburg, Germany. Thus all the daughters bore the name Treaster. Frederick and Margaret began their family on a farm in Butler County, Pennsylvania. Then, in the early 1860s, oil exploration in the Allegheny Valley proceeded with the frenzy of a gold rush. Frederick took the family north and supported them by working teams hauling barrels of oil. In 1867, a year after the birth of his sixth daughter, Frederick was killed in a horse accident in the Allgheny River at Oil City. Margaret, now forced to support six girls, age 1 to 12, showed her resourcefulness by establishing a series of boarding houses in whatever location was most rampant with oil explorations: after Oil City, there were stops at Tidioute, Red Hot (a camp that flourished for just a year before surrendering its total population to more profitable locations) and Bradford, where the photo was taken. When things cooled down in Pennsylvania, the family followed the rush to Marietta, Ohio and finally Findlay, Ohio. Descendants of Frances, the youngest daughter, at the bottom of the photo, were able to explain the rather glum look on the girl’’s face. At the time of the photo, sister Agnes had suffered partial paralysis. Margaret, evidently a woman of strong faith, planned to take her to the Knock, Co. Mayo site of an 1879 apparition, which offered promise of a cure. Frances felt the pangs of imminent separation from her mother and her favorite sister. The trip did not come to pass, and the two sisters and three of their siblings lived to a ripe old age. But let us not leave the boarding house experience without considering its benefit beyond supporting the family. Margaret married off four of the six girls to Irish boarders (Moran, McConnell, Egan and McCray). Agnes remained single. Mary Catherine married a German named Klein, like her father Frederick. Of course, we can’’t forget Margaret who found her second husband, James McCabe, in her boarding house. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 59


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“Blue Pat” Breslin and the Mollie Maguires Hugh D. McClafferty writes about his ancestors from Donegal who became coal miners in Pennsylvania.

A

s a small boy growing up in Mauch days. They were married by a Justice of Chunk, Pennsylvania, I was the Peace in Tamaqua and returned to face always asking my mother to tell the music. The first place Patrick went me about ““Blue Pat,”” my grandfather. He was the parish priest, to tell him what they was nicknamed ““Blue Pat”” because of the had done. He told Patrick that they would scars on his face, arms and hands. He was have to be married in the Church immedia miner working for the Lehigh Coal and ately and that Ellie would have to convert Navigation Company. One day he was setto Catholicism. I might add that according ting off a charge to loosen coal and when to the U.S. Census, my grandparents did he hit the fuse there was an explosion that not have a child for almost a year, which knocked him down and shards from the indicates that it was not a marriage of coal left him with multiple lacerations. This is why they called him ““Blue Pat.”” He was about 21 years old at the time, and he was strong “Blue Pat” Breslin and his and healthy otherwise, so he surwife Ellen vived. However, he carried the McMullen. scars in his body and in his memory for the rest of his life. My grandfather was born in Co. Donegal, Ireland on March 22, 1850, right in the end of An Gorta Mór. He left Donegal in 1866, leaving behind his mother Alice and father Charles as well as his brothers Charles, James and Edward and a sister, Alice. At 16 years old he traveled to America and wound up in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania, in an early coal camp where it is said that anthracite coal was first discovered. Patrick went to work for the LCN at Colliery #5 and within a year he found a beautiful Irish girl and they decided to marry, but there were problems. First of all, Ellen McMullen was only thirteen years old. Her age was not a real problem for those days, but she was a Protestant necessity. However, over the next 25 and that was a problem. Her parents were years the Breslins had twelve children. ““Soupers”” in Ireland. They converted to (One every two years.) The eleventh child the Church of Ireland so they could get was Rosie, my mother, and the most beaufood. When they arrived in Summit Hill, tiful. Due to illnesses and diseases of the they joined the St. Phillip’’s Episcopal time and no medical care, four of the chilChurch. Her father, Beau McMullen, dren died as babies. Two others died as became the sexton at the church. He used young adults. Six survived and they were to let Ellie ring the church bells. He would all hardworking good Catholic people. place a short board on the end of the bell My grandparents’’ home was a company rope and knotted it so she could ride up home, a patch house on Pump Street next and down on the rope. to St. Joseph’’s Catholic Church. A wood Her family did not want her to marry at frame structure, with dirt floors, no inside thirteen, especially a Catholic. So Patrick plumbing or electricity and the air condiand Ellie ““borrowed”” Uncle Robbie’’s tioning came from the cracks and gaps horse and wagon. They took off for between the wooden siding. The kitchen Tamaqua, a town several miles from where there was a coal stove was the only Summit Hill, and they were gone several heat in the house. It had two rooms

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upstairs where everybody slept. On the side of the house was a shanty. ““Blue Pat”” had a small farm where he grew potatoes and other vegetables. He stored them in a cellar on the side of the mountain. His farm was an absolute necessity for survival. His family could not exist on his less than one dollar a day pay. It made me wonder how they ever saved the money to send to Ireland for his sister and nieces to come to America. It was about twenty dollars for each, and they came one at a time. They would stay with my grandparents until they found a husband and then move on. One of the nieces was Mary Jallop Breslin Kennedy. She and her husband John were my mother’’s godparents. Their grandson became a member of the United States Congress from the Summit Hill district. ““Blue Pat”” was a member of the Workingmen’’s Benevolent Association, a labor organization that tried to negotiate for better wages and conditions in the workplace. They wanted a guaranteed workweek and an end to docking. Docking was carried out in all the collieries. Each miner had a number. When he filled his car with coal he would send it to the surface with his number on it. The ticket boss was usually a Welshman and a ““company man.”” He would check each car and always find waste such as sticks, stones, slate or other foreign material, or at least that’’s what he said he found. He would then dock the miner for the waste –– instead of 100%, he would only give him 50% or 60%. This was an accepted policy of the company but definitely not with the miners. The docking happened to ““Blue Pat”” once too often and in late November, 1871, after he was docked again, he decided to complain to the ticket boss. ““Blue Pat”” was not a quiet, passive man. When he complained, he was summarily fired! He went home and cleaned up and went to the main office of the LCN Co. in Summit Hill to talk to Morgan Powell, the general manager of the company. Powell was not in his office and ““Blue Pat”” spent the next couple days


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memory of her was her sharing with me a pink lozenge from her apron pocket. She gave me one and one for her. I knew she loved me and I loved her!

Daniel & Jane McClafferty

Above: 50th wedding anniversary, 1905. McClaffertys of Mauch Chunk, PA. Right: Daniel Dennis McClafferty. Below: Aidan McClafferty.

trying to catch up with him. Morgan Powell knew that ““Blue Pat”” was looking for him but they never connected. On Saturday night, December 2, 1871, about 7:00 P.M., Powell took his oldest son to the dry goods store of Henry Williamson. He left his son there to pick out some candy and he headed across the street to the LCN Co. office. He never made it. He was shot in the middle of the street. It was an extremely dark and cold December night. There were no street lights; the only light came from the Williamson’’s store window. After the doctor was called and examined Powell, he said he was wounded mortally. They asked Morgan who shot him and he said it looked like Patrick Gildea and Patrick Breslin, but he wasn’’t sure. Morgan Powell died on Monday, December 4, 1871. Patrick Gildea and ““Blue Pat”” were arrested that day for his murder. They were incarcerated in the Carbon County Jail on West Broadway in Mauch Chunk (now a museum). They were two of the first inmates in the jail. They were held for three months and tried in March of 1872. Patrick Gildea was tried first and found innocent for lack of evidence. ““Blue Pat”” was then called into the courtroom and his case was discharged. ““Blue Pat”” protested and wanted to be tried so that he too could be found not guilty, but the judge would not agree and he was discharged. This would leave Blue Pat subject to further trial. The Mauch Chunk Coal Gazette referred to ““Blue Pat”” and Gildea as

““Buckshots,”” a name associated with the Mollie Maguires. In addition to being a WBA member, ““Blue Pat”” was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians which the mine owners and the press called a cover organization of the Mollies. After the trial of Patrick Gildea and the discharge of ““Blue Pat,”” the coal and railroad barons realized they would need more solid evidence to convict the so-called Mollies. Their future strategy was to hire the Pinkerton Detective Agency who furnished the infamous James McParland, alias James McKenna, and other spies to infiltrate and provide evidence even if they had to make it up, which they did. On June 21, 1877, three men were hung for the murder of Morgan Powell at the Carbon County Jail. On thesame day as ““the day of the rope,”” six other so-called Mollies were hung at the Schuylkill County Jail in Pottsville. Before it was over, twenty miners had given their lives in the name of organized labor. Call them what you will –– Buckshots, WBA members, AOH members or Mollie Maguires, they stood up for their rights and eventually all of our rights. ““Blue Pat”” spent the rest of his life working in the mines. He died of silicosis or black lung at 68 years of age. My grandmother lived on for 22 years and shared her life with 13 grandchildren, of which I was the youngest. My last fond

My great-grandparents Daniel McClafferty and Jane Dugan arrived in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania in 1847 after fleeing their beloved but famine stricken Donegal. They met in their new country and married at the Immaculate Conception Church, a new parish in Carbon County. Daniel and Jane had ten children. Only five survived to adulthood. While Jane was caring for the children, Daniel was a laborer with the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company at the Weigh Lock along the Lehigh River. The family photograph [above] was taken in 1905 to celebrate Daniel and Jane’’s golden wedding anniversary. They were all dressed in their Sunday best for the occasion. Seated between her parents is Sarah McClafferty, their oldest daughter. Standing at far left is Dennis J. (my grandfather) who was a canal boat operator and later a tinsmith. He and my grandmother Anne (Halpin) had eight children. Second from left is Mary J. (McClafferty) O’’Brien who had seven children. Third from left is Hugh J. McClafferty. He was known as ““Swifty”” and was Chief of Police in East Mauch Chunk. Standing far right is John McClafferty who with his wife Mary had five children. Daniel and Jane lived a long life in Mauch Chunk, and were highly respected. Mauch Chunk was predominantly an Irish immigrant town at that time. Daniel passed away in 1910 and Jane in 1918. They have descendants from sea to shining sea. Daniel’’s youngest namesake, his great-great-great-grandson Daniel Dennis McClafferty (top photo) is living in Orlando, Florida and is seven years old. Their youngest great-great-great-great-grandson, Aidan McClafferty, lives in Northern Virginia and is four years old. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 61


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The Lowrys of County Down In 1848, James Lowry went to Liverpool to buy supples for his general store in County Down and bought a ticket for America. Mary Lou Albrecht writes about her great-grandparents.

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y great-grandparents, James A. Lowry (b. 1821), and Deborah Mathews (b. 1819), operated a grocery store in County Down. Money to start the store came from James’’ eldest brother as a settlement after this brother inherited the family farm. These were hard times in Ireland. Deborah was a kind-hearted woman and gave from the store to people in need. Consequently, things were not too good in the grocery business. In 1848, on a trip to Liverpool, England, to buy supplies, James spent half of his money for a ticket to North America. Leaving his wife and three small children, John, Mary Jane, and a baby, James, he sailed for Canada. He was 27 years old. Deborah and the children sailed the following year, 1849, and met up with James in New York. The family, together once again, settled in Little Falls, Herkimer County, New York (this was quite a ways west of New York City) where James was issued a Certificate of Naturalization on September 8, 1856. Deborah had five more children in America –– the twins when she was 40. From Little Falls, the family moved to Wisconsin, perhaps to take advantage of the cheap land prices of a dollar and a half an acre. On October 20, 1864, entry was made on a homestead in the Town of Tainter, Dunn County, Wisconsin. James was 43 at the time. The homestead was 172 acres on the banks of the Red Cedar River. James died in 1873 at the age of 52. Deborah outlived her husband by many years. She died in 1896, at the age of 77.

married Benjamin Franklin Freestone. This was Tom Studley’’s step-daughter and sister of Mary Lucina Walls. Thomas (1859-1919): He lived on land in the Town of Tainter acquired from his brother, Edward. Thomas lived his last years in Eau Claire. He was the twin of George. George (1859-1942): George settled on the homestead of James A. and Deborah, his parents. He lived there until his death. This is the land that Truman Lowry either bought or inherited, and his

The Children of James A. and Deborah

John (1842-1932): Married Elizabeth Hurley (b.1845 or 1846). He lived briefly on his father’’s homestead where he built a log cabin. Later, he took homestead of 160 acres in the Township of Colfax, Wisconsin. In 1964, the north 80 acres was owned and occupied by his son, Charles Lowry, but has since been sold as Charlie had no children. Mary Jane (1845-1930): Settled on the homestead of John Hill with her first husband, Aaron C. Timmerman. Aaron and their two sons were riding in a buggy when they had an accident and Aaron and one son drowned. Then Mary Jane married Martin Smith. Mary Jane lived there until her death. This land in 1964 was owned by Orville Smith, surviving child of Mary Jane and Aaron. James M. (1847-1916): James settled on a homestead in the Town of Colfax. The original homestead was on the west side of Highway 40. Over 40 years ago, this house had to be moved across the highway onto the original homestead in order to retain the land. In 1964, the house and land was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Gay and Esther (Carey) Thorson (John Lowry’’s granddaughter) and Lillian Lowry. Later their son, Gary, lived there but sold the farm. Edward (1850-1934): Edward was the first of the children to be born in America. He owned 80 acres outside the town of Tainter. This land was later owned by his brother Thomas. Edward never married. Martha Ann (1856-1922): Married John Paul Studley (b. 1843 in England). Martha Ann lived all her life on the homestead of her husband, John Paul (Jack) Studley, Town of Colfax. In addition to their own 6 children, they reared his niece, Belle Walls, who later 62 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

Deborah Mathews Lowry (third from left) immigrated to America in 1849, following her husband James who sailed to Canada in 1848. Deborah is pictured with her children: Back row: Martha Ann Lowry Studley, William Butler Lowry, George Lowry and Thomas Lowry (twins). Front row: Edward Lowry, James M. Lowry, Deborah Mathews Lowry, and Mary Jane Timmerman Smith.

brother, (lawyer) Howard Lowry, swindled him out of, according to Truman’’s wife, Hannah. William B. (1853-1932): married Mary Lucina Walls (b. September 1871) on October 1, 1884. He homesteaded 120 acres in the Town of Colfax. They had four sons. William, who was my grandfather, lived his last years in Eau Claire and passed away when I was only four years old. I have been told that he never used cuss words –– only ““Holy Sailor!”” and ““Shoot the cat!”” My Dad (William G. Lowry) was a proud Irishman. He always saw to it that on St. Patrick’’s Day we always wore something to show we were Irish. My mom was Norwegian and never minded all the to-do over being Irish. They loved each other very much. He used to tell her he was her Irishman. My mom was a wonderful cook and my dad was a great storyteller. We had such good times growing up. When my Dad and his two brothers (Ed and Frank) would get together, we would be treated to three different versions of Irish jigs (they each had their own style). I would accompany them on the piano. My Dad and his fiddle were ““instant entertainment.”” We were so lucky.


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Bridget Hagerty

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Helen Riley Daly remembers her great-grandmother who emigrated from County clare and became a homesteader in Wisconsin y great-grandmother Bridget Hagerty was born in Kilbane, County Clare, Ireland in 1826, and left for New York in 1849 when she was 23 years old. She traveled to Milwaukee, and then on to Monches, Wisconsin where she married John Beston, also from County Clare. Bridget and John became homesteaders and had four sons and two daughters. John passed away on December 1, 1879. Bridget continued to live on the family farm with her sons Michael and William, and daughter Catherine who never married. Her other daughter Margaret joined a convent. Another son, Patrick, left home, as did his brother John (my grandfather), who moved to New Richmond, Wisconsin and married an Irish woman, Katie Salmon. They had one daughter, my mother Mabel who married my father Thomas Riley. At the time of her death at 73 on August 9, 1922, Bridget and her family were well respected in the community. Her obituary in the local paper reads in part: ““Mrs. Beston, although one of the best mothers and always attentive to the best interest of her home, spent much of her time in loving thought and care for those who were in trouble. Her nature was kind and unselfish and she often denied her own inclinations, that she might help others. Her loss will be widely and deeply felt for all through that community, as well as her children.”” The newspaper also reports that Bridget’’s son John and her sister ““Mrs. McNamara of Cylon, Wisconsin”” had traveled from abroad for the funeral. One of my most prized possessions is a letter from my great-aunt Kate to her brother John (my grandfather.)

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July 29, 1919

Dear Brother Mother is not well at all. She has been sick quite a while now. She could sit up a while every day until these last few days. Her stomach troubles her. She can not eat anything. She only takes a bottle of beer and a little beef tea. Father Bowe was here Monday and he says she will be around in a few weeks. It was too bad about that big storm in New Richmond and all the lives that was lost. It must have scared you folks. Did you see any of it. I would have written before only waiting to hear from you. I hope you are all well. Pat is getting along as well as can be expected. It is busy times with our boys. Mike and Willie have their barley all stacked. They will have all their oats out today. They got a new binder this summer. They paid one hundred dollars for it. How are Aunty Katie’s folks? Sarah Beston was here a few week[s] she went back to Chicago last Friday. Mother is sleeping now. She sleeps nearly all the time. Write soon. I guess I must close with much love to you all. Hoping to hear from you soon. Your sister Kate Goodbye

Bridget Hagerty pictured above in 1886 with four of her six children. Left to right: Margaret, Michael, William and Catherine Beston.

Bridget’s descendants include four great-grandchildren and eighteen great-great-grandchildren. One of those great-great-granchildren, my son, Matt Daly, is shown here at the Cliffs of Moher. A professor of accounting at Regis University in Denver, Matt helps organize and guide an annual trip to Ireland for students at the university. The trip always includes a visit to Bridget’s homeland, County Clare.

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An Irish Soldier

Luke Masterson immigrated from County Cavan and fought in the Civl War. His story is written by his great-grandson Eddie Masterson.

M Mary and Richard Mary Doyle and Richard O’Brien, both of County Wexford, immigrated separately. They met in Rockport, New York, married and lived a long life together. M ary McCarthy Felts of Fort Wayne, Indiana, writes about her great-grandparents.

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y great-grandmother Mary Doyle was born in Baun, Co. Wexford, Ireland on December 30, 1830. She came to America when she was 20 years old to live with a cousin in Rockport, New York. Richard O’’Brien was born in Galbally, Co. Wexford on March 17, 1832. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1852 and immediately entered railroad work. He helped lay a double track for the New York Central Railroad. Mary and Richard met in Rockport and were married on April 17, 1854 in St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. They moved to Illinois where Richard was an employee of Illinois Central Railroad for 55 years. Their children were Edward, Catherine (my grandmother), Daniel, Emma, and Lucy. The photo [above] of my great-grandparents was taken on their 70th wedding anniversary, April 17, 1924, in Pana, Illinois. The other picture is of my most prized possession. It is of a sampler made by my great-grandmother when she was 12 years old. She made the border first, and then didn’’t have quite enough room to complete the verse. She misspelled needle and shady. The verse reads:

y great-grandfather Luke Masterson immigrated to the U.S. from County Cavan, Ireland. In 1861, he enlisted in the 4th Cavalry Mounted Volunteers of New York. As a member of this group, he fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. His brother, Patrick, was a member of the 4th Infantry of New York. Patrick died in combat due to wounds received at Gaines Mills in Virginia. In 1864, Luke married Mary Geoghagen of Westmeath in St. Stephens Church in New York City. The couple took up residence in Ansonia, Connecticut, and had six children: Mary, Patrick, Joseph, Thomas, Charles and Edward, who was born in 1878. Edward eventually married Minnie Kershner and they had two sons, Edward George, my father, born 1909, and Frank. My father married my mother Frieda Pape in 1935. They lived in Staten Island, New York and had five children: Marlene, Roy, Katherine, George and myself Edward John. I grew up in Staten Island and married Nora Barrett of County Mayo, Ireland in 1980. We live in upstate New York with our two children Brian Roy and Aine Marie Masterson. We all visit Ireland regularly. My good friend and cousin, Frank (Buddy) O’’Connor, who lives in Albertson, Long Island, and is a great-grandson of Luke Masterson, provided me with the early family history. IA

Mary Doyle is my name And with my neede I Worked the same In 12 years of my Age Jun 4, 1843 O Faithful Cross O Noblest tree In all our woods there Is none like thee No earthly grave No sheady—— [bowers could set forth such fruit such flowers.] Richard and Mary lived long lives. Mary died at the age of 94 years on March 30, 1925. Richard died on April 21, 1928 at the age of 96 years. 64 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

1861: Luke Masterson, 4th Calvalry Mounted Volunteers


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The Irish

American Dream

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he Irish who survived the perilous journey to America struggled to build a new life for themselves and their families in the new world, and in doing so they would help to shape American culture. Here are just a few of our Irish heroes, Famine immigrants and their descendants, who rose to the top in industry, arts, culture, business, and politics.

Annie Sullivan

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nnie Sullivan was the oldest of five children born to parents who had left Limerick at the height of the Great Hunger. Thomas and Alice Sullivan baptized their children in a heavily Irish Massachusetts parish, but the traumas of their journey from Ireland followed them to America. Thomas Sullivan was a farmhand but he was also an alcoholic who eventually abandoned the family. Worse still, Alice died when Annie was just eight. Annie and her brother Jimmie found a home in a poorhouse in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, where Jimmie, who was born with tuberculosis, soon died. Annie suffered from severe eye problems, which nearly blinded her. Frank Sanborn of the Massachusetts Board of Charities took pity on the 14-year-old and enrolled her in the Perkins school. Subsequent eye operations improved her vision, allowing Sullivan to read and write. She also learned to communicate with deaf and blind friends at Perkins, a skill that would come in handy when, in 1886, she graduated from Perkins and was hired by the Kellers to care for their daughter Helen in Alabama. The struggles which followed have been well-documented. Helen Keller was a profoundly challenging student. But Annie was determined, to the point of obsession, and finally managed to help Helen communicate and Annie Sullivan rose from the ashes of the potato blight to become one of the most awe-inspir– Tara Dougherty ing educators in America.

66 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

Henry Ford

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he Ford family name has become synonymous with the auto industry in America, but long before Henry Ford made his millions and the Ford Foundation began its charity work, the Fords were Protestants in Ireland in the 1600s. There they remained for generations, farming and establishing the Madame Estate in Crohane, Ballinascarthy, County Cork. It was on this estate that Henry Ford’’s grandfather John lived and prospered for some time. However, Black ’’47 was no kinder to the Fords than to any other family. John uprooted his family, including his 21-year-old son William, in 1847, left the family estate in Cork and traveled across the Atlantic, landing in Grosse Île, Canada. The grueling journey took the life of John’’s wife, Tomasine Smith Ford, and William had a narrow escape when he was washed overboard. By 1848, John had traveled to Dearborn, Michigan, where he bought an eight-acre farm from a fellow Cork man, Henry Maybury. William found employment with another Cork man named Patrick Ahern, and fell in love with Mary Litogot who had been adopted as a child by the Aherns when her Belgian immigrant parents died. William and Mary had five children including Henry Ford, born July 30, 1863. Henry Ford traveled to Ireland in 1912 where he established, in Cork, what would become a piece of Ford Motor Company, his first overseas plant. – Tara Dougherty


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Mother Jones

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John F. Kennedy

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ohn Fitzgerald Kennedy’’s incredible story of becoming the first Catholic president of the United States began with his great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy who was born in Dunganstown, Co. Wexford, Ireland and emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 26 in the midst of the Great Hunger. Patrick arrived in Boston on April 22, 1849, having sailed from Liverpool on the Washington Irving, a packet ship. His fiancée Bridget came to Boston shortly afterward and they were married in the Holy Redeemer Church on September 26, 1849. Nine years later, Patrick died of cholera at age 35, and Bridget was a widow with four small children, the youngest of whom, Patrick Joseph Kennedy, would become John F. Kennedy’’s grandfather. In June 1963, John F. Kennedy made a visit to Ireland where he visited Dunganstown. At the airport to say his farewell, he told crowds, ““Last night, somebody sang a song, the words of which I’’m sure you know, ‘‘Come back to Erin, mavourneen, mavourneen, come back around to the land of my birth. Come with the shamrock in the springtime, mavourneen……’’ This is not the land of my birth, but it is the land for which I hold the greatest affection. And I certainly will come back in the springtime.”” Alas, a return visit was not to be. President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Incredibly, he died on the same date on which Patrick had died 105 years earlier.

ccording to biographer Elliott Gorn, author of Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America, Mary ““Mother Jones”” Harris never spoke of the real reason that her family immigrated to the United States in her early teens. That reason was the Great Famine, which swept Harris’’s village of Inchigeelagh in County Cork in 1846. When Mary was ten (this is disputable; Mother Jones always claimed her birthday was May 1, 1830, but scholars today suggest that this birthday was merely symbolic and that she was actually born sometime in 1837), her father Richard left for America. The rest of the family followed soon after. Mother Jones’’s own autobiography, which chronicles her life as a labor organizer and co-founder of the Industrial Workers of the World, sums up her entire childhood in less than a page. Her migration to America is described succinctly: ““[My father’’s] work as a laborer with railway construction crews brought him to Toronto, Canada. Here I was brought up but always as the child of an American citizen. Of that citizenship I have ever been proud.”” She soon became a teacher and worked as a dressmaker for extra money. While we do not know why Mother Jones chose to omit such important details of her life, we do know that the first time the Harris family shows up in the census is 1850. Richard and his son are listed as living in Burlington, Vermont as boarders with another family. Because the family settled close to Canada in Vermont, we can assume they probably arrived in one of the Canadian ports, which rivaled American ports as the major destinations of Famine Irish in 1847. By the early 1850s, Richard Sr. had saved enough to bring his wife Ellen and daughter Mary to North America, where they soon settled in Toronto. Mary married George Jones, a member of the Iron Workers’’ Union, in 1861. After losing her husband and four children to yellow fever in 1867, she turned to politics, becoming the most powerful voice of the labor movement in the late 1800s and earning the moniker ““Mother Jones”” for her famous storytelling and matronly appearance. – Aliah O’Neill

– Kara Rota

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George M. Cohan

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eorge M. Cohan was the third child born to Jeremiah and Nellie Cohan, in 1878 in Providence, Rhode Island. His birth certificate listed his birthday as July 3, but his parents always insisted he was born on the Fourth of July. Cohan’’s parents were traveling vaudeville performers and brought him onstage with them, as well as his sister Josie (an older sister Maude died in infancy) when they were young. Cohan wrote over 1,500 songs,

including ““Give My Regards to Broadway”” and ““The Yankee Doodle Boy,”” and many Broadway musicals. George’’s father Jeremiah Cohan (adapted from Keohane) was born on Blackstone St. in Boston on January 31, 1848, the son of emigrants Michael Keohane and Jane Scott, who came from Ballinascarty, between Bandon and Clonakilty in Cork. When he played in Philadelphia, George always visited Keohanes from

Above: The Four Cohans: George, Josie, Jeremiah and Nellie. Right: The descendants: Kathleen Cohan Haire, the great-grand-niece of George M. Cohan, is pictured with her husband Jack and son John, at the unveiling of the statue (below) to her uncle at the George M. Cohan Plaza in the Fox Point area of Providence, Rhode Island, last summer.

Barryroe parish. Jeremiah worked as a saddle and harness maker and served as a surgeon’’s orderly in the Civil War, but was particu68 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

larly fond of Irish dances he learned as a child. He developed an act combining his step dancing with fiddle and harp tunes, and began touring with minstrel shows. He met his wife Nellie Costigan on tour, and the pair married in 1874. They formed a Hibernicon, a kind of Irish vaudeville act involving dancing, singing and rapid-fire sketches, and went on the road together. In an interview, Nellie talked about the struggles of The Four Cohans, as the family called themselves. ““It was no joke, our pennilessness. I don’’t think anyone could blame me for wanting a home I could call my own, away from some of those overly theatrical types, and where I could raise my children without having to run eternally for a train or rehearse in some dirty barn or theater. But my husband was always an optimist and he kept us happy. I could sew adequately and thus the children were always well dressed. But lack of money always bothered us. [Jeremiah] would never take a salary from anyone for my work. He was just too proud. He always said that if he couldn’’t earn a living, he might as well just give up the show business. And he just couldn’’t give it up. He couldn’’t and I knew that. It was a very hard life. Sometimes we didn’’t have streetcar fare and we carried the children for miles in our arms to the theater. Still, somehow, when we got to the theater, and we put the children to sleep in a drawer or a trunk, it was worth it because my husband made it worth it. He loved what he was doing so much that we all caught fire from him. . . . We four were sufficient unto each other.”” In Twenty Years On Broadway, And What It Took To Get There, his autobiography, George wrote, ““My father was a very timid man, and always seemed to me to have a holy terror of talking business, especially with the theatrical managers. His quiet, gentle manner, and the way they used to take advantage of his let-wellenough-alone way of going along, was a thing which taught me that aggressiveness was a very necessary quality in dealing with the boys who were out to accumulate nickels and dimes.”” Out of these early struggles would come one of the most famous American ““song and dance men”” – Kara Rota of all time.


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Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

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lizabeth Gurley Flynn’’s incredible story of becoming a famous labor leader, co-founder of the ACLU and national chairperson of the Communist Party begins with her Irish parents and grandparents, who were equally active in radical movements. She was born in Concord, New Hampshire in 1890. Her father was a socialist and her mother was a feminist and Irish republican. Flynn’’s autobiography The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography of My First Life (1920-1926) begins with a detailed description of her family’’s exploits during the 1798 rebellion, when all four of her great-grandfathers –– Gurley, Flynn, Ryan and Conneran –– joined the French to fight for a free Ireland. Flynn’’s grandfather Tom Flynn also had a revolutionary streak. He was arrested at the age of 16 for fishing for salmon on a Sunday morning in what was apparently a privately owned river. She writes, ““Enraged because hungry people could not have fish for food in a Famine year, Tom threw lime in the water so the fish floated bellies up, dead, to greet the gentry. Then he ran away to America.”” His mother and siblings followed in the later 1840s during the worst years of the Famine. Arriving on a coffin ship at St. John’’s, New Brunswick, Tom rowed out on a small boat to rescue his family and whoever else could fit. On her mother’’s side, Flynn’’s history is equally interesting. Annie Gurley arrived in Boston in 1877 following her Aunt Bina and Uncle James, and Mike, who had immigrated to America during the Famine. Gurley came from Galway and spoke only Irish for most of her childhood. Coming from a long line of Fenians, she was heavily involved in progressive politics, particularly women’’s issues, from the time she arrived in America. Upon her father’’s death, Gurley sold his land in Ireland and was able to bring her nine children to America. She worked as a tailor to make ends meet and helped her brothers to learn trades. Inspired by her Irish revolutionary forebears, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn gave her first speech in 1906 at the age of 16 at the Harlem Socialist Club. The following year she became an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World. Flynn died in the Soviet Union on September 5, 1964 while visiting on behalf of the – Aliah O’Neill Communist Party.

Brian Lamb

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rian Patrick Lamb (born October 9, 1941 in Lafayette, Indiana) the founder and CEO of C-SPAN, keeps a picture of his Irish ancestors –– three generations, from his great-grandparents to his father –– on his desk. In a town that was also home to large German and English communities, Lamb’’s family took great pride in their heritage. Lamb himself has been to Ireland several times, both for business and pleasure, and has spent some time tracing his ancestry. His great-grandparents Terrance Lamb and Anne Finnegan emigrated from County Monaghan during the Famine years and settled in Delphi, Indiana, where Terrance worked as a janitor in St. Joseph’’s Church. Terrance’’s son Peter Lamb moved 17 miles away to Lafayette, Indiana, where he opened his own tavern, and his son, William, Lamb’’s father, worked with him in the tavern before becoming a wholesale beer distributor. Brian joined the Navy, after which he became involved in politics; for a time he was Lyndon’’s B. Johnson’’s social aide. In 1977, Lamb submitted his idea of a non-profit channel that would broadcast Congressional sessions to cable executives. On March 19, 1979, C-SPAN went into operation.

Brain Lamb’s Irish ancestors. From left to right: Peter Lamb (grandfather), William J. Lamb (father), Anne Finnegan Lamb (great-grandmother), Terrance Lamb (great-grandfather) in Delphi, Indiana, 1908. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 69


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Colonel John Byrne

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ohn Byrne was born in 1840 in County Wicklow. He would have been barely five when the horror of the potato blight hit Ireland in 1845. He may have come alone to Buffalo, New York during the Famine years, as there is no record of his parents emigrating. He was 14 when he arrived in America. John and his children would go on to serve the United States well: fighting in her wars, working in politics and policing her streets. When he was twenty-three John Byrne joined the 155th Regiment, one of four Irish regiments that formed the famous Corcoran Legion in the Civil War. In 1864 he received a musket ball to the left side of his face that left him blind in his left eye for the rest of his life. In spite of his injury, on June 15th, 1865 the twenty-five-year-old Col. Byrne took command of the 155th Regiment. After his service and leadership in the Civil War, John Byrne rose to become the Police Chief of Buffalo. An article in the New York Times from 1879 describes how ““under his management the Police force, which was before untrustworthy, speedily became and has remained one of the best in the whole country.”” He held the office for seven years and, when

he left, his work was ““universally recognized and commended……the people then, without respect to party, acknowledged their indebtedness and expressed their gratitude to Col. Byrne.”” In spite of his amazing life of service and sacrifice, John Byrne’’s death holds a note of deep sadness. He died the same year as his son, Eugene Byrne, a cadet at West Point. John was at West Point at Eugene’’s bedside when his son died from a broken neck after being injured in the Harvard Army football game. John’’s grandson John’’s Richard T. Lennon served in WWII, but all of Richard’’s brothers failed the physical due to ailments as a result of childhood diseases. Col. John’’s descendants continue to make a mark. Two of his great-great-grandsons, Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, and Patrick Moynihan, who runs a school in Haiti, have been in the news of late. Brian and Patrick are just two of the eight children of Pat and Bob Moynihan, all high achievers. Pat is the granddaughter of Col. John’’s daughter Clara. – Anne Thompson

Loretta Brennan Glucksman

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uring the Famine years, New York University. The leaving the ravaged couple established a home in lands of County Leitrim, the Cobh, Co. Cork in 1984. McHughs and Murrays travLiving in Ireland and New eled to America to the northYork on and off since that east of Pennsylvania. ““They time, Brennan Glucksman were coal mining people,”” established her own transcontheir granddaughter later says tinental identity as an Irish of them. This granddaughter, American. Loretta Brennan Glucksman, Her work embraces philanhas honored their memory thropy and huge contribuworking extensively with tions to Irish studies in Irish philanthropy and has America. She and her husPHOTO: KIT DEFEVER made enormous contributions band donated $3 million to to Irish and Irish-American education. the Center for Irish Studies at New York Loretta Brennan Glucksman began to University which now has the Glucksman recognize her passion for Irish studies Ireland House as its center for Irish lanwhen her husband Lewis Glucksman, the guage, history, music and literature studies former CEO and chairman of Lehman situated at the corner of 5th Avenue and Brothers, began traveling between New Washington Square Park. Several of York and Ireland frequently as a trustee at Ireland’’s universities have also benefited

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from the Glucksmans including University College Cork, whose Glucksman Gallery opened in 2004, Trinity College, University of Limerick and University College Dublin. Brennan Glucksman has also led successful careers in teaching, television production and ran her own public relations firm. She credits her passion for Irish organizations and education to her late husband. She is chairman of The American Ireland Fund and has served on the board of several Irish-related organizations, including the Irish American Cultural Institute, Cooperation Ireland and the Ireland-U.S. Council for Commerce and Industry. Her husband, Lewis Glucksman, passed away at their home in Cobh in 2006 and Loretta has continued the work they began together. – Tara Dougherty


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Margaret Sanger

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John J. O’Connor

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he late John Joseph O’’Connor, Cardinal Archbishop of New York and symbol of charity and compassion in the New York Catholic community, maintained his connection to his Irish roots throughout his life. His father, Thomas J. O’’Connor (b.1883) was the only one of thirteen children to be born in the United States after his family left Roscommon to settle in Pennsylvania in the mid-1800s. John was born to Thomas and his wife Mary in 1920 in Scranton and grew up in a devout Catholic family. John was ordained a priest in 1945 and was Bishop of Scranton for a year before becoming head of the Archdiocese of New York, a position he held until his death in 2000. Cardinal O’’Connor was an active participant in the affairs of Northern Ireland. He stood strong in his convictions, often against the urging of politicians. Two examples stand out: the Joe Doherty case and the 1985 New York St. Patrick’’s Day Parade. Joe Doherty, a member of the IRA, had been arrested in New York and was held on an extradition warrant. O’’Connor demanded and eventually got his return to New York City when Doherty was transferred to a remote upstate New York prison. The 1985 parade was to be marshaled by Peter King, then comptroller of Nassau County and Sinn Féin supporter. While O’’Connor was urged to boycott, he maintained his responsibility to the people of New York and participated in the parade. The last St. Patrick’’s Day before his death, Cardinal O’’Connor proclaimed the responsibility of the Irish in America to embrace those immigrants who suffer now in ways not unlike their ancestors. He said, ““We have arrived, but thousands and hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters of other colors, of other ethnic backgrounds, of other languages, are still struggling to make their way...Let the Irish be the first to offer refuge and a helping hand to those immigrants desperately in need...who have come to this golden land to which every one of us here, without exception, owes so very much.”” – Tara Dougherty

figurehead for women’’s rights, Margaret Sanger was an Irish-American daughter of a Famine immigrant who brought herself to the forefront of the birth control debate in the early 20th century. Margaret was born September 4, 1879 in Corning, New York, to Anne Purcell and Michael Hennessy Higgins, an Irish immigrant stone mason. Like many Irish and American working and middle-class women of her time, Margaret’’s mother Anne had a tough life. Gradually worn down by 18 pregnancies and the birth of 11 living children, she died at the young age of 40. Margaret, who greatly mourned her mother, would go on to help oppressed women everywhere. She went on to train as a nurse at White Plains Hospital north of New York City, became active in the labor movement and worked in the tenements of New York’’s Lower East Side, an experience which opened her eyes to the connection between poverty, premature death and lack of family planning. Her first marriage. to architect William Sanger, ended in divorce after 18 years and three children. She subsequently married millionaire J. Noah Slee, who helped her establish the American Birth Control League and the Birth Control Research Bureau. These two organizations came together to form Planned Parenthood in 1942. Sanger died less than a year after the Supreme Court repealed Connecticut’’s ban on the use of contracep– Tara Dougherty tion by married couples in 1966.

Peter Quinn

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eter Quinn has devoted his talents to researching and imagining the lives of the immigrant Irish in New York. His own Irish background is rooted in that experience. He was born and raised in the Bronx by Irish Catholic parents. Quinn's maternal grandfather was born in Macroom, County Cork in the 1860s. His paternal great-grandparents came from Tipperary to America to escape the Famine in 1847. Quinn’’s novels and essays focus on New York in the late 19th century: Banished Children of Eve, which won an American Book Award in 1995, is a historical novel set in New York in 1863 during the Draft Riots. Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America is a collection of essays on Irish American culture, politics and history that serve to explain, in some sense, Quinn's dual identity as a kid growing up in New York City. Fintan Dunne, the Irish-American detective Quinn introduced in Hour of the Cat, will return in his next novel, The Man Who Never Returned, due out this summer. Quinn was brought up in the Bronx ““where no one was brought up to think of themselves as American,”” he says. ““You were Irish, you were Jewish or Italian, and then I went to school, for three months, in Galway, and they didn't think I was Irish at all……I was caught between two worlds –– Ireland and America –– both parts of me.”” Through it all is the foundation of New York, where the Famine Irish managed not only to assimilate despite discrimination but also to help – Aliah O’Neill define the city as it is today. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 71


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Ernesto “Che” Guevara

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Eugene O’Neill

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laywright Eugene O’’Neill was born in New York in 1888, to parents both of Irish ancestry. His father, James O’’Neill, was born in 1845 in Kilkenny and emigrated with his family to Buffalo at age 9. James (pictured above) gained fame in his early adulthood acting in plays in Cinncinati and moved on to perform in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. He is best known for his role as Edmund Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo, which he reprised over 6,000 times in the course of his career. Eugene O’’Neill’’s mother, Ella Quinlan, was born in 1857 in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Thomas and Bridget Quinlan. Ella met James O’’Neill when she was 15 and married the touring actor in 1877. Eugene O’’Neill would go on to model James and Mary Tyrone after his parents in his most famous play Long Day’’s Journey Into Night, which focuses on the dysfunctional Tyrone family. Forgoing the melodrama and sentimentality of 19th-century-era plays, O’’Neill instead focused on serious topics such as addiction and adultery. In a drama loosely based upon his own family troubles, the Tyrones battle alcohol and drug addiction in coastal Connecticut (the O’’Neills spent their summers at the Monte Cristo Cottage in New London, CT). Of his childhood in Famine-era Ireland, James remarks in the play, ““It was at home I first learned...the fear of the poorhouse...There was no damned romance in our poverty.”” O’’Neill depicted Mary Tyrone as a morphine addict, just as his mother was for most of her adult life. His sense of realism and uniquely American take on tragedy is a quality that has given Eugene O’’Neill the distinction of being one of the greatest American playwrights. The controversy surrounding the subject matter of his plays paved the way for contemporary – Aliah O’Neill American theater.

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any may not be aware that Argentina houses the fifth-largest Irish community in the world. During the Irish Diaspora, many Irish from the Midlands, Wexford and other counties traveled to Argentina, with the greatest influx taking place between 1850 and 1870, in the wake of the Irish Famine. Some 500,000 descendants of these immigrants now compose the modern Irish-Argentine community. One of the most significant of these descendants was Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto ““Che”” Guevara. Born to Celia de la Serna y Llosa and Ernesto Guevara Lynch, in Buenos Aires in 1928, Che was of Spanish, Basque and Irish descent. Ernesto Guevara Lynch’’s mother, Ana Isabel Lynch, was the daughter of immigrants who arrived in Argentina from County Galway, Ireland in 1849 or 1850, during the Irish Famine. Che was close with his grandmother, and Che’’s father said in a 1969 interview, ““The first thing to note is that in my son’’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels. …… Che inherited some of the features of our restless ancestors. There was something in his nature which drew him to distant wandering, dangerous adventures and new ideas.”” Che’’s Irish roots have since been excavated in more detail. In 1999, historian Peter Berresford Ellis lectured on the subject at the Desmond Greaves Summer School and discussed Che’’s fascination with Ireland’’s history. In 1965, Irish Times journalist Arthur Quinlan conducted an interview with Che at the Shannon Airport. ““He talked of his Irish connections through the name Lynch, and after a good chat he told me he wanted to go with a few friends to ‘‘see the nightlife,’’”” said Quinlan about the interview in 2003. ““I recommended that he should visit Hanratty’’s Hotel on Glentworth Street. I knew he would be welcomed there.”” The White Horse pub, on the corner of O’’Connell and Glentworth Streets in Limerick, still tells of the night Che came to share a pint with his grandmother’’s people. In an interview with Patricia Harty, Maureen O’’Hara talked about meeting Che when she was in Cuba filming Our Man in Havana in 1959. He talked to her about his Irish grandmother. Che Guevara died in 1967. – Kara Rota Che pictured here with his parents. His father Ernesto Guevara said in 1969: “The first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels.”

Louis Sullivan

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rchitect Louis Sullivan is called the ““father of modernism.”” A critic of the Chicago School, he was a forerunner and mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright and an influence on the Chicago architects known as the Prairie School. Sullivan created the form of the steel high-rise that allowed tall buildings to be created with a strong steel skeleton. He worked with the ““father of the skyscraper”” William le Baron Jenney in Chicago, studied in Paris, and in

1879 began working with Dankmar Adler. The two architects paired up to become Adler & Sullivan. In the late 1800s, Sullivan designed one of his most famous buildings, the department store in Chicago that became Carson Pirie Scott & Co., and then created a collection of banks and commercial buildings in the Midwest. Sullivan was born in 1856 in Boston to a Swiss-born mother of German, Swiss, and French


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Thomas O’Neill Jr.

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descent and an Irish-born father, both of whom emigrated to America during the late 1840s. His father, Patrick Sullivan, was a dance instructor who came from Cork. Sullivan was raised on his maternal grandparents’’ farm and was not close with his father, about whom he wrote in his memoir that Patrick Sullivan was ““a free-mason and not even sure he was a Catholic or an Orangeman.”” In an article by Adolf Placzek, Louis Sullivan in his youth is described as ““the most Celtic of Celts, if – Kara Rota there is such a thing.””

Georgia O’Keeffe

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FR. BRIAN DULLI

hen Tip O’’Neill coined the phrase ““All politics is local,”” he must have had his childhood home of ““Old Dublin,”” North Cambridge, Massachusetts, in mind. He was born in the Irish middle-class neighborhood in 1912 to Thomas P. O’’Neill Sr. and Rose Tolan O’’Neill. He was educated in Roman Catholic schools and graduated Boston College in 1936. And it was in that same town, at only 15 years old, that Tip got his start in politics, campaigning for Al Smith in the 1928 presidential election. O’’Neill’’s great-great-grandparents Daniel and Catherine O’’Connell moved their family from Ireland to America in the early 19th century. They settled in Portland, Maine, and made their way to North Cambridge, Massachusetts by the 1840s. At that time, the area was on the skirts of the Great Swamp, a vacant landscape with rich deposits of clay. The clay, which could be used to fire bricks, turned Old Cambridge from a rural community into an industrial center. The family prospered and often went back to Ireland to visit relatives in Mallow. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill One daughter, Johanna, had stayed in Ireland during the O’’Connells’’ move, marrying John O’’Neill in 1822. They had five children, including Tip’’s grandfather Patrick, born in 1832. Patrick was only nineteen when he left Ireland in 1851 to join his relatives in North Cambridge. At the height of the famine in Mallow riots broke out and landlords were assassinated. Patrick returned to Mallow in 1858 and married Julia Fox, but quickly returned to America to be with his family. Both Tip O’’Neill’’s grandfather Patrick and father Thomas Sr., born in 1874, made their living as bricklayers in the now heavily Irish community. In 1904, Thomas Sr. married Rose Tolan, a Massachusetts native whose parents had emigrated from Donegal in the 1870s. Tragically, Rose died of tuberculosis nine months after Thomas O’’Neill Jr. was born. Tip was raised by his aunts and a family housekeeper until his father remarried when Tip was seven. Despite early hardships, Tip O’’Neill went on to become one of the most respected members of the U.S. Congress. A Democrat and champion of the working class, O’’Neill is remembered for –Aliah O’Neill his passion for politics and good-natured sense of humor.

eorgia O’’Keeffe’’s grandfather Pierce O’’Keeffe was born in 1800 in County Cork. It wasn’’t until his mid-40s that he was forced to abandon his once thriving family woolen business due to heavy taxation during the Great Famine. Devastated, he and his wife Mary Catherine Shortall O’’Keeffe arrived in New York in the spring of 1848 in search of a new business. The couple traveled by oxcart to Sun Prairie, 100 miles east of the Illinois border. At a dollar an acre, the land was fertile and the O’’Keeffes prospered growing wheat and alfalfa. They had four sons, including Georgia O’’Keeffe’’s father, Francis Calixtus, who was born in 1853. Frank went on to marry the daughter of his neighbors, the Tottos, who had immigrated to Sun Prairie from Hungary in 1872. Their daughter, Georgia, was born in 1887, the second of seven children. A firm believer in education, Ida Totto encouraged her children to not only attend school but also art classes, in which Georgia excelled. After enrolling in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, O’’Keeffe traveled the country taking more art classes and painting the natural landscapes of Texas. She eventually moved to New York and became famous for her large-scale flower paintings. Influenced by the endless horizon of the open land, O’’Keeffe would devote the last fifty years of her life to painting natural images of the Southwest in Abiquiu, New Mexico. She died March 6, 1986 at age 98. –Aliah O’Neill

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John Steinbeck

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n 1953, Collier’’s magazine published ““I Go Back to Ireland,”” a story about John Steinbeck’’s search for his Irish roots. The famed American author traveled to Mulkeraugh, Co. Derry, to trace his ancestry on his maternal grandparents’’ side. He writes in that article, ““Every Irishman –– and that means anyone with one drop of Irish blood –– sooner or later makes a pilgrimage to the home of his ancestors. There he crows and squeals over the wee cot or the houseen, pats mossy rocks, goes into ecstasies over the quaint furniture, and finds it charming that the livestock lives with the family……I have just made such a pilgrimage.”” Steinbeck may have written of the visit with his usual tinge of sarcasm, but he was not without a feeling of romance for his Irish roots: East of Eden, which began as a historical account of his family’’s migration from New England to California, retained one accurate element during its transformation into a work of fiction: one of the main characters, Samuel Hamilton, is named after Steinbeck’’s maternal grandfather (pictured right). The Hamilton Ranch is also the setting for The Red Pony. Samuel Hamilton was born in Ballykelly in 1830. He fled the Famine in 1847 at age 17, landing in New York and marrying an Irish woman named Elizabeth Fagan in 1849. They quickly traveled to California and bought almost 2,000 acres of land in Salinas Valley. There they raised nine children, including Olive Hamilton, Steinbeck’’s mother. She would go on to marry John Steinbeck Sr., who was of German descent. Steinbeck writes of his childhood understanding of Ireland, ““I guess the people of my family thought of Ireland as a green paradise, mother of heroes, where golden people sprang full-flow-

ered from the sod. I don’’t remember my mother actually telling me these things, but she must have given me such an impression of delight. Only kings and heroes came from this Holy Island, and at the very top of the glittering pyramid was our family, the Hamiltons.”” By the time Steinbeck arrived in Ireland in 1952, however, all of the Hamiltons had passed away. It was Samuel Hamilton’’s pioneering spirit that had made the lasting impression on Steinbeck, whose novel East of Eden came out later that year. As Steinbeck said himself, ““Irish blood doesn’’t water down very – Aliah O’Neill well; the strain must be very strong.””

Augustus Saint-Gaudens

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ugustus Saint-Gaudens was an American sculptor of the Beaux-Arts generation who designed Civil War monuments and coins for the U.S. mint. He was born during the Famine era, on March 1, 1848 in Dublin, to an Irish mother and a French father. His mother, Mary McGuiness, was born in Ballymahon, Co. Longford, the daughter of Arthur McGuiness, who worked in a Dublin plaster mill. She and Bernard Saint-Gaudens met in a Dublin shoe factory where they were both employed. Their first two children died in infancy, but their third son, Augustus, survived. In 1848, when he was six months old, they immigrated to New York City on the ship Desdemona. This drawing (pictured right), destroyed in the studio fire of 1904, was done just before Saint-Gaudens first left for Paris. It was described by Saint-Gaudens as ““the possession I treasured most in the world.””

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Augustus grew up in America and, at age 13, was apprenticed to a cameo cutter. Working at the cameo lathe for the next six years, Augustus learned the art of relief work. In 1867, with $100 he had saved, he left for Paris to study art there and in Rome, where he began his career as a professional artist crafting busts and portraits for affluent Americans. His first major commission was in 1876, when he created a monument to Civil War admiral David Farragut in New York’’s Madison Square. He went on to sculpt the Standing Lincoln in Chicago, the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial on Boston Common, the Charles Stewart Parnell monument on Dublin’’s O’’Connell Street, and monuments to General John Logan in Chicago and to General William

Tecumseh Sherman in Central Park. For the Lincoln Centennial in 1909, he created a seated representation of Lincoln which is displayed in Chicago’’s Grant Park. At the start of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt assigned SaintGaudens the task of designing new gold coinage. His twentydollar double eagle gold coin, 1905-1907, is considered the most beautiful American coin ever made. Two major versions of his coins are known as the ““Saint Gaudens High Relief Roman Numerals 1907”” and the ““Saint Gaudens Arabic Numerals 1907––1933.”” Other rare types of SaintGaudens double eagles, minted in 1907, are prized by collectors and valued from $10,000 to millions of dollars. – Kara Rota


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Andy Leonard

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ndy Leonard was the first Irish-born major league baseball player. Born in County Cavan in the Famine year of 1846, he made his debut with the Washington Olympics of the old National Association just before his 25th birthday. He played more than 500 games with the Olympics, Boston Red Stockings, Boston Red Caps and the Cincinnati Reds, retiring with a career batting average of .299 while playing in both the infield and outfield. Other native-born Irishmen who enjoyed relatively lengthy careers include Patsy Donovan, born in County Cork in 1865 and owner of a lifetime .301 batting average and more than 2,200 base hits; ““Dirty Jack”” Doyle (Killorglin, 1869), who drove in nearly 1,000 runs to go along with his .299 average over sixteen seasons; Tommy Bond (Granard, 1856), who won 234 games; and Tony Mullane (Cork, 1859), winner of 284 contests. Michael ““King”” Kelly was a first-generation IrishAmerican baseballist and one of the first ““superstars”” of the game (although such a term had yet to be invented). He was a charming, handsome fellow with a personality that augured well for him away from the diamond. One year he made $2,000 for playing ball but another $3,000 for permission to use his photograph for the team publicity. He toured the vaudeville circuit in the off-season, augmenting his income in excess of $5,000. A song written in his honor –– ““Slide, Kelly, Slide”” –– was one of the most popular tunes of his day. He batted over .300 and used his superb running speed to steal at least 350 bases (records from those days are somewhat incomplete) during his 16-year career (187893). All this earned Kelly a place in baseball's Valhalla, the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The Baltimore Orioles were the bad boys of baseball in the late 1800s, doing whatever it took to win. In those days there was only one umpire to keep track of all the activity and he certainly had his hands full. The Orioles would often trip opposing base runners, grab at their uniforms or hide balls in the field to use in case of emergencies. Among the Irish contingent on that team were John McGraw, Wee Willie Keeler, Big Dan Brouthers, Hugh Jennings and Joe Kelley, all of whom are enshrined in baseball's Hall of Fame. Ned Hanlon, the Orioles' manager, is credited with refining many of the tactics and strategies that have become routine, such as the hit-and-run, the squeeze play and the ““Baltimore chop.”” He must have shown inspiring leadership since several of his crew went on to manage after their playing days came to an end, including McGraw, Kelley, Jennings, Miller Huggins and Wilbert Robinson. – Ron Kaplan

John L. Sullivan

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onsidered the first American sporting celebrity, boxer John L. Sullivan was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1858. His father Michael emigrated from Abbeydorney, in Co. Kerry, and his mother, Catherine Kelly, was from Athelone in Co. Roscommon. He began boxing when the sport was illegal and became the last bare-knuckle heavyweight champ. John had planned to enter the priesthood, but instead began a career as an amateur fighter that took off in 1877 during a performance at Boston’’s Dudley Opera House. Heavyweight Tom Scannel challenged anyone in the audience to last three rounds, and John easily managed the feat. In 1880, the year John fought and defeated Joe Goss, George Rooke and John Donaldson, boxing trainer Mike Donovan wrote that Sullivan was ““the most savage fighter and hardest hitter that ever lived.”” Sullivan went on to dominate the boxing scene until he was beaten in 1892 by Jim Corbett, who became the next heavyweight world champion. Sullivan was the first American IA athlete ever to earn over a million dollars. – Kara Rota JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 75


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Return to Ireland T Mary Pat Kelly writes about the ancestors calling her home.

he kings of Ireland were not inaugurated in Christian churches as were other European monarchs. The chieftains stood on the high hills that enclosed the tombs of their tribal ancestors during the ceremonial rites that made them king. This image, given to us by Eamonn Kelly, keeper of Irish Antiquities, National Museum of Ireland, resonated with our group. We were Irish American, in Ireland to explore the land of our ancestors, hoping to find the place that belonged in a special way to each of us. We spent an amazing two days with Eamonn, known as Ned, and his wife, archaeologist Erin Gibbons and found an insight into the layered richness of a heritage that belonged to us in a more profound sense than we had ever imagined. We were touring sites in Galway important to my historical novel Galway Bay, which was set in A Connemara the years 1839 until 1893. The group contained a number mare named Shee DNA of two children currently enrolled in a local of friends from childhood along with readers of the book I Goath (Fairy school. Both had names long associated with County had never met but responded to the news of this first Wind). As we Clare. We Irish Americans looked at each other and to press, she Galway Bay tour. As each one signed up I urged them to went smiled. Suddenly being away 150 years or less gave birth to a gather as much information about their family history so filly foal which the seemed no time at all. If our ancestors had been here they might be able to do what I had done after many years stables named since the Stone Age, we belonged to the place in a of research –– find the place in Ireland where their people Honora, for Mary more profound way than we had ever understood. Pat’s great-greatwere from and stand on that piece of ground. Two of the grandmother. When writing about the Great Starvation in the group, Mary Lou Queeney and Rosemary Durkin Snyder, novel Galway Bay, the sense of loss and cataclysmic though both from Chicago, did not know each other. tragedy sometimes overwhelmed me. The need to Neither had much information about their Irish connections but bear witness was what kept me going. But now I felt that the each had heard that a cousin was tracing their family roots and ancestors themselves were calling us home as if our very presence would inquire. A week before we left, two excited e-mails came. could heal the immense rift between then and now, here and there. ““I know the town,”” said Mary Lou. ““I found the place,”” wrote Here were people on the tour being guided by distant cousins. Rosemary. ““Bohola, County Mayo,”” they each reported. What are I had connected with Erin and Ned because my great-greatthe odds? grandmother Honora was the daughter of John Keeley, a fisherDuring the trip Mary Lou would attend Mass in the church man, in Barna, County Galway. But I couldn’’t find any more where her great-grandparents were married and still living in the Keeleys in the area. When I discovered that a cluster of Keeleys family home. They would show her the marriage certificate and who emigrated to Chicago were from the Ard peninsula near she would discover that one of the witnesses, a cousin of hers, was Carna in Connemara I went to investigate. The Keeleys were once also a cousin of Rosemary’’s. Both families came from adjoining lords of Connemara and when I saw the beautiful area that was townlands, and Rosemary and Mary Lou were related. their stronghold, I decided that I’’d love for these to be my kin. I But now, as we listened to Ned’’s speech, the real significance met Padraic Keeley who graciously allowed that, yes, we could be of finding one’’s place emerged. The kings seemed to gather their cousins –– somehow. Another visit brought an e-mail from Erin strength from a physical connection to the land, literally standing Keeley Gibbons who was related to Padraic and married to Ned on the shoulders of those who went before. Ned told us that most Kelly. She is working on a history of the Keeleys and has excavatfamily names in Ireland could be traced to particular locations ed many significant sites in the area and throughout Ireland. She where families had lived, possibly since the Stone Age. His own arranged for Ned to give a presentation on the Bog Bodies, one of Kellys had been in the Dublin mountains since ancient times. He the many subjects on which he is an expert. The most famous told us of a remarkable incident in County Clare where the DNA corpse, the Gallagh Man, comes from right near the ruins of the taken from ancient remains found in a cave matched exactly the stronghold of 14th-century William Boy O’’Kelly, famous for the 76 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010


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Clockwise starting at top left: A monastery on St. MacDara’s Island. Mary Pat touring a local pub. Mary Pat speaking with schoolchildren at Castle Blakeney Heritage Center. Mary Pat with Sister Maire MacNiallais. The group gathered at an abbey. Mary Pat and the group on St. MacDara’s Island.

nine-month party he hosted. In Irish ““Fáilte UíÌ Cheallaigh”” still means a very warm welcome. I chose Gallagh, now Castle Blakeney, as the home place of Michael Kelly, the character based on my great-great-grandfather. Our group had that day visited the Heritage Center where its director, Valerie Kensella, true to the tradition of hospitality, gave us apple tarts and a concert by the All-Ireland contestant singers of St. Cuan’’s College. And now Ned Kelly, a renowned authority and editor of a forthcoming book on the Bog Bodies had travelled to us to share his knowledge. Fáilte UíÌ Cheallaigh, indeed! For me, who’’d been piecing together my understanding of Ireland bit by bit over forty years and had often struggled with text, alone and confused, Ned and Erin were a gift and a revelation. Our whole group felt it. They have the knowledge in such an organic way, and combine scholarship with deep personal connections, that they seem to illuminate every subject. They made us see the landscape itself differently. Through her friend Martin O’’Malley, Erin even arranged a boat trip to MacDara’’s Island, site of an important scene in Galway Bay. And then she told me that another scene I had set on an island on Ballynahinch had more relevance than I even

realized. I’’d emphasized the castle belonging to Grace O’’Malley situated there without realizing that that same island had once been a Keeley stronghold. Another one of our guides was Sister Maire MacNiallais, the keeper of the church archives in Galway, who had found Honora’’s baptismal record in an 1822 ledger. She spoke to our whole group about the responsibility she feels to help Irish Americans connect to their ancestors. They deserve to be remembered. So even if the resting places are unmarked, and if some of our great-great-great-aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers lie in the mass graves with other victims of the Great Starvation, when we return we honor them. Just as the kings of Ireland found strength standing on the bones of their ancestors, IA so will we. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 77


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The Road to the

White House

Mastery of urban politics helped the Irish rise from huddled masses to the heights of political power. By Peter Quinn

78 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

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A

n Gorta Mór, the devastating Famine that drove over one-and-a-half million Irish to America, put in place the foundations of the Irish-American community for the next 120 years. The Famine immigrants were a deeply rural people. Endowed with few material resources or capital and little or no education, the great majority were utterly unprepared for instant immersion into some of the fastest-industrializing cities in the world. Yet, politically, the Irish had the advantage of having undergone a process of political initiation that was, at the time, unique in Western Europe. The administration in Dublin, controlled from London, was often remote and, in places, fiercely resisted. But beginning in the 1820s, with his groundbreaking campaign for Catholic emancipation and in his subsequent drive for repeal of the union with Great Britain, Daniel O’’Connell created one of the first mass political movements. O’’Connell’’s hopes for repeal were crushed by government coercion and the start of the Great Hunger. But as the massive exodus of Irish got underway, with a quarter of the country emigrating in the single decade from 1845-55, the memory of the Famine would prove indelible and the experience of political organization under O’’Connell, invaluable. The disruptions and dislocations suffered by Famine immigrants were often devastating, and the welcome they found in America was anything but warm. Instantly suspect for their religion and poverty, their presence helped spur a

fierce backlash that led to the formation of the anti-immigrant American Party, the largest third-party movement in American history. Yet under the democratic reforms brought about under President Andrew Jackson, the vote had been extended to all white males and the unintended beneficiaries were the Famine Irish. Crowded into the worst slums in North America, they had the advantage of being able to use their numbers to engineer voting pluralities and push their way ahead. While New York’’s Tammany Hall was the most famous –– or infamous –– IrishAmerican political machine, the rise of the Irish through urban mass politics is a story common to American cities from

Chicago to Jersey City, from Albany to Philadelphia, from Kansas City to Boston. The big-city boss –– ““If I were a Republican,”” said Kansas City’’s Tom Prendergast, ““they’’d call me a leader”” –– not only exemplified the strengths and weaknesses of Irish machine politics, but was influential in forming coalitions that reached out to other ethnic groups, helped build the modern Democratic Party, and brought Franklin Delano Roosevelt to power and, eventually, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Tammany was invented by native-born American Protestants. Aaron Burr first staked out Tammany’’s territory among the urban working and lower classes, and William Tweed built the Hall’’s founda-


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Opposite page: Inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, January 20, 1961. Left: Tammany Hall & 14th St. West, New York City, 1914. Below: John Kelly, circa 1880.

the machine running so well that Richard Croker, his presumed (though unnamed) successor, walked into the Hall, sat at his desk and took command.

T tions as a champion of the immigrant poor. But John Kelly, the leader who picked up the pieces after Tweed’’s colossal fall, set in place the organizational machine that would endure and prosper for the next half-century. ““Kelly,”” one observer noted, ““found a mob and left an army.”” Kelly was born in 1822, the son of Irish immigrants, raised in poverty in the city’’s lower wards, and made a name for himself as a boxer, actor and volunteer fireman. As well as prospering in his business as a grate-setter and ironmonger, he took an early interest in politics. Elected alderman in 1853 and Congressman in 1854 –– the same year as Tweed –– Kelly was the only Catholic member of the House of Representatives at a time when the nativist agitation against Irish Catholics in particular was reaching its height. (Boston wouldn’’t elect its first Irish-Catholic Congressman until 1880.) Elected sheriff of New York County in 1858, a position often associated with wanton plundering, Kelly proved upright enough to earn the name (some said it was self-conferred) ““Honest John.”” He kept his distance from the Tweed Ring and, shattered by the death of his wife and son, was recuperating in Europe when the Tammany Hall scandal broke. Some thought that Tammany wouldn’’t survive the Tweed debacle. But Honest John accepted the position of Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall –– the first Irishman in that role. He was ideal for the job. As well as untainted by the Tweed

Ring, he’’d come up through the streets and knew firsthand the needs and expectations of immigrant voters, particularly the Irish. In rebuilding Tammany, Honest John laid down three enduring principles of machine politics: leadership, loyalty and money. The Boss called the shots. He collected the assessments –– a percentage of future earnings –– from those who were nominated to run or appointed to public office. Beneath the Boss was the widening pyramid of district leaders, precinct captains and ward heelers, so that, at its base, the machine covered not just every district and ward but every block and tenement. In many ways, the ward heelers and precinct captains were interpreters, acting as intermediaries between newly arrived, still-disoriented immigrants and the distant monolith of government. Often enough, they were the government, fulfilling all the legal and social-welfare functions that would later be assumed by public agencies. Loyalty flowed both ways, from the Boss down through the ranks whose success at turning out the vote was rewarded with jobs for themselves and patronage for their troops. They, in turn, stuck by the leader, the ultimate source of the vital resource that kept the machine running: money. When Kelly died in 1886, he had

o one degree or another, the IrishAmerican political machine, wherever it took root, was built on the same enduring search for security that followed the trauma of the Famine and its consequences. What William Kennedy wrote about the political machine the Irish built in Albany could just as easily apply to Honest John’’s machine in New York or Hinky Dink Kenna’’s organization in Chicago’’s First Ward: ““There was only one crime and that was going hungry. They would never let that happen again.”” Tammany and its brethren were often accused of employing a strategy of ““bread and circuses”” to woo and hold ignorant immigrant voters. There’’s truth to that charge as long as the strategy is given its due. The bread was often badly needed, and frequently no one else was going to provide it. And the circuses were more than mere circuses. All those parades, clambakes, beefsteak dinners, Fourth of July boat rides, beer rackets –– which reformers loathed and looked down on –– brought light, color and enjoyment to slum dwellers whose opportunities for such things were limited at best. These entertainments were also touchstones in process of acculturation that brought immigrants of different backgrounds together to celebrate as one community. The machine was designed to meet adhoc needs. It never spawned think tanks or academic affiliates. Beyond George Washington Plunkitt’’s rants, it nurtured no writers or philosophers. It had little interest in national monetary policy or the country’’s foreign relations. The machine was parochial, profoundly so, as JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 79


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grass roots as it was possible to get, infiltrating each neighborhood, linking every block and tenement to the Hall with multiple connecting lines, attentive to the here-and-now needs of the immigrant voters who shaped and sustained it. Amid the debates over the gold standard and the free coinage of silver, which animated much of the national political debates of the 1890s, Tammany boss Richard Croker remarked dismissively, ““I’’m in favor of all kinds of money. The more the better.”” ““The abstract ideas of political honesty and efficiency played no part in the scheme of things,”” one Tammany veteran wrote of the Hall. ““Politics was not discussed in terms of principles, platforms, or ideas. A leader was either a good man or a bad man. A good man took care of his constituents, supplied them……with jobs; he paid rents and prevented evictions. If he didn’’t live up to these standards, he was a bad man……and was not destined to last very long……”” The truth behind Tammany Hall’’s rich and complex history of electoral success as opposed to the black legend of Tammany as the incarnation of everything evil and reprehensible in American urban politics was perhaps never better framed than by Boss Charles Francis Murphy. ““When Tammany can elect its candidate so often in a city of 6,000,000 inhabitants,”” Murphy told the New York World, ““in a city of intelligence, in a city dotted all over by the church spire and the school house, it seems silly to use the time-worn campaign cry that there is nothing good but everything corrupt in Tammany.”” Murphy’’s parents came to New York from Ireland in 1848, at the height of the An Ghorta Mhóir. Born in 1858, the second of nine children, he grew up in the Gas House District on Manhattan’’s East Side, a densely packed working-class neighborhood. Murphy was steeped in the life of immigrant New York and the post-Famine culture of urban Irish America. He was five when the Draft Riots tore the city apart and by age 13, the year of the Orange Riots, he was working in a wire factory. In 1875, he landed a job driving a Manhattan horsecar, and was saved from spending perhaps a lifetime in that position by the name he made for himself as an amateur baseball player. A popular local figure, he raised enough money to open his first saloon in 1880. The path from saloonkeeper to politics was 80 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

already well trod, and Murphy’’s reputation for athletic prowess, likeability and keeping his word all helped make him local district leader. Murphy didn’’t buck Croker’’s leadership of the Hall, but he ran his fiefdom his own way, without the thuggery and often blatant corruption in which Croker’’s lieutenants indulged. When Croker finally departed, he, like Tweed, left the Hall in disarray. After a brief experiment with a triumvirate, leadership passed to Murphy. The contrast with Croker was dramatic. A man of so few words he was popularly known as ““the silent boss,”” Murphy once told Jimmy Walker that ““most of the troubles of the world could be avoided, if men opened their minds instead of their mouths.”” He avoided the conspicuous sporting life of Dick Croker and, according to his biographer, there was never any question about ““the moral blamelessness of his personal affairs.”” Except for a brief stint as a commissioner of docks, Murphy never held any public office, but no Tammany sachem before or after ever wielded as much power. He elected three governors (and had one of them, William Sulzer, impeached), three mayors, two senators, and innumerable judges, aldermen, assemblymen and congressmen. He successfully battled the greatest press baron of his day, William Randolph Hearst, and took Tammany to the threshold of the White House. Where Croker was distant and dictatorial, Murphy was involved and supportive. According to one contemporary, Murphy ““played umpire, not dictator,”” and though he relied on Tammany’’s everyday ranks of undistinguished ward heelers and party stalwarts, he went out of his way to promote men of talent to the top. Among them were U.S. Senator Robert Wagner and New York Governor Al Smith, two of the most capable and progressive political leaders in American history. In Al Smith, Murphy believed he might even be able to do the unimaginable and put an Irish Catholic in the White House. Murphy didn’’t start out as a reformer in the traditional sense. Reform stood for efficiency and economy in government, for the provision of public services through government agencies that acted with administrative neutrality, and the staffing of public jobs through a rigorous, non-political process of Civil Service

testing. While he put an end to Tammany’’s alliance with gamblers and brothel owners, reigned in the wanton, flagrant corruption that Croker both blessed and participated in, and promoted honest men like Wagner and Smith, Murphy wasn’’t about to obliterate the Hall’’s powers of patronage, which was the very basis of the machine. The bond between Tammany and its constituents depended on profligacy and generosity, not efficiency and economy. The people have the right to expect, as James Michael Curley of Boston put it, ““something nobler and higher than thrift in the man they elect.”” When in need, the poor didn’’t want to suffer the interrogation of by-the-book professionals. They wanted to turn to people like themselves who didn’’t require a list of assets or reams of paperwork before they offered assistance. The contractors who regularly feasted on work steered their way by Tammany knew that, given their ethnic backgrounds and upstart operations, they’’d probably be out of the running in


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grants, was the one he always identified with, though his father was a mix of Italian-German). He grew up on the Lower East Side. Born in 1873, Al Smith got no further in school than an eighth-grade education, but he too proved his worth on the streets, as an amateur actor and a worker at the Fulton Fish Market. He had the talents of a natural politician, and before long his local leader, Big Tom Foley, nominated him for state assembly. Unsure at first, feeling out of place among legislators far better educated and experienced than he, Smith gradually rose to the challenge and became a master of the assembly’’s rules and procedures. By 1911, eight years after Top Left: Charles F. Murphy. Left: Puck Magazine’s view of “Honest John” Kelly. Above: Al Smith waves to crowds, 1928. Right: New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, State Governor Al Smith, and unidentified grand old men of the Tammany/Democratic political machine, c.1920s.

an open competition against long-established, tightly managed firms run by well-trained professionals. Tammany’’s supporters wanted a leg up, not a laissezfaire market. Murphy appreciated and rewarded the loyalty of Tammany braves as part of the enduring underpinnings of the Hall’’s power. But he also recognized that as America transformed itself into a hugely dynamic and impersonal industrial behemoth, the old-style politics couldn’’t suffice. Neither handouts, nor baskets of coal, nor patronage jobs, nor even ad-hoc interventions by local leaders could protect the masses against the concentrated power of corporations and industrial combines or meet the long-term needs of millions of aged, disabled, underprivileged and unemployed. Yet if Tammany didn’’t do something to help address these problems, Murphy came to realize, other organizations would and the Hall would shrivel into irrelevancy. The standard-bearer of Murphy’’s new form of machine politics was Al Smith. Like Murphy, Smith was a poor kid of Irish ancestry. (The Irish ethnicity of Smith’’s mother, Catherine Mulvehill, herself the daughter of Famine immi-

being elected, he was the speaker. With Murphy’’s backing, Smith began to advance an increasingly progressive agenda that included the country’’s first compulsory workmen’’s compensation law. If there’’s a moment from which to date the evolution of Tammany from a local political machine –– which reflected the defensive crouch of Famine immigrants determined to deliver themselves from attempts by their soi-disant moral betters to control and shape their behavior –– into an aggressive national force for progressive social change, it was March 25, 1911. On that day, 146 garment workers, mostly young Jewish and Italian women, perished in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, in lower Manhattan. As a state legislator, writes Smith biographer Robert Slayton, ““Smith had learned about the nuts and bolts of the political system, [but] what he lacked was a cause, a rationale for using that expertise. The Triangle Fire would provide that and more, as it would fundamentally alter how he viewed the very role of government in American life.”” Three months after the fire, the legislature set up a nine-man Factory

Investigating Commission to examine working conditions across the entire state. The chairman and vice-chairman were Senate Majority Leader Robert Wagner and Assembly Speaker Al Smith. (Cynics dubbed them ““The Tammany Twins””). The commission was exacting in its investigations and eventually produced over 25 bills. The resulting legislation revolutionized the work place and created protections and safety measures that extended the role of government in unprecedented ways. It didn’’t stop there. The legislature moved ahead on everything from the passage of once-unthinkable stock market regulations to widow’’s pensions and public power, from the state primaries to the direct election of U.S. senators. ““By blessing the Factory Investigating Commission and endorsing the vote for women,”” concludes David Von Drehle in Triangle: The Fire That Changed America, ““Murphy helped chart the future of American liberalism……In the generation after the Triangle fire, urban Democrats became America’’s working-class, progressive party.”” Under Murphy and Smith, Tammany became an agent of progressive change, and given New York’’s position in the American economy, the influence of legislation passed in Albany had national impact. Murphy raised no objections when Smith brought Jewish progressives like Belle Moskowitz and Robert Moses into his inner circle; Murphy was, said Ed Flynn, ““as vitally interested in Smith’’s social reforms as anyone around the Governor.”” But his motivation was always practical rather than ideological. He believed that using the power of the state to improve people’’s lives in material ways –– guaranteeing decent working conditions, shielding workers from injuries, regulating the employment of women and children, protecting the old from falling into poverty, extending public education –– was, quite simply, good politics. In 1918, Al Smith was elected governor of New York State. He lost his bid for reelection in 1920, but was returned to office in 1922 and served until 1928. During those years, he continued to build on his progressive record in the assembly. He overhauled and modernized the entire structure of state government, bringing it into the twentieth century; passed massive JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 81


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bond issues for hospitals, housing, roads; undertook a dramatic expansion of state parks and invested new funds in education. A model for the kind of dynamic government action that Franklin Roosevelt would undertake as president, Smith’’s achievements have often been referred to as ““the Little New Deal.”” Al Smith’’s outstanding legislative record and achievements as governor brought him national attention. Murphy was soon convinced that putting a loyal Tammany man, a Catholic no less, in the White House –– a notion that a few years before would have been unthinkable –– was now eminently achievable. Smith shared his ambition. He believed very deeply that the urban immigrant community he represented and took pride in was ready to assume its rightful place in the country’’s democratic equation. However premature or naïve such confidence may have been, Murphy didn’’t live to see the result. He died suddenly in 1924, shortly before the Democrats met in New York for their convention. Smith went ahead with his bid for the nomination. After a bitter deadlock that lasted a record 103 ballots, the convention settled on a compromise candidate. More ominous was the failure of the convention to adopt a plank strongly condemning a reborn and

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President John F. Kennedy speaking at his inauguration.

indelible identity as an Irish pol and his classic ““New Yawk”” accent –– available for the first time to millions of voters via radio –– didn’’t endear him to rural Americans and helped generate a Republican landslide of historic proportions. In the aftermath, Murphy’’s machine seemed to come apart. Smith grew bitter and resentful toward his successor as governor, Franklin Roosevelt, and drifted

“There was only one crime and that was going hungry. They

would never let that happen again.”

widely influential Ku Klux Klan. Four years later, in 1928, Smith secured the nomination. Given the high-octane prosperity of the ““Roaring Twenties,”” which was then at its height, any Democratic candidate would have an uphill battle. But Smith wasn’’t any candidate, and the heights he faced weren’’t so much steep as un-scalable. The Party itself was deeply fractured. While many urban ethnics like Smith saw Prohibition as a nativist power play by rural Protestant America, as grossly unfair as it was unrealistic and unenforceable, a large part of the agrarian populist wing was devoted to it. The weight of economic good times gave the Republicans an advantage that under the best of circumstances would have been difficult to overcome. But in combination with a widespread, vocal, often hateful revival of old-time suspicions about Catholic loyalties, Smith’’s 82 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

away from the Democratic Party. Another of Murphy’’s protégés was the brilliant, witty, debonair Jimmy Walker, perhaps the most naturally talented politician Tammany ever produced. His combination of New York street smarts, intellectual wattage, Irish charm and jazz-age sophistication made ““Beau James”” one of the most popular mayors in the city’’s history. Unfortunately for Walker, however, he was elected mayor the year after Murphy died. ““The brains of Tammany now lie in Calvary Cemetery,”” lamented Walker after Murphy’’s death. Worse, Tammany’’s conscience lay there, too. Walker’’s charm couldn’’t cover the fact that the corruption Murphy had worked so hard to contain if not eradicate was once again out of control, and as the cold realities of the Depression set in, the public rapidly lost its tolerance for Jimmy’’s fast and easy ways. The revelations made by the Seabury investigation and a public hear-

T

ing in front of Governor Roosevelt in Albany led to Walker’’s resignation as mayor in 1932. Tammany’’s subsequent history is a shadow of what came before, but Murphy’’s legacy didn’’t end with the eclipse of Tammany. Murphy had anointed another important protégé in Ed Flynn, the leader of the Bronx Democratic organization, who was proud of the fact that ““whatever knowledge of politics I have I learned through Mr. Murphy.”” Much as Murphy had recreated Tammany after Croker, Flynn represented the next iteration in the machine’’s evolution from engine of post-Famine reorganization to key player in the coalition that would empower F.D.R. and the New Deal, and elect J.F.K. president.

he nomination in 1960 of John Kennedy as the Democratic presidential candidate was the culmination of the process of reorganization that defined the post-Famine experience of Irish America. The descendant of Famine immigrants and Irish-American pols (his maternal grandfather, John Fitzgerald –– aka ““Honey Fitz”” –– was the mayor of Boston), Kennedy was not only handsome, articulate and a war hero, he was also a product of exclusive prep schools and Harvard University. On the surface he bore little resemblance to politicians like Al Smith. For all his upper-class finesse and Ivy League polish, however, there was never any doubt that John Kennedy was an Irish Catholic. As Tom Maier makes clear in his enlightening book, The Kennedys: America’’s Emerald Kings, J.F.K. had a thorough grasp of Irish history and a deep appreciation of his own family’’s place in the journey out of Famine Ireland into America. Professor Lawrence McCaffrey, the dean of Irish-American history, has identified the common denominator among Irish-American pols this way: ““The famous Irish political style was shaped by Irish history, Catholic communal values, and confrontations with British imperialism and colonialism. In their efforts to free themselves……the Irish learned to compete within the context of the Anglo-Protestant political system.”” Beginning with Daniel O’’Connell and continuing in America, writes McCaffrey, ““they became particularly adroit in the techniques of mass agita-


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tion, political organization and confrontation, and liberal-democratic politics.”” The makings of Kennedy’’s historic victory rose out of this Irish insistence on retaining their identity while refusing to accept second-class citizenship. At the heart of the matter would always be the catastrophe of the Famine. It was the great divide –– an economic and existential upheaval that transformed the landscape of Ireland and the mindscape of the Irish, both at home and in the diaspora that it helped bring about. A physical wound and psychic humiliation, it dwarfed the effects of any battlefield rout. Whether spoken about or not, the Famine was always there, embedded in Irish America’’s very foundations, in ambitions, fears, doubts, in the expectations Irish Americans passed to their children, in how they worshipped and worked, in their religious, educational and social organizations and, above all, in their politics. The experience of political initiation under O’’Connell took on new meaning and significance in the trans-Atlantic passage to America. Nobody has spoken more movingly of that passage and what it meant than J.F.K. In testament to history’’s love of improbable outcomes, this great-grandson of Famine emigrants, who a century and a quarter before left a wrecked, enfeebled province of a globe-girding empire for an uncertain future in a country that held their condition pitiable and their religion contemptible, became the first sitting President of the United States to visit Ireland and address the parliament of what was now an independent nation. In his speech to the Dail in 1963, Kennedy said, ““……no country contributed more to building my own than your sons and daughters. They came to our shores in a mixture of hope and agony, and I would not underrate the difficulties of their course once they arrived in the United States. They left behind hearts, fields, and a nation yearning to be free. It is no wonder that James Joyce described the Atlantic as a bowl of bitter tears. And an earlier poet wrote, ‘‘They are going, going, going, and we cannot bid them stay.’’”” In the long perspective of history, the Irish recovery was swift. But it was a trying, difficult century for those who labored against poverty and prejudice in America, and against the underlying ““cosmic insecurity”” that the Famine instilled. On their journey to the White House, Irish Americans had to build and pave a road that no minority group had ever before

traveled. Progress was often uncertain; the slights and suspicions hurled against them, hurtful. There were no precedents to follow. They had to muster the resources of political will and organizational skill to break down barriers of class and religion, to manage the trick of staying Irish while becoming American and to forge coalitions capable of asserting the rights of working-class immigrants against economic and social elites. The political machines built –– or, in many cases, adapted –– by Irish leaders like Murphy in New York or O’’Connell in Albany or the Pendergasts in Kansas City (all of them the descendants of Famine immigrants) were anti-millennial. Politics, Tom Pendergast was fond of saying, is concerned with ““things as they are.”” The machines cared nothing about ultimate goals or societal transformations. Their concerns were immediate and ruthlessly quotidian. Their tactics were practical (if not always legal) and their thinking was never ideological. They had none of the Marxist philosophy that shaped many German and Jewish immigrants, and dreams of revolution never reached the drawing board. In their origins, the machines were defensive organizations, part of an immigrant community’’s attempt to regroup and reorganize itself in the wake of a catastrophe that caused the greatest concentration of civilian suffering and death in Western Europe between the Thirty Years’’ War and World War II. They were an answer to the powerlessness and humiliation experienced by people whose daily existence had long depended on institutions and rulers over whom they had exerted no control. The machines shouldn’’t be romanticized. There’’s no doubt they were riddled with corruption (and the corruption often grew worse at moments when the entire country was off on one of its financial benders or when a strange interlude like Prohibition made illegality easy and lucrative). There’’s also no doubt that, as well as serving up some extraordinary political figures like Charles Murphy and Al Smith, the machines added a degree of practicality and democratic realism to American politics. In the long run they served their primary purpose, giving the Irish and other immigrants space to reorganize apart from the control of Anglo-Saxon ruling classes and assisting their passage into America. The machines eventually went away not because they were corrupt or

Suggested reading (more representative than comprehensive) on the origins, operation and denouement of the IrishAmerican political machine: • The Rascal King:The Life and Times of James Michael Curley (1874-1958) by Jack Beatty • The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings by Thomas Maier • Empire Statesman:The Rise and Redemption of Al Smith by Robert A. Slayton • King of the Bowery: Big Tim Sullivan, Tammany Hall, and New York City from the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era by Richard F. Welch • Charles Francis Murphy, 1858-1924: Respectability and Responsibility in Tammany Politics by Nancy Joan Weiss • Roscoe, A Novel by William Kennedy • Alfred E. Smith:The Happy Warrior by Christopher Finan • Paddy Whacked:The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster by T. J. English • Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics by William L. Riordan • Mysteries of My Father by Thomas Fleming • Boss Tweed:The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York by Kenneth T. Ackerman • On the Irish Waterfront:The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York by James Fisher • Robert F.Wagner and the Rise of Urban Liberalism by Joseph Huthmacher

intrinsically evil but because they’’d served their purpose and weren’’t needed anymore. The magic moment came with J.F.K.’’s inauguration as president. Irish Americans, once despised as immiscible outsiders whose presence threatened the very future of the American republic, were now quintessential insiders. ““After Jack Kennedy, anything was possible,”” writes William Kennedy. ““Goddammit, we’’ve been president, and you can’’t hold us back anymore.”” In a wider sense, the long-standing notion that America’’s highest elective office was forever reserved for one group of Americans to the exclusion of all others had been dispelled. In traveling the road they did, Irish Americans had opened that road for others to travel. IA JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 83


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The Educator

In the tradition of great educators who helped the Irish grab the first rungs on the ladder of success, Dr. John Lahey, President of Quinnipiac University, reminds us from whence we came and the struggle to get where we are. As founder of Quinnipiac’’s Great Hunger collection, he is the guardian of a remarkable treasure of history that we can’’t escape. By Kara Rota.

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s president of Quinnipiac ine, no art was produced, reporting that or Kinealy’’s book, This Great Calamity, in University for the past 23 years, commemorating that at all. . . . So it’’s real1995. When you see the painstaking John Lahey has played a vital ly just beginning something that really detail that she went to in terms of the role in educating the public about should’’ve been done 150 years ago, that research and talking about the food and the story of the Great Hunger. under more normal circumstances the shipments on the boats and the Through his appearances as Grand would’’ve taken place and so that’’s why records, you see that for a five year periMarshal of New York’’s St. Patrick’’s Day it’’s important to do it now.”” od of time, in fact, very little was done to Parade in 1997 and the Great Hunger Lahey’’s roots are in Knockglossmore, a ease the suffering, the ports were not Lender Family Special closed. . . . Food was shipped Collection at Quinnipiac that out of Ireland in increasing came into existence soon amounts in the years of the afterward, Lahey has champiFamine. …… [When] I was oned the need for the history approached to be Grand of An Gorta Mór to be accuMarshal of the St. Patrick’’s rately and completely told. Day Parade in 1997, I wanted Quinnipiac’’s trove is one of to make the Great Hunger the the most extensive collections theme of the parade that year. of art and literature in I didn’’t think my own Irish America devoted to Ireland’’s life was all that interesting; a Great Famine. lot of the Grand Marshals talk Lahey recently wrote a letabout themselves, but being ter to The Wall Street Journal the educator I am, I wanted to in response to a column by use that opportunity and that William McGurn, ““My Wild platform to talk about the Irish Woes,”” which asserted Great Hunger, so I did. …… that Great Hunger memorials From January 1 to March 17, emphasize defeat rather than all the Irish organizations, the pride, and explained his need county organizations, the to clarify his disagreement AOHs, they all have their with McGurn’’s stance. ““I’’m annual events and they invite an educator, so I think accu- Dr. John Lahey, center, with Marvin and Murray Lender who made the Grand Marshal. Literally, rate historical facts and expla- Quinnipiac’s Great Hunger collection possible. I think there were almost 200 nations of events and history are importown outside of Tralee in Kerry. His invitations. So, I went and I talked.”” tant,”” said Lahey. ““It’’s a fact of the paternal grandfather, Daniel Lahey, was Lahey’’s speeches brought the issue of Famine that the story wasn’’t told accurateborn there and emigrated to Canada and the Great Hunger to the attention of ly, it wasn’’t told in a balanced way. The then to New York City. His grandfather Murray Lender, a Jewish immigrant Irish were citizens of the UK, and clearly was a stonemason and brought the trade whose father fled persecution in Poland, the [English government] showed a calto America, where Lahey’’s father worked came to New Haven, and started a bagel lous disregard for human life and basicalas a bricklayer in New York. Daniel business that became Lender’’s Bagels, a ly used a tragedy that wasn’’t of their makLahey married Agnes Roche from Cork. multi-hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars ing, in the sense that it was the potato failLahey’’s mother’’s family were Griffins, company that was ultimately sold to Kraft ure itself, and allowed it to be used for from County Clare, all areas that were approximately 15 years ago. ““While I was land reform and other economic and politaffected deeply by the Great Hunger. giving all these speeches [as Grand ical desires on their part. They allowed a In 1997, when Lahey was asked to Marshal], he came to me and said, ‘‘John, million and a half people to die of starvaserve as Grand Marshal of the St. it’’s just amazing to me, this story of the tion and another two million plus to leave, Patrick’’s Day Parade in New York City, Great Hunger.’’ You could tell that he and basically decimated the country. None he decided to use the platform to speak associated it with persecution of the Jews of that was really told; as you can imagabout the Famine. ““I read Christine and other ethnic groups, African 84 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010


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Americans, Native Americans, in this country, and he said, ‘‘I’’ll give you a gift for the library but it’’s got to be for the Irish Great Hunger special collection. You go out and tell me what you need to do and collect the art and get the research materials and the books and periodicals, and I and my brother, Marvin Lender, we’’ll take care of it.’’”” With this outside help, Lahey began collecting materials for the Quinnipiac collection of Famine works. ““[Rowan Gillespie’’s] The Victim was my first piece. I literally carried it back on the plane [from Ireland] with me, I wouldn’’t let it go. It is such a powerful piece; the facial expression captures everything about the suffering and pain. Later in that same summer, we went back to Ireland, to a Westport art show and I saw Margaret Chamberlain’’s sculpture of people with psychological problems and I could just tell that she was an artist who was able to capture the torment, and I commissioned her to do the original piece The Leave-taking. ““Another powerful piece we have is a miniature version of John Behan’’s The Famine Ship, the original of which sits at the foot of Croagh Patrick. I can remember when I first saw it. I was with my son and we parked the car in the parking lot. It’’s a bit of a walk to get to it. It’’s very big, and it looks from a distance like a sailing ship, but it wasn’’t until I got pretty close to it that I could see the skeletons stretched across it.”” The collection has since outgrown the space that was originally set aside for it, and Lahey plans an expansion for the near future that will bring it to the attention of a larger public. ““We own a good sized building on Whitney Avenue and we have some people in there right now, some different offices, but our plan is to move them out over the next few years and to turn that into a Great Hunger Art Museum. It’’s not going to be the size of Yale’’s

British Museum but it will allow us to display much more of the collection than we’’re currently able to display . The other thing is that it will be more accessible to

Above: Gerry Adams and Dr. John Lahey pictured in Quinnipiac Special Collection Room. Right: The Victim sculpture by Rowan Gillespie.

the public. Now they have to literally come on the center of campus so we don’’t get quite the visitation we’’d really like to get. Whitney Avenue is a very public place, the main street which runs all the way from Hartford to New Haven. We can get very public signage and there’’s plenty of parking there and that will allow the collection to be much more accessible and we can have public events there and so on.”” Lahey sees the Great Hunger collection as a way to depict the importance of human intervention in crises that stem from natural causes. ““We need to educate people that many of these things were just, unfortunately, human beings not reacting in ways that they could have, not having the right amount of compassion or political will. If you think of the recent experience in this country with Hurricane Katrina, you can’’t blame anyone for the

hurricane itself, that’’s the natural cause of it, but the ineptitude and callousness of the response of the federal government and local authorities and others just turned a crisis into a true disaster. ……When you’’re dealing with life and death and people displaced and homeless and starving and health issues, you need to throw the rules out the window and as a society come together –– that’’s why even during the Great Hunger, the English argue, ‘‘well, that was the approach back in those days, laissez faire policy, and sure they could’’ve closed the ports but that was private food’’ –– well, no, that’’s what we should’’ve done. And there were actually incidents prior to that in Ireland where it was handled much better. The subsistence crisis back in the 18th century is not remembered at all because of that, as opposed to how the Great Hunger almost fifty years later was mishandled.”” In his years overseeing the Great Hunger collection and giving tours of its contents, Lahey recalls one visitor’’s reaction that stands out for him. ““We had Gerry Adams speak at Quinnipiac. I brought him down to the library and I started to do my normal presentation, you know, this is John Behan’’s piece of art, this is one that we commissioned from Margaret Chamberlain and so on, and then I walked him over and said this is Rowan Gillespie’’s piece, The Victim. Then I went on and I was on to the next one before I looked back and Gerry Adams was standing there, he couldn’’t move. He was just overwhelmed by, I think, the fact that a university that he didn’’t know particularly anything about in Connecticut would have a collection dedicated to the Great Hunger. And the power of that piece. I think people seeing the collection for the first time, they’’re very clearly moved by IA it.”” JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 85


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Education and Debate Maureen Murphy and Martin Mullin talk to Tara Dougherty about teaching American students about the Great Hunger.

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t has been nearly ten years since New York State released a new human rights curriculum, which would include, alongside its existing subjects of North American slave trade and the European Holocaust, the Great Irish Famine. Dr. Maureen Murphy, a professor at Hofstra University who specializes in the areas of Irish folklore, Irish literature and Irish history, is the director of the Great Irish Famine curriculum for schools in New York State, and as such she was among those who took on the task of creating this curriculum in a way which extended beyond memorizing facts about emigration or potato blights. The source material ranges from personal letters to population graphs and the questions are designed to challenge stu-

lessness are still in the world today and identify what the different outreaches that are available to those [in need] today.”” Prior to the efforts to include the Irish Famine in social studies classes in New York schools, James Mullin, a former teacher, lobbied to have Irish potato famine included in the genocide curriculum of the state’’s public schools, along with Native American history, North American slavery, the Ukrainian starvation, the Armenian genocide and the killing fields of Cambodia. Mullin believed that the British deliberately set out to destroy the Irish race by exporting food products out of the country, and he wanted students and teachers to decide if that constituted genocide. ““While the Irish starved and were evicted for non payment of rent, the British were exporting beef and other products out of the country,”” Mullin said. When the curriculum was approved for New Jersey schools in 1996, many expressed outrage over the accusation that the Famine was genocide. Claims were made that the curriculum was a political ploy to manipulate Irish-American voters, while many academics and politicians working on the project maintained that labeling the potato famine as a purely natural disaster was inaccurate. The row over the New Jersey famine curriculum influenced the attempt to create as unbiased a curriculum as possible in New York, Mullin argues in his ““History Wars”” piece for the New York Daily News that the New York curriculum leaves gaping holes in the history of the Irish/British colonial relationship and perpetuates the idea that the Irish were ““poor by nature.”” Dr. Murphy argues that the New York curriculum was framed as a case study of ““hunger and homelessness”” and not an argument for or against the label of genocide. ““We avoided at the time framing it like the Armenians or in that light. People were scared of that sort of particularism,”” she said. ““Our concern was not to provide classrooms with a particular point of view but we wanted students Maureen Murphy, the acting dean of the School of Education and Allied Human to read primary source materials, write with Services at Hofstra University, and Director of the Great Irish Famine curriculum for schools in New York State, is also an assistant director of the Yeats Summer clarity and be able to analyze the data.”” School in Sligo. She is pictured here with students at the Yeats Summer School. The Irish Famine curriculum is now taught in public school in several states and each dents to use the material to form an argument or analysis on approach varies based on a given state’’s legislation. While contheir own. troversy has surrounded the construction of these curricula and ““It’’s a way to look at that experience and it’’s a way for us to how to teach it, the value of this education lies most obviously continue to be mindful,”” Dr. Murphy explained. ““The best lessons in what the wisdom of the past can teach about hunger prevenIA are lessons that bring awareness to the fact that hunger and hometion and relief now and in the future.

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{roots}

By Kara Rota

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Finding Our Roots

or many Irish Americans traveling to the Emerald Isle, the chance to track down family histories and conduct genealogical research is one of the largest draws. Failte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, recommends first gathering as much information as possible on ancestors, including names, dates of birth, marriage and death, county and parish of origin, and religious denomination. The most often used sources are birth and death certificates and church records, land/property valuation records, and cen-

ence that you won’’t get from typing your he saw in guests at the county-guesthouse surname into a search engine. We have the in Wicklow where his family has provided best genealogists in Ireland working to Irish hospitality for three generations. ““I bring family history alive. They’’ve worked make a point of asking our guests if they on the BBC’’s Who Do You Think You Are? have Irish ancestors. When the McGinty program and researched family history for family from Boston came for a vacation, Barack Obama.”” Mr. McGinty said that his great-grandfaIrish Ancestral Holidays offers packages ther came from Kerry, but that they couldthat consider individual travelers’’ interests. n’’t find more information than that. After ““Because there is no way of standardizing lots of research, I was able to help Mr. a holiday that deals with your own personMcGinty find what he was looking for.”” al history, we consider your preferences, Mr. Kingston encourages those who hobbies and interests,”” said Mr. Kingston. are interested in researching their family ““If you’’re into golfing, we make sure you history not to be disheartened if they don’’t tee-off at some of Ireland’’s best have much information to go on. ““The best courses. If you’’re into culture, starting point is usually from a family tree, we arrange Irish music sesor a living relative.”” sions. It’’s your choice how you An initial ancestral assessment is 60 get around Ireland on your holeuro, for which an individual is given a iday, ranging from chauffeurresearch plan that indicates the probability driven luxury cars to self-drive of being able to trace one’’s family history. to public transport. Most sigA typical price for an eight-day/sevennificantly, we take into night stay for two is 7,500 euro. account the emotional journey For those who want to research their of our clients. Reliving your family’’s genealogy or other records withfamily’’s history is a very perout leaving home, Eneclann at Trinity sonal experience, and we go to College Dublin provides professional all lengths to make sure it’’s services in the historical, heritage, archive completely unforgettable. Our and records management sectors. team goes all over Ireland to Eneclann employs historians, genealogists Irish Ancestral Holidays helped Jane and Andrew locate see if that gravestone, that tiny and archivists and offers family history their family’s roots in Wicklow. parish church, or that ruined research projects that can be given as gifts, sus returns. Once in Ireland with collected farm-worker’’s cottage is still accessible, as well as conducting research for individinformation, there are several stops an and we ensure that family history comes uals and the media. The company has paramateur historian should make. One is the alive.”” Irish Ancestral Holidays also offers ticipated in major historical projects National Library of Ireland, which offers a stand-alone genealogy packages for those including the Belvedere Book, Irish free genealogical advisory service. The who cannot travel to Ireland. Genealogy Project, and Ballymun History National Archives of Ireland houses a For Mr. Kingston, the idea of Irish Project. Family histories cost around 360 IA service staffed by a genealogist that locates Ancestral Holidays stemmed from a need euro. records such as wills and census records. The Public Records Office of Northern USEFUL WEBSITES: USEFUL BOOKS: Ireland can help those with roots in Ulster. Association of Professional John Grenham, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors (Dublin, • • The Valuation Office in Dublin and the Genealogists in Ireland: www.apgi.ie Ireland: Gill and Macmillan, third edition, 2006). Registry of Deeds offer a great deal of • National Archives of Ireland • Máire Mac Conghail and Paul Gorry, Tracing Irish genealogical information that can be found List of Genealogical and Historical Ancestors, A Practical Guide to Irish Genealogy in maps, deeds and property transactions. Researchers Website: (Glasgow, Scotland: Harper Collins, 1997). Some companies provide an entire www.nationalarchives.ie/genre• Tony McCarthy, Irish Roots Guide (Dublin, Ireland: genealogical experience, such as Irish searchers.html The Lilliput Press, 1995). Ancestral Holidays (www.irishancestralNational Library of Ireland Eileen M. O’Duill, CGRS and Steven fferry-Smyrl, • • holidays.com), a team of travel, genealogy, Research Panel: Irish Civil Registration – Where Do I Begin? hospitality and history experts in Ireland www.heanet.ie/natlib/familyre(Dublin, Ireland: Council of Irish Genealogical that create vacation plans around tracing search.html~commissioning Organizations, 2000). Irish roots. ““Our holidays are tailored to The Irish Ancestral Research James G. Ryan, Irish Records, Sources for Family and • • the customer,”” said Howard Kingston of Association: Local History (Glenageary, Co. Dublin, Ireland: Flyleaf the company. ““It’’s an emotional experihttp://indigo.ie/~gorry/Pgorry.html Press, 1998).

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PHOTO BY: KIT DEFEVER

Hungerin Memorials America

The Irish Hunger Memorial in Manhattan contains stones from each of the 32 counties of Ireland.

Some crimes are so terrible an affront to humanity that they are impossible to capture in a memorial. But it could be said that memorials are for the living, not for the dead, a way to comfort the survivors, a way to redeem the suffering through beauty, and a reminder that we have to care for the hungry citizens of the world today. By Tara Dougherty

New York

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housands suffering in Ireland made the journey across the Atlantic to America, and for those who landed in New York, the southern tip of Manhattan was among their first sights to behold upon arrival. That is the site of the Irish Hunger Memorial, designed by artist Brian Tolle, which contains stones from each of the 32 counties of Ireland in its half-acre. From the western end of the memorial, visitors climb the man-made hill to its peak 25 feet above the Battery Park City sidewalks and are treated to a view of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, appropriate given their emblematic significance to the American immigration story. The eastern end of the memorial is a sloping path that coaxes visitors to follow to a ruined roofless cottage. The cottage, an authentic ruin brought from County Mayo, is a tribute to those who were evicted and others who abandoned their homes in an effort to survive. Along the base of the elevated memorial and through the center passageway are bands of texts separated by layers of limestone. The limestone, imported from Kilkenny, is more than 300 million years old, containing fossils from the Irish seabed. The text, nearly two miles long, tells the history of the Irish Famine. Illuminated by backlight, the text consists of quotations from autobiographies, letters, oral traditions, songs, reports, poems, recipes and statistics that pertain not only to the Irish Famine but also chronicle epidemics of hunger throughout the world. Manhattan is also home to a sculpture designed by John Behan titled ““Arrival,”” JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 89


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which was given to the United Nations by the Irish government. The sculpture depicts a ghostly coffin ship and was unveiled in November 2000. A similar sculpture entitled ““Coffin Ship”” by the same artist was erected at the foot of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo in 1997. The Western New York Irish Famine Memorial is located in Buffalo, with views of the old Erie Canal. Dedicated in 1997, the memorial is flanked by 32 boulders, one for each Irish county, that form the outer ring, and standing off center is a massive granite stone from Carraroe, County Galway. Its position represents the Irish Diaspora and it stands surrounded by inscriptions of names of Famine victims.

1 1: Western New York Irish Famine Memorial in Buffalo. 2: The Boston Famine Memorial. 3: The Irish Famine Monument in Cambridge. 4: Cleveland’s Famine Memorial. 5: The Irish Famine Memorial Monument in Chicago’s Gaelic Park. 6: Famine memorial plaque in Hackensack, New Jersey.

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Massachusetts

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oston is home to two very different structures which honor the memories of Famine victims who flooded into the New England harbors in the 19th century. The Boston Famine Memorial located along the famous Freedom Trail in downtown Boston at the corner of Washington and School Streets, features sculptures of a family of immigrants arriving in Boston and another leaving the shores of Ireland. The figures, with torn clothes and sunken faces, allow visitors a glimpse into artist Robert Shure’’s vision of the complexity of that impoverished struggle combined with the determination for a better life. The second memorial is on a peninsula in Boston Harbor known as Deer Island and paints a somber picture of Famine victims. In 1847 Deer Island was the site of a Quarantine hospital and later in 1850 an almshouse was built. Many Famine victims tragically died there after their long journeys. The Rest Haven Cemetery here contains graves of hundreds who didn’’t make it. The Irish Famine Monument in Cambridge depicts the separation of families, showing a mother seated holding a small child and the father feet away holding another child. Each reaches out to the other on a stone platform on which is inscribed the phrase, ““Never again should a people starve in a world of plenty.”” The monument, located in the heart of the Cambridge Commons, just west of Harvard University was designed by Maurice Harrow and Derry Ireland, and was dedicated by President Mary Robinson in July of 1997.

Illinois

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n Chicago’’s Gaelic Park, the Irish Famine Memorial Monument stands near the park’’s main building. Commissioned and paid for by Gaelic Park the giant statue depicts an Irish family, their home from which they were evicted burning behind them. Headstones in the background are emblematic of those whose lives were lost. On the opposite side of the burning home is an infamous ““coffin ship,”” the option many took to sail away from their homeland to North America, hundreds of whom eventually settled in Chicago. The memorial monument was designed by Fr. Anthony Brankin, a Chicago parish pastor.

Ohio

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ommemorating the 150-year anniversary of the Famine, a monument in the form of a massive stone was erected in downtown Cleveland. The stone with images of a mother and two children at its base is engraved with the words, ““Cleveland Remembers The Great Hunger.”” A paragraph inscription tells of the depopulation in Ireland, the suffering of the Irish people as well as the way Cleveland’’s culture was enriched by those who made their way from the Faminetorn shores to the American city.

New Jersey

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n the courthouse lawn in Hackensack, New Jersey is a small stone with a plaque commemorating the Great Hunger. Surrounded by bushes and close by monuments which hold the

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NOTE: There are many more memorials throughout the U.S. Readers, please send in additional information. There are also memorials in Ireland, the most significant being Rowan Gillespie’’s Departures in Dublin’’s dockland and John Behan’’s Famine Ship in Murrisk, Co. Mayo. For information on memorials in Canada, see the Ghosts of Grosse Ile feature in this issue.


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memories of the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide, it is an understated monument, part of a series on the lawn which honors the sacrifice of many ethnicities and celebrates what their descendants have contributed to the northern New Jersey communities.

Connecticut

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t Quinnipiac University’’s library in Hamden, there is a Great Hunger room dedicated to literature, art and original documents from the time of the Famine. Located in the Lender Family Special Collection Room of the Arnold Bernhard Library, the collection explores the historical significance as well as the emotional relevance of the experiences of those who suffered. (See feature article in this issue.)

1:An Gorta Mór memorial in Brooklyn, Michigan. 2: Philadelphia’s Famine memorial. 3: Phoenix memorial. 4 & 5: Rhode Island memorial and narrative wall. 6: Portland’s Celtic Cross. 7: John Behan’s Famine Ship at Quinnipiac.

Michigan

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ponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, St. Patrick’’s Division 1, the Michigan State Board, the Ladies AOH of Michigan and the West New York Irish Famine Memorial Committee, An Gorta Mór Memorial is a massive structure on the St. Joseph’’s Shrine grounds in Brooklyn, Michigan. Two columns of eight rectangular stones support a giant stone taken from Penrose Quay, Cork Harbor, a departure point for many Famine victims. The names of the counties are written in both English and Irish on the stones which comprise the platform beneath the columns.

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Pennsylvania

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t the corner of Front and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, the mammoth statue dedicated to victims who found their way to the City of Brotherly Love stands at 12 feet high and 30 feet long in a 1.75 acre park. Featuring 35 life-sized figures, the statue was designed by Glenna Goodacre. It depicts starvation, harrowing journeys and the will to survive.

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Arizona

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n the heat of America’’s southwest desert city, the Phoenix Irish Cultural Center dedicated its An Gorta Mór Memorial on September 25, 1999. With a portion of a stone wall and an inscribed plaque, the words on the memorial tell of the starvation and anguish of Ireland in the mid 19th century. Located on a two-acre plot of land just south of Phoenix’’s Irish Cultural Center, the memorial is joined by other structures including a replica of an Irish cottage.

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n the West Coast, a 14-foot-tall Celtic High Cross stands in Mount Cavalry Catholic Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. The cross is modeled after the ancient cross of the scriptures in Clonmacnoise, County Offaly. Brendan McGloin, an Irish sculptor, was recruited for the memorial, for which carved panels on the cross which depict biblical and secular scenes based on the cross at Clonmacnoise. The cross, carved in Donegal, was shipped to Portland and dedicated by President Mary McAleese in December of 2008.

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long the Riverwalk of this gritty New England city, the Providence Famine Memorial was designed and created by artist Robert Shure. Its centerpiece is a large bronze statue of a man standing tall and behind him a woman holding a sickly man in her arms. The true masterpiece of this memorial is the narrative wall that Shure created alongside this statue. The wall combines images and text which tell the story of the Hunger. Concerts of Irish music and heritage events are often held at the site of the memorial, which was dedicated IA in November of 2007.

The Cottage The cottage used in the Great Hunger Memorial in New York was owned by the Slack family in Carradoogan, County Mayo.The extended Slack family traveled to New York from Ireland, Chicago and England for the unveiling of the memorial in 2002, celebrating contributions made from both sides of the Atlantic in creating this massive Memorial project.


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Leaves of Pain A compelling story of blight, devastation and resurrection by Jimmy Breslin

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t first, it seemed to be nothing. It was a curled-up dark brown leaf about the size of a good lock of hair and it was preserved in glass in a room in the Fairlow Herbarium in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A typewritten card alongside the leaf said that it was taken from an infected potato plant in Ireland during the famines of 1845-50. I looked at the leaf, read the card and began to walk away and, of course, did not leave. Here in this glass case was the weapon used by the earth when it turned against man and nearly ended a nation, the leaf that determined the character of its people, wherever they were, for generations at least. Behind the glass case, on long shelves, was an impressive line of books. There also was in the room a man who could help me decipher some of the written matter. I decided to forget about taking one of the morning shuttles to New York. I sat at a table. Usually, when you are around relics of things Irish, you hear in your mind a song or have the feel of a smile. This time, the hand went for a book. At the time of the famine, the man in charge of the room observed, mycology, the study of fungi, was only beginning. People from a couple of places in the world went to Ireland to collect blighted plants and then took them back to their laboratories to study. But they could give Ireland no help. By the time the famine was ending, the potato fungus was only being given a name: ““phytophtora infestans.”” One of the things most vile about the use of a dead language is the manner in which the message of horror becomes lost in the struggle to absorb the habitual syllables.The man in the Fairlow Herbarium suggested one of the books, The Advance of the Fungi by E.C. Large. The author noted that in good weather the potato fungus reproduced sexually. However, when conditions were constantly wet and chilly, the fungus reproduced asexually, 92 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

Specimen of potato infected with phytophthora infestans and collected by John Lindley in 1846 at the Royal Botanic Garden, Dublin, Ireland.

and at great rapidity. On two occasions during the famine years, there was a chill rain that did not seem to end. Fungus appeared wherever the land was wet. Potato leaves became brown and started to curl up and the potato underneath became purple and mushy. With no food, over a million died and millions fled. The book says that experiments over the years show that the blighted potato was edible. Because of the fungus causing the inside of the potato to break down, much of the starch turned into sugar, thereby giving the potato a strange, sweet taste. This is something that can be said in the safety of a laboratory. But while a million were dying, people tried to eat the potatoes and found they could not. The potato originates in the Andes Mountains of Peru, where it grows in many varieties. However, the English, who introduced it to Ireland in the 16th century, planted only one variety, the clone, and it is susceptible to the wet fingers of fungus. With no second variety of potato plant to withstand the disease, the blight became total. The Irish, ignorant of all this, planted any eyes which seemed

even vaguely uninfected and prayed that the next crop would be clean. But the new plants were as infected as the ones from which they came. As I was reading this, I began to think of the crumbling stone building on Bantry Bay, in Cork. The ruin stands right on the bay, at a point where the rocky shore builds up to great cliffs that go along flat, deep water until the water begins to rise and fall in great swells and suddenly the land ends and now it is ocean, not bay, slapping against the bottom of the cliff and sending spray high into the air, up to the top of the cliff. The ruins sit in a tangle of rough brush and are difficult to reach. In 1845, at the height of the famine, the place was a granary. Each day, while Irishmen died with their mouths stained green from eating grass, the British worked this granary and filled sacks that were placed on ships and sent to England. Near the end, when there were no people able to work in the fields and supply the granary, the British announced that the building would be donated to the people. It could be used as a Children’’s Home, which is a twisted way of saying what it actually became: a morgue for children who died of not having food. The bodies of children were stacked floor to ceiling in the granary. And now, in this room in Cambridge, with the time passing and the man in charge finding you still more to read about fungus and famine, the line in the English language I always think of first walked through my mind in all its stateliness and wisdom: ““Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.”” The sons of this famine burned an orphanage in New York City. It was called the Colored Orphan Asylum, of course; when the maimed poor anywhere lash out, they seek not the blood of dukes and earls, but rather victims such as they. The Colored Orphan Asylum was on Fifth Avenue, between 43rd and 44th Streets.


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Rioters and federal troops clash during the New York Draft Riot of 1863.

At three p.m, on Sunday, July 12, 1863, a crowd of nearly 4,000 Irish broke through the front gate of the orphanage, rushed across the lawns and broke inside. The orphanage officials managed to sneak 400 terrified black orphans out of the back door and take them to the safety of a police station. The mob of Irish, meanwhile, ransacked and burned the orphanage. And throughout the city, mobs of Irish, their hearts shale, their souls dead, rioted and killed blacks. I always thought it was important to know what happens to men when their insides become stone. The violence, the illegal acts, are not to be condoned. But I always want to know why it is that all people, even those of your own, lose control of the devils inside them. Perhaps something can be learned. The riots in New York are called in history books ““The Draft Riots.”” But at the time the newspapers referred to them as the ““Irish Riots.”” The government in 1863 set up a military draft for New York, a lottery, but one from which any citizen could buy himself out for $300. Which excluded the Irish, who barely had money for dinner. The first drawing was held on Saturday, July 11. When the names were published in the Sunday morning newspapers, growls ran through the tenements where the Irish lived. Soon, people were out in the streets, carrying anything that would hurt, and with their first violence, their first beatings, their first fires, the word struck them, as similar words have sunk into any thrashing crowds throughout history. In Odessa, the crew of the Potemkin

mutinied and the people were fighting the troops on the steps rising from the harbor and then somebody screamed the word: ““Jews!”” It became not a fight against authority anymore; it was a pogrom. And in Manhattan, in 1863, here were the Irish, the sons of famine, out in the streets against the injustice of a system that would allow the rich to buy out of a danger in which the poor must perish. And suddenly, inevitably, as the water of a wave turns to white, the word races through the crowd: ““Niggers!”” On 32nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, a black was hung from a tree and his house burned. An army officer who had tried to stop the mobs was trapped on 33rd Street, between First and Second Avenues. He was beaten to death and the mob played with his body for hours, as a kitten does with a spool. At six p.m. on the second night of the rioting, a mob of 600 Irish attacked a corner of Baxter and Leonard Streets in which 20 black families lived. The police arrived at this point, two platoons of them, led by three sergeants, listed in the records as Walsh, Quinn and Kennedy. The patrolmen under them were all Irish. At this time, 90 percent of the police force was Irish: Irish with their trait of loyalty. And loyalty was stronger than stone. There was no question what the police would do: protect the black families and then attack the mob, this mob of Irish. Attack them and beat them and club them and force them to break and run, and chase them down the streets and beat them so they would have no stomach to return for more. During the three-day riot, the rioters

killed 18 blacks. There could have been thousands killed without the police intervention. The police and army units killed 1,200 rioters. Seven thousand were injured. General Harvey Brown, in charge of the army troops, said of New York’’s Irish police department: ““Never in our civil or military life have I ever seen such untiring devotion or such efficient service.”” In the history of the Police Department of the City of New York, it was the act that first caused people to call them ““The Finest.”” That it came as the result of having to quell savage assaults by other Irish is something that should neither be hidden nor explained away. Remember it. It happened 114 years ago, which is a short time as the history of the earth is measured. Remember it, and do not condone it. But at the same time know about it. Know by being told what Yeats knew by instinct: the effect of something like this leaf in the glass in the room in Cambridge. I gave the man back his books, said thank you and left the Herbarium and went to the airport in Boston for the shuttle to New York. I had to be at a wake in Brooklyn, in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood. My friend Mabel Mabry’’s nephew, Allen Burnett, had been murdered. He was walking along Bedford Avenue and somebody shot him in the back because Allen would not give up his new coat. After the wake, I rode in the cab past the place where Allen was murdered. Bedford Avenue at this part, Kosciusko Street, is empty. The buildings have been burned and the sidewalks are covered in glass. In an empty lot alongside a boarded-up building, a pack of dogs rooted through garbage that had been thrown there during the day. Weeds grew in the lot. The weeds made me think of the curled-up dark brown leaf I had IA seen earlier that day. The article was written by Jimmy Breslin in 1977 and republished by Irish America in 1986 and October/November 2000. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 93


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Why Famine Came to Ireland

Thomas Cahill writes on the great catastrophe that became known as the Famine.The mass exodus of people during and following this period would forever change the course of Irish and American history.

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he potato blight that arrived in Europe in the summer of 1845 was, like the potato itself, an American export. The fungus that caused the blight was a microscopic organism that would not be identified scientifically for another fifteen years. But even after its identification, no effective treatment for the blight would be found till a Frenchman named Millardet would notice that roadside crops remained free of blight because they had been sprayed with copper sulphate and hydrated lime by French agriculturalists who wanted to keep poor people from stealing their property. It took Millardet three years to develop a commercially saleable pesticide. This was in 1885 –– 40 years too late for the millions of desperately poor Irish farmers who relied on the potato for almost all their nourishment and who wouldn’’t, in any case, have been able to afford Millardet’’s invention. The spores of the fungus traveled through the air with lightning speed whenever the weather was warm and wet, attacking crops, decimating whole fields within hours, and rotting the potatoes to a foul-smelling mush. This sudden stench was the thing most feared, for it announced to the farmer that his hopes for a harvest were dashed. But in Ireland, as nowhere else, the sickening odor, carried on the breeze of late summer, became the perfume of death itself. In the Middle Ages, Ireland had been a place of fabulous agricultural fertility. The early Irish monks and nuns, who tried for

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a time to be as strict with themselves as the hermits of the Egyptian desert, found that it was just about impossible to starve properly in Ireland, because the country abounded in delicious food of all kinds –– ““leeks from the garden, poultry, game, salmon and trout and bees,”” as a salivating monastic poet of the seventh century put it. Indeed, Irish hospitality and generosity were legendary, for the Irish monks opened their doors and their cupboards to England and all Europe, educating whoever came to them without charging for tuition, books, room, or board. But by the eighteenth century, Ireland had become what we today would call a Third World country, a colony of England, in which all the good land had been taken from the Irish by English planters –– a place where everything from seed to salmon streams was owned by others, and the Irish had become unwanted poachers and vagrants on the rich soil that had once been theirs. The economic rape of Ireland began with its forests, the thick stands of trees that once covered every hillside and provided the habitat for Ireland’’s abundant game. The Irish nobility, understanding that there was no future for them, took flight, gentlemen often taking military commissions in continental armies and founding new businesses like Hennessy Cognac in France. They left behind them a dispirited population of peasants who could do nothing but watch their world come to an end. A Tipperary poet of this period bemoans the flight of the local Irish lord and the ruin of his castle in these words:

What shall we do for timber? The last of the woods is down. Kilcash and the house of its glory And the bell of the house are gone, The spot where the lady waited Who shamed all women for grace When earls came sailing to greet her And Mass was said in the place. My grief and my affliction Your gates are taken away, Your avenue needs attention, Goats in the garden stray. The courtyard’’s filled with water And the great earls where are they? The earls, the lady, the people Beaten into the clay. n the early nineteenth century, Alexis de Iyears Tocqueville, who toured Ireland three after his American travels, wrote to his father: You cannot imagine what a complexity of miseries five centuries of oppression, civil disorder, and religious hostility have piled on this poor people.... [The poverty is] such as I did not imagine existed in this world. It is a frightening thing, I assure you, to see a whole population reduced to fasting like Trappists, and not being sure of surviving to the next harvest, which is still not expected for another ten days. And this was in 1835, ten years before the Famine began! Pushed further and further away from their dark ancestral fields, the majority of Irish farmers found themselves trying to feed their families from ever smaller plots, so arid and stony that no one else wanted them, sometimes, as one old song has it, even attempting to plow the rocks themselves. Dispossessed of their property because of their race, deprived of all civil rights because of their religion (including the right to object to anything that was


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FROM SEAN SEXTON COLLECTION. PHOTO: FRANCIS GUY.

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LEFT: An evicted family at Glenbeigh, Co. Cork, 1888. BELOW: ‘Evicted’: a painting by Lady Elizabeth Butler, a well-known English military artist and one of the most significant Irish subject painters of the late nineteenth century. It concerns an eviction which she witnessed in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow.

being done to them), the ““mere Irish,”” as the conquerors were fond of calling us, had sunk as low as possible. When former American slave Frederick Douglass visited Ireland in 1845 to rally support for the campaign to abolish slavery in America, he wrote of the Irish, Never did human faces tell a sadder tale …… these people lacked only a black skin and wooly hair to complete their likeness to the plantation negro. The open, uneducated mouth –– the long gaunt arm –– the badly formed foot and ankle –– the shuffling gait …… all reminded me of the plantation, and my own cruelly abused people. n such circumstances, the miraculous IRaleigh, potato, first brought to Cork by Walter made continued existence possible, because its astonishing yield, even in stony ground, enabled a farmer to feed his family, though the land he worked was hardly bigger than a postage stamp. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, therefore, the mere Irish had come to rely almost solely on the potato, which had even brought about a population increase, making Ireland –– with 8.5 million people –– the most populous country in Europe. But the circumstances of this population were perilous. Though a great landlord might own as much as 60,000 acres, an Irish peasant owned an acre or two if he

hundred and sixty-two days a year we have the potato,”” said a young man to me bitterly.... ““Because the landlord sees we can live and work hard on them, he grinds us down in our ways and he despises us because we are ignorant and ragged.”” n the first year of the blight, Iwhatever the poorest people sold they had –– over-

was lucky, nothing at all if he was unlucky –– in which case he worked his landlord’’s fields as a serf. The yield from these fields never reached him or his family: it was virtually all exported by his landlord for cash. As the landlords grew ever more prosperous, they and their cousins in England began to put out the story that the Irish were born to their condition by nature. Their poverty was the result of their own laziness. Thanks to Catholic superstition, their minds were hopelessly clouded. It was a scientific fact that the Irish were naturally inferior, and there was nothing that could be done about it really. In 1845, just before the first famine struck, a young American visitor recorded in her diary this encounter in the West of Ireland: The poor peasants, men, women, and children were gathering seaweed, loading their horses, asses and backs with it, to manure their wretched little patches of potatoes sown among the rocks. ““Three

coats, fishing gear, the family cow –– to buy grain. When the blight returned in 1846, they had nothing left to sell. They stole turnips when they could and ate weeds. Many fishermen had already pawned their tackle and nets; others, weakened by hunger, could no longer row. People began to comb beaches and rocks for shellfish, seaweed, and moss, till every beach in the West of Ireland was stripped bare. And with potatoes scarce, food prices began to soar. As the Quaker William Forster wrote: When there before, I had seen cows at almost every cabin and there were besides many sheep and pigs in the village. But now all sheep were gone; all the cows, all the poultry killed; not one pig left; the very dogs which had barked at me before had disappeared; no potatoes, no oats, workmen unpaid; patient, quiet look of despair. July 1846, Britain’’s Conservative Ithatngovernment fell and was replaced by of the Liberal Party. The new JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 95


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Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, who million deaths, saw the formation of remembered one political economist was put in charge of famine relief, was Young Ireland, a movement that called for telling him that ““he feared the famine of Charles Trevelyan, a man whose faith in the ownership of Irish land by Irish peo1848 would not kill more than a million unregulated capitalism was absolute and ple. One of its founders, John Mitchel, the people and that would scarcely be enough who believed passionately that governson of a Presbyterian minister, wrote the to do much good.”” That incredible quotament must never interfere with the hidden epitaph for these terrible times: ““The tion must be placed against this indelible hand of the market. If the Irish were starvAlmighty indeed sent a potato blight,”” picture left us by a concerned Quaker: ing, said Trevelyan, it must be their own said he, ““but the English created a fault; and God himself had sent the potato Famine.”” We entered a cabin. Stretched in one blight for the ““moral and political Today, even conservative economists dark corner, scarcely visible from the improvement”” of the Irish people. They no longer hold to the cruel theories smoke and rags that covered them were must take control of their own lives and advanced by Charles Trevelyan; and it is three children huddled together, lying stop abusing British charity. hard to imagine the United States of there because they were much too weak Thus was the stage set for Black ’’47, America, the richest country in the world, to rise, pale and ghostly, their little limbs the worst year of the Great Hunger, which allowing such a catastrophe to take place perfectly emaciated, eyes sunk, voice produced a potato crop of only 2 million at its borders. But the poverty that pregone and evidently in the last stages of tons, as opposed to the 15 million tons that cedes famine is still everywhere present in starvation. had been produced in 1844, our world, as close as the year before the blight. Mexico, Haiti, and Central The Irish obliged Charles America, as near to us as Trevelyan’’s ideals for them Roxbury and the South by dying in droves, whole Bronx. We continue to blame villages becoming ghost the poor for being poor, we towns overnight. Serious continue to advance the theoriots broke out at ports, where ry that children must suffer hungry people could not bear hunger for their parents’’ supthe sight of abundant Irish posed irresponsibility. As the grain and meat being loaded sun makes its journey west on ships for export. Her today, half the world’’s chilmajesty’’s government, which dren will go to bed hungry. refused to commit the sin of One out of seven is facing interfering with the market, actual starvation. had no scruples about proThere is no lack of food in tecting the market’’s many our world, any more than export ships with the full there was in nineteenth cenforce of British firepower. tury Britain; the only lack is As tenant farmers began to “Irish Peasant Family Discovering the Blight of their Store,” by Irish in our willingness to distribDaniel McDonald. One of the few painters to focus attention default on the rents they owed painter ute it justly. There is an on the Great Famine, Daniel McDonald (originally McDaniel) was their landlords, who were also born in Cork, the son of the caricaturist and draughtsman James organization in Washington, the food exporters, more and McDaniel (c.1789-1840). The above painting was exhibited at the D.C. called Bread for the more families became home- British Institution in 1847. World which lobbies less, evicted from their tiny Congress for the adequate hese children, who died over 150 hovels by landlords who wanted the land distribution of food. Joining this organizayears ago, are our children, bone of for more efficient farming and were only tion is one way of remembering those who our bone and flesh of our flesh. They waiting for the excuse to evict. Private starved. For all the hurt and hungry chilbelong to us. Since we cannot save them, charities, such as Quaker soup kitchens, dren in our world today are bone of our and the million more who perished like were overwhelmed; and bands of walking bone and flesh of our flesh. They all them, we have an obligation not to forget skeletons began to roam the countryside. belong to us. them. We should also remember, of People died in ditches, green foam issuing But there are many ways of remembercourse, those who escaped –– the 2 million from their mouths because they had tried ing. The numerous Famine memorials and more who left Irish shores for new in their last moments to eat grass. As the dotting North America also serve as a worlds. But even many of these perished death toll mounted, corpses were thrown permanent and eloquent reminder that in the course of their passage in the foul into huge pits; many were never buried at there is no economic theory so sacred holds of the coffin ships that bore them all. Some of the walking skeletons that it deserves to be held in higher honor over the ocean. reached the government workhouses, hellthan a hungry child and that there is None of this had to happen. Historians holes where even small children could be never any good reason for anyone to IA are just beginning to take account of the deprived of food and placed in solitary starve to death. enormity of what did happen –– the refusal confinement for such lack of sobriety by what was then the richest country in the as playing a game or owning a toy. It is For more information on Bread for the world to mend the injustice that it was a judgement on this form of British chariWorld, call 1-800-82-BREAD or visit www.bread.org solely responsible for and allow the innoty that many preferred to die rather This article was published in cent to live. 1848, the very year the than endure it. Still, Benjamin Jowett, Irish America, Dec/Jan 2000 English economist hoped for more than a later Master of Balliol College, Oxford,

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IN OUR NEXT ISSUE

Irish America’s 2010

Wall Street 50 Awards JOIN US IN CELEBRATING 13 YEARS OF BRINGING YOU THE BEST IRISH PLAYERS ON WALL STREET

Keynote Speaker, Irish America’’s 2009 Wall Street 50 Awards Dinner at the New York Yacht Club ““Many of us are here because dark economic conditions in the past led our ancestors to brave a tough and unknown voyage to a new land, for a new opportunity. Imagine, at the age of 14, as my wife’’s grandmother did, getting on a ship, knowing no one, to travel to a place where she knew no one, all in the name of opportunity –– an opportunity which may be to face a long period of indentured work to pay off the voyage. Our relatives braved these challenges because they had to, they had little choice. But even then, they seized the opportunity. And that is why we are here tonight. We, like them, now face a hard go to get this all right over the next years. It is going to be hard work and it’’s going to be challenging. But when we look at the task ahead, we can take solace, it is clearly not as hard as our ancestors’’ task was to leave Ireland and establish a new life. In addition, we have another benefit to help our efforts –– their determination is in our blood. So I say let’’s get on with the task at hand.””

For more information on Irish America’s 2010 Wall Street 50 or to submit a nomination, please call 212.725-2993 ext. 113 or send an email to wallstreet50@irishamerica.com.

PHOTO: NUALA PURCELL

PHOTO: NUALA PURCELL

PHOTO COURTEST OF WATERFORD CRYSTAL

Brian Moynihan, President & CEO of Bank of America


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The Good

Samaritan During the worst winter of the Famine, the American reformer Asenath Hatch Nicholson began her one-woman relief operation, organizing a soup kitchen, visiting homes of the poor and distributing bread in the street. Maureen Murphy brings to life this remarkable, but little-remembered, individual.

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n May 1844, Asenath Nicholson left New York aboard the Brooklyn to ““personally investigate the condition of the Irish poor.”” She had been a schoolteacher in Vermont and in New York, a proprietor of a vegetarian boarding house and a reformer who championed the causes of abolitionism and temperance. From her boarding house on the edge of New York’’s notorious Five Points, she worked among Irish immigrants. She later recalled those years saying, ““It was in the garrets and cellars of New York that I first became acquainted with the Irish peasantry, and it was there I saw that they were a suffering people.”” She was determined to learn more about their suffering by walking through the country on her self-appointed mission to bring the Bible to the Irish poor. It was an ambitious adventure for an arthritic widow of fifty-two. She would distribute copies of the Bible to those who could read, and she would read the Bible to those who could not. Dressed in her polka coat, bonnet and India rubber boots and carrying an enormous black bearskin muff from which she produced tracts and Bibles, Nicholson must have been an extraordinary sight. She complained that people stared at her. Her mission was not as straightforward as it might appear. Catholics regarded Bible readers as proselytes, and Protestant missionaries rejected her democratic ideas. From July

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1844 to August 1845, she walked through Ireland visiting every county but Cavan. She left for Scotland in August 1845, shortly before the first signs of the potato failure appeared. While Nicholson had not anticipated the failure of the harvest, as she traveled around the Irish countryside she frequently observed that the Irish poor depended on a single food crop. She had heard the libel that the Irish poor were lazy; however, based on her experience visiting the Irish in their cabins, she concluded that they were not lazy; they lacked work. When she saw the poor employed, she made note of it. The sight of a woman and her daughters carding and knitting gave her pause. ““This was an unusual sight for seldom had I seen, in Ireland, a whole family employed among the peasantry. Ages of poverty have taken everything out of their hands but preparing and eating the potato and then sit listlessly on a stool, lie in their straw or saunter upon the street because no one hires them.”” A crop failure combined with chronic unemployment would turn a natural disaster into a calamity. When the blight came a second year, Nicholson returned in the winter of 1846 to do what she could do to help. She stayed two years, spending much of that time in the Famine-stricken west. As soon as she arrived in Dublin on December 7, 1846, Nicholson wrote to the readers of Horace Greeley’’s New York Tribune


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Left: Drawing of Asenath Nicholson by Anna Marie Howitt. Bottom left: Relief works (c. 1890) from the collection of Sean Sexton. Bottom right: Richard David Webb. Below: Drawing of a Quaker soup kitchen.

and Joshua Leavitt’’s abolitionist Emancipator describing conditions in the city and asking for help for the Irish poor. She did not have the means to finance her relief efforts and she despaired that she was brought to witness a Famine without the means to relieve the hungry. When a letter arrived from Greeley with money from his Tribune readers, she regarded it not only as the answer to her prayers but also a sign of divine intervention. Other friends sent food, money and clothes to distribute or to send to trusted friends to administer. In July 1847, New Yorkers sent Nicholson five barrels of Indian corn aboard the United States frigate Macedonia. (There were fifty barrels aboard for Maria Edgeworth who provided the Central Relief Committee with information about Famine conditions in Co. Longford and who asked for shoes for her tenants working on a draining project to wear.) While she admired the work of the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends (Quakers) who had established a soup kitchen in Charles Street behind Upper Ormond Quay in January 1847, Nicholson preferred to operate individually as she had in the Five Points and in her earlier trip to Ireland. She described herself walking through Dublin each morning distributing slices of bread from a large basket. She worked out of her own soup kitchen in the Liberties, an area she selected for its extreme poverty. The Quakers sold their soup for a penny a quart. Nicholson’’s food was gratis; however, she operated on a triage system. She decided that £10 divided among 100 people helped no one, so she committed herself to a particular group of

FROM RICHARD HARRISSON’S BIOGRAPHY OF WEBB.

families for whom she cooked Indian meal daily. Nicholson stayed in Dublin until July 1847 when she left for Belfast. By then she had finished Ireland’’s Welcome to the Stranger, her account of her earlier visit written to encourage readers to respond to Ireland’’s crisis. By then the Temporary Relief Act (the ““Soup Kitchen”” Act) had become effective, and the Quakers closed their kitchen. Nicholson may have followed their example. In any case, she left Dublin and went for the west of Ireland in July 1847 where she visited Donegal and then went on to Newport, Co. Mayo. She had visited Newport earlier and was returning to stay with her friend, the postmistress Mrs. Margaret Arthur. There she found ““misery without mask.”” She went further into the misery when she went west from Belmullet to spend the winter of 1847-8 in the Erris peninsula. She set to work bearing witness to the suffering, visiting the poor and encouraging relief workers. She not only recorded their names, but she also gave a glimpse of those selfless people who died working among the poor: Rev. Patrick Pounden, the Rector of Westport and his wife, and Rev. Francis Kinkaid, the Church of Ireland curate of Ballina who died on the 28th of

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January 1847. Catholics as well as Protestants contributed to the memorial tablet on the wall of the church. She continued to lobby in letters for ways to bring employment to the people of western Mayo. On October 31, 1847, she wrote to her friend the English Quaker philanthropist William Bennett who had visited the west of Ireland early in 1847. She was quick to praise resident landlords who provided employment for their tenants, but some were unable to provide relief. ““You, sir, who know Erris, tell, if you can, how the landlord can support the poor by taxation, to give them food, when the few resident landlords are nothing and worse than nothing, for they are paupers in the full sense of the word.”” She went on to ask Bennett to use his own resources or his influence to support a local employment scheme. ““I must and will plead, though I plead in vain, that something may be done to give them work. I have just received a letter from the curate of Bingham’’s Town saying that he could set all his poor parish, both the women and children, to work, and find a market for their knitting and cloth, if he could command a few pounds to purchase the materials.”” Nicholson not only appealed to her friends and to the public, she challenged the government on two counts: their stewardship of relief resources and their attitude toward the poor for whom they were responsible. She made a distinction between the paid relief officers, whom she characterized as bureaucratic, hierarchical and self-serving, and volunteer relief workers (Quakers, coast guardsmen and their families and local clergy) who were compassionate, egalitarian and selfless. Nicholson was scrupulous about her own expenses. She allowed herself twenty-three pence a day for food: a diet of bread and cocoa and she reduced her stipend to sixteen pence (no cocoa) when her resources dwindled. She raged that grain was diverted from food to alcohol. She charged that grain used for distilling could have fed the Irish poor. ““Reader, ponder this well. Enough grain, converted into a poison for body and soul as would have fed all that starving multitude.”” Over and over she contrasted the lack of charity among relief officials with the compassion of volunteers. The hospitality of the Irish countryside was the leitmotif of Ireland’’s Welcome to the Stranger; the leitmotif of ““Annals”” was the generosity of the poor to one another. ““Annals”” is a vivid account of suffering that combines her eye-witness account with character sketches, parables, dramatic scenes and dialogues. Nicholson’’s accounts

put human faces on the statistical reports. Her account of those who served the poor is a record of grace. In the fall of 1848, when she thought the Great Irish Famine was over, Nicholson left Dublin quietly for London. In fact, famine conditions continued until 1852. The ““lone Quaker”” who saw her to her boat was probably her friend the abolitionist Quaker printer Left: Horace Greeley Baker. Below: “Miss Kennedy distributing clothes at Kilrush,” December 22, 1849, Illustrated London News.

IMAGE COURTESY OF NATIONAL LIBRARY OF IRELAND

Richard Davis Webb. In England she published Lights and Shades of Ireland (1850), the third part of which was ““Annals of the Famine.”” She joined the cause of world peace, joining delegations to Paris and Frankfurt. She returned to New York without notice and lived quietly in declining health until she died of typhoid fever in Jersey City on May 15th, 1855. Almost forgotten, her books are now back in print, so we know how she would have wished to be remembered. During her first visit to Ireland while walking the road from Oranmore to Loughrea, Nicholson stopped to rest her blistered feet and thought of her prudent friends who had warned her against this reckless adventure. Did she wish to be back in her parlor in New York? She did not. She said, ““Should I sleep the sleep of death, with my head pillowed against this wall, no matter. Let the passerby inscribe my epitaph upon this stone, fanatic what then? It shall only be a memento that one in a foreign land lived and pitied Ireland, and did what she could to seek out its condition.”” IA

Nicholson was scrupulous about her own expenses.

She allowed herself twenty-three pence a day for food: a diet of bread and cocoa and she reduced

her stipend to sixteen pence (no cocoa) when her resources dwindled.

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Maid as Muse:

Emily Dickinson’s Irish Connection

Aífe Murray tells Aliah O’Neill the story of how an Irish maid influenced Emily Dickinson’s poetry and saved it from destruction.

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enius does not exist in a vacuum. This was the message taken away from Aífe Murray, author of Maid as Muse, when she spoke at Glucksman Ireland House on March 25th. The topic was Emily Dickinson, whose poetic prowess has been understood as the product of a reclusive lifestyle for the past one hundred and fifty years. Dickinson witnessed the shaping of a country during the unending turmoil of the Civil War and the assassination of Lincoln. But unlike her contemporary Walt Whitman, who became the mouthpiece for a kinetic city overflowing with new immigrant life, Dickinson’’s poems reflected her own circumstances, the solitary spaces of her own mind. The portrayal of Emily Dickinson in most American classrooms is a grim one –– the anti-social Dickinson sat in her room for most of her life, writing poems with strange grammatical impulses and macabre subject matter seemingly from another world. The sheer volume of her work attests to this theory –– over the course of her lifetime, Dickinson wrote almost 2,000 poems and countless letters. The perception of Emily Dickinson as the lone literary wolf of Amherst has persisted unchallenged –– Dickinson has no living descendants and her place in the canon of New England literature has long been cemented. What new research could possibly rock Dickinson scholarship after practically every stone of her life had been turned? It was a small fact that seemingly had no immediate connection to Dickinson’’s poetry: Emily Dickinson shared her kitchen with an Irish immigrant for the last 17 years of her life. She wrote on whatever she could –– a chocolate wrapper, old shopping lists –– all while baking for her family’’s household alongside Tipperary-born Margaret Maher. That relationship was all but forgotten until Aífe Murray came across a picture in the library that inspired over ten years of art, poetry, education and research. In her new book Maid as Muse, Aífe Murray explores the relationship between Emily Dickinson and her Irish servants, focusing on the Maher and Kelley families. In it she not only proves that their mere presence helped increase Dickinson’’s writing by relieving her of household work, but that they may have even inspired some of her unusual syntax through the

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Margaret Maher, Tom Kelley and Margaret’s sister Mary, who married Tom.

Hiberno-English dialect. Both the Maher and Kelley families were post-Famine immigrants, arriving in the U.S. around 1854-55. Both were from Slievenamon (in Irish, Sliabh na mBan, meaning the mountain of the women) in South Tipperary, which was bilingual until very late in the 19th century. Murray describes the Mahers as ““moving up in the world””: ““The poorest people couldn’’t get beyond New York and the neighborhoods near the docks in Boston, but [the Mahers] made it all the way to Amherst. After the Famine, the families who did survive made economic gains, and the Mahers did. They were definitely on firmer ground right before they emigrated.”” The Kelleys were less well off and did a ““chain migration,”” sending members of the family over one by


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one as they raised the money. Though they moved up and down the East Coast, both families ended up in Amherst, Massachusetts, where many other Irish had found work. Over the years, Dickinson had employed several Irish servants, beginning in 1851 with Rosina Mack. Next came Margaret O’’Brien, a maid who stayed with the Dickinson household until 1865. Searching for someone with a ““mediating effect”” on her family life and writing, Dickinson finally employed Margaret Maher, whose arrival changed the course of Dickinson’’s writing. Not only did Dickinson write in the kitchen while cooking with Maher, she trusted her with her poems. ““Dickinson starts storing her poems in her maid’’s trunk, the one she brought over from Ireland. It’’s still in the family,”” says Murray. ““That always gets Irish people going ‘‘Whoa!’’ and I think Dickinson kind of knew it. The one [trunk] that comes bobbing across the sea……she didn’’t travel broadly but decided to put the poems in the trunk that had been across the Atlantic and up and down the eastern seaboard with Margaret Maher.”” They also shared writ-

writer in the later 1860s, she’’s not associating with her peers –– the white wealthy –– she’’s associating with the people in the kitchen, and more and more of them are Irish.”” The most potent draw in the kitchen is Margaret Maher, who Murray describes as ““quite a force.”” While we cannot draw definite conclusions about the influence of Irish language on Dickinson’’s writing, Murray points out that Maher was possibly bilingual (her letters seem to suggest this with her overuse of the dative) and that HibernoEnglish made its way into some of Dickinson’’s poems. As an example, Murray points to the use of ““himself”” in ““Silence is all we dread””: Silence is all we dread. There’’s ransom in a Voice—— But Silence is Infinity. Himself have not a face.

Murray also considers Dickinson’’s attitude towards death, which was macabre compared to the consolation poetry of the time. ““When I think of ‘‘I Heard a Fly Buzz “As she gets older and more into her vocation as a When I Died’’ I think of the whole Irish writer in the later 1860s, she’s not associating sense of the grotesque with death. I don’’t think she was ever in a wake house but I with her peers – the white wealthy – she’s think it’’s like the Irish take on death –– laughing death down. She may have associating with the people in the kitchen, arrived on it independently but there is a and more and more of them are Irish.” similarity,”” Murray says. Upon her death, rather than having her family and close ing to some degree –– Maher came from ““a locus of literary interfriends as pallbearers, Dickinson planned for six Irishmen –– all est and the home most famously of writer Charles Kickham”” in former employees –– to carry her casket. They carried her out the South Tipperary and spent her life around people who wrote. back door of the Dickinson residence, used primarily by the Although sparingly, Margaret also wrote creatively, and employees of the household. Dickinson would often respond to these short letters or poems For Irish Americans, Murray’’s research for Maid as Muse with her own poetry, creating a bond of words between the two reveals yet another exciting example of the incalculable influwomen. ence that Famine and post-Famine immigrants had on the shapShockingly, Dickinson told Maher to destroy the poems upon ing of American literature, history and culture. For everyone her death. While her sister Lavinia burned Dickinson’’s correwho has ever read a Dickinson poem, this work, in the words of spondence, after she died, Margaret found that she could not Dickinson scholar Martha Nell Smith, ““represents a sea bring herself to destroy Dickinson’’s lifetime of work. In tears, change.”” Not only will researchers approach their understanding she brought the poems to Dickinson’’s brother, who agreed that of Dickinson in a different way, museums are now changing they should be saved. Maher also saved one of the few pictures their exhibits to reflect new discoveries. In the past, Murray has we have of Emily Dickinson today, a daguerreotype that the given tours of the Dickinson Museum in Amherst with current family had discarded earlier. housekeepers and gardeners on the property. Now she’’s thinking Murray describes these borderline miraculous events as about how to integrate the servants’’ stories into an exhibit at the ““material,”” focusing instead on the creative impact Maher and New York Botanical Garden in April. Murray is a third-generathe other servants may have had on Dickinson. ““Dickinson was tion Irish American on both sides (her father’���s grandparents are very attuned to languages,”” says Murray. ““Not just Irish but a lot from Cork), and Maid as Muse has given her the opportunity to of them. When she was a teen, she was really into Robert Burns insert herself into a ““literary lineage”” that is well-worn but still –– he uses a lot of that Lowlands Scottish vernacular as part of his open to interpretation. ““More people who walk through [the poetry. She adores him –– she goes around the house talking this exhibit] can relate to the servants because that’’s mostly our way. So she’’s really into that and I like to think of this in terms story,”” Murray says. ““It’’s the immigrant story. So Dickinson IA of continuity. As she gets older and more into her vocation as a becomes more human; she becomes more fully realized.”” Aífe Murray

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{ review of books}

Recently published books of Irish and Irish-American interest.

Fiction

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t is rare for a first-time novelist to tackle historical events in as refreshing a manner as Patricia Falvey does in The Yellow House. Falvey, born in Newry, Co. Down where her story is situated, immigrated to the States at twenty. Leaving a career at PricewaterhouseCoopers to pursue writing, her debut novel shows a mastery of craft lacking from much of today’’s fiction. Beginning with a dramatic end to a family’’s well-being, we are introduced to protagonist Eileen. Her father has been killed in a fire and her mother has run off with her brother Frankie. Eileen, strong-willed and fiery, moves on with her youngest brother to work and eventually restore the yellow house and her life. Falvey controls the story, weaving her characters through the First World War and the Troubles, allowing the characters to be the masters of their own fate rather than falling back on history to guide the plot. Eileen is torn between her instinctive rebelliousness to join the revolutionary cause in Ireland and her new growing wisdom. Readers will be inclined to gluttonously scarf down this novel in one sitting as I did. Take your time reading The Yellow House, you’’ll be sad to see the last page. – Tara Dougherty

(352 pages / Center Street / $21.99)

N

ational Book Award finalist Thomas Lynch came forth this February with Apparition & Late Fictions, a novella and four short stories colored by death and set largely in Michigan, where Lynch’’s experience as a funeral director has informed his meditations on human experience and the natural world. While the unfolding of events and emotional developments in the stories sometimes feel contrived, as in ““Catch and Release,”” about a son coming

to terms with his father’’s death on a solo fishing trip, the overall effect of Lynch’’s spare and straightforward narrative is haunting and satisfying. ““Matinee de Septembre,”” in which a widowed professor becomes increasingly bewitched during a retreat at Mackinac Island by her surroundings and their inhabitants, is an eerie and successful variation on Thomas Mann’’s novella Death in Venice. The novella in the book, Apparition, is the

Children’s Literature Cá bhfuil tú, a Phádraig? is a children’s book, written in Irish, that weaves today’s topics into a story that young school-age children can understand. It takes place during the building of the M3 Motorway near Tara, Co Meath. Oisín, one of the protesters, begins telling his fellow protesters the story of St. Patrick and why it is so important to preserve the area.The following morning, Oisín’s sister, Aoife, sees a fire on the hill of Slane and later finds St. Patrick there. She brings him back to the group and he tells Aoife the story of his life. His presence helps to shed light on the situation.While the language may be challenging for those not fluent in Irish, the story succeeds in being both entertaining, with brilliant illustrations, and educational. – Kerman Patel (70 pages / An Gúm / $35, Amazon.com) 104 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

story of a pastor who achieves success in the public eye by writing a self-help book on his divorce, and Lynch manages to craft it with elements of both deep cynicism and touching naiveté. – Kara Rota (216 pages / W.W. Norton & Co. / $24.95)

I

n Double Happiness, a collection of delicately crafted short stories that are simultaneously beautiful and deeply sad, author Mary-Beth Hughes has captured emotional catastrophes and small joys that span time and place. In the title story, recently widowed Ann McCleary takes one of her six young children to the Dairy Queen. When the boy’’s sister Kathleen demands an explanation and Ann tells her the boy is sad, Kathleen replies, ““We’’re all sad,”” in an ultimatum that rings true throughout the stories contained in Double Happiness. From ““Pelican Song,”” about a grown daughter unable to extricate her mother from a life of domestic abuse that she has repeatedly chosen, to ““Rome,”” about a young girl becoming increasingly party to her father’’s infidelities, the stories often revolve around the devastating theme of children suffering for the indiscretions of the grown-ups that surround them and dictate their realities. – Kara Rota (148 pages / Black Cat, an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc. / $15.00)

S

imultaneously a thriller, mystery and romance, Darling Jim began when author Christian Moerk found an old newspaper clipping describing the mysterious murders of three sisters and their aunt in their suburban Dublin home. Moerk decided to transform the gruesome event into an otherworldly love tale, weaving the tradition of Irish storytelling into his characters’’ lives as well as his own narrative. Beginning in the coastal town of Malahide, the novel delves head on into the horrific discovery of the corpses. However, only two of the sisters’’ bodies are found. The third Walsh sister, Fiona, has vanished, leaving in her


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wake a diary that tells of an intense romance that is far from over. To complicate matters, the local mailman discovers the diary just as an alluring stranger, Jim, shows up in town. The Walsh sisters are strong enough to resist Jim’’s charms, but are they in too deep when they begin to uncover his past? Moerk keeps the mystery going by slowly unfolding the story through entries from the sisters’’ diaries. With rich, detailed language that envelops the reader from the first page, Moerk’’s unique spin on Irish mythology combines the grisly with the magical for a sus– Aliah O’Neill penseful read. (288 pages / Holt Paperbacks / $15.00)

L

arry Kirwan, frontman of Black 47 and author of Green Suede Shoes, returns with Rockin’’ the Bronx, another story of the Irish experience in America, this time through the eyes of Sean Kelly, a recent immigrant who comes to the Bronx in search of his girlfriend Mary. What he finds, based on Kirwan’’s lurid descriptions, is an urban wasteland: the Irish stronghold on Bainbridge Avenue is barely a comfort in this utterly bizarre landscape, full of garbage, crime, and violence. Kirwan’’s choice to set the novel in the early 80s increases the general tension of the story; among the novel’’s many tribulations are the death of Bobby Sands, the destitution of drug addiction, and the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, all amid the struggle to survive in a place far from its idyllic status across the Atlantic. Kirwan’’s language is dense, rich and frenzied, mirroring Sean’’s naïveté and stubborn inability to cope with the hard facts of Bainbridge Avenue, where the promise of a drink is a temporary escape

from the outside world. The characters surrounding Sean are necessarily hardened by Bronx life, full of secrets and indiscretion, yet their complexities grow as Sean matures, revealing fragile personalities and murky pasts. While Sean’’s love for Mary endlessly transforms in its definition, his devotion to his friends becomes fiercely strong. Stringing it all together is music, which propels Sean to work out his troubles through songwriting and gives the language of the novel an ever-changing rhythm, recording the cacophony of the city in an explosion of – Aliah O’Neill sound and feeling. (276 pages / Brandon Books / $19.95)

Nonfiction

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ames P. Cantrell takes on the task of dissecting the tradition of Southern American literature and examining its Celtic roots. His How Celtic Culture Invented Southern Literature brings readers into a literary examination of Scottish, Welsh and Irish culture as it pertains to the South and its presence in the prose of that region. A native of Warren County, Tennessee, Cantrell puts his Ph.D. in American literature to good use in his work of literary criticism which proves to be a concise and useful tool for any student or enthusiast of Southern literature. Exploring the Tennessee mountain cultures, the Civil War era and all the great Southern authors and those you might not have thought of, Cantrell’’s work argues exactly what its title suggests in an insightful and complete way. Picking away at what has become the dominant idea of Southern culture as an offshoot from a strictly English milieu, Cantrell looks deeply into the influence of Celtic cultures on the South and the

surfacing of that culture in the most famed contributions to Southern literature. From Gone with the Wind through to more contemporary works, Cantrell dedicates entire chapters to exploring the religious influences of the Irish, Scottish and Welsh as well as familial constructs and language. The book reads not as a list of writers or as yet another attempt to reinvent Faulkner, but as a careful look into a cultural movement underscoring this genre of – Tara Dougherty fiction. (288 pages / Pelican Publishing Co. / $29.95 )

D

arina Allen’’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking is an ode to traditional recipes and cooking skills that have been lost in recent generations with the onslaught of modern-day conveniences and mass production in the food industry. Growing up in County Tipperary, Allen learned how to forage for food, cook seasonally, and raise animals for the table, all skills that she explains thoroughly in this well-organized cookbook. The book is divided into sections such as fish, eggs, dairy, bread, vegetables, and preserving, each with beautiful color photographs picturing the delectable dishes. Allen’’s instructions are clear and simple to match the spirit of her mission: to inspire the younger generations to reconnect with the food traditions of their grandparents. We often think of cooking from scratch as time-consuming, but Allen sees it as a labor of love—— the joy in knowing that you preserved your own fruit for jam or gathered greens from your own garden for a salad is worth the work. With cakes and breads that are often named after loved ones from Allen’’s childhood, the cookbook has a warm and personal feel as though it is being handed down to the reader like another family recipe. Forgotten Skills of Cooking is not only a recipe book but a guide to being more connected to your food, a tradition that is surprisingly modern in the era of ““green living.”” – Aliah O’Neill IA (600 pages / Kyle Books / $40.00) JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 105


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{crossword}

By Darina Molloy

ACROSS

1 Picturesque Mayo area where an annual commemorative Famine walk finishes (8) 3 See 15 across (5) 8 See 14 down (9) 9 (& 27 across) See 30 across (2) 10 See 3 down (3) 11 (& 33 down) Where many of the starving homeless ended up (4) 12 Phytophthora _____, Latin name for potato blight (9) 13 (& 44 across) See 34 across (5) 15 (& 3 across) The _____: book by Richard Power (6) 17 See 25 across (7) 18 (& 1 down) Sculptor of Famine memorial at Customs House Quay (5) 21 (& 7 down) See 19 down (5) 22 See 13 down (4) 23 See 28 down (4) 25 (& 17 across) Newspaper editor who wrote this famous phrase:““The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the Famine.”” (4) 27 See 30 across (7) 30 (& 9 & 27 across) Iconic song memorializing the Famine (6) 32 ____ of Mexico (4) 34 (&13 & 44 across) Book by Cecil Woodham-Smith (3) 35 See 24 down (5) 36 (& 26 down) Chief cause of the Famine (6) 37 Scheme for attaining an objective (4) 40 North, south, east and ___ (4) 43 What those who changed their religion for food were called (7) 44 See 34 across (6)

DOWN

2 See 18 across (9) 3 (& 10 across) Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada (6) 4 See 29 down (5)

5 6 7 8 13 14 16 19 20 24 26 28

Not off (2) Measurement of land, 1-5 acres (7) See 19 down (3) New series from The Wire creator, set in New Orleans (5) (& 22 across) Iconic RTE broadcaster who died suddenly in April (5) (& 8 across) This sir administered the British Govt's relief to Famine victims (7) See 41 down (6) (& 21 across, & 7 down) The Great Famine in Irish (2) (& 31 down) Legal rules prior to Catholic Emancipation (5) (& 35 across) British Famine-era style of governing (7) See 36 across (6) (& 23 across) British

Win a subscription to Irish America magazine Please send your completed crossword puzzle to Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10001, to arrive no later than June 30, 2010. A winner will be drawn from among all correct entries. If there are no correct solutions, the prize will be awarded for the completed puzzle which comes closest in the opinion of our staff. Winner’’s name will be published along with the solution in our next issue. Xerox copies are acceptable. Winner of the April/May Crossword: Virginia Gray, Round Lake Beach, IL 106 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

Prime Minister who sent meal to Ireland (6) 29 (& 4 down) Emigrant boats soon became known as this (6) 31 See 20 down (4) 33 See 11 across (5) 38 Children of ___ (3) 39 Something curved in shape (3) 41 (& 16 down) Newspaper founded and edited by Charles Gavan Duffy (3) 42 Number of years since birth (3)

April/May Solution


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{music}

New York Rock Band

Black 47

ALIAH O’NEILL SPEAKS TO LARRY KIRWAN ABOUT THE IRISH FAMINE’S MUSICAL LEGACY.

T

L to R: Thomas Hamlin, Joe Burcaw, Larry Kirwan, Fred Parcells, Geoffrey Blythe and Joseph Mulvanerty.

hink of any major event in Irish history and a song or two will spring to mind that describes the emotions of a people. Except, that is, for the Great Famine, which left its sufferers at a loss for words to describe their anguish and devastation. With the exception of ““Skibbereen,”” the musical dialogue between father and son about the 1848 Rebellion, until recently few Irish spoke of the Famine let alone wrote music about it. ““‘‘Skibbereen’’ is one of the few songs, and I think that was because they were such believers in God that when this devastation came, they just couldn’’t believe it,”” says Larry Kirwan, frontman for New York rock band Black 47. ““It changed Ireland. It changed the Irish character, and part of that is reflected in the fact that there are no songs.”” While not all of Black 47’’s or Larry Kirwan’’s work is about the Famine, his most recent work –– impressively, a book, a Black 47 album and a musical with Schindler’’s List

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author Thomas Keneally –– is all about retroactively giving voice to the voiceless, breathing some life into forgotten or untapped histories here in America as well as abroad. The musical, Transport, which enjoyed a popular reception at the Irish Arts Center in May, is based on the story of Keneally’’s wife’’s great-grandmother, who was sent from Ireland to Australia as a convict in 1838 for stealing a bolt of cloth. According to Kirwan, who researched Australian history to write the music for Transport, many women and men were sent to penal colonies for seven years for petty crimes such as stealing a sheep, bread, or in the case of one Wexford man, a hat. The political prisoners were sent for upwards of fourteen years. ““In 1798 they transported a huge amount of United Irishmen who were involved in the uprisings in Wexford and Wicklow. They caused another uprising themselves in 1803 and called it the Vinegar Hill Uprising after the same one in Wexford.”” Similar arrests were made following the Rebellions of 1848 and 1868. Most of the women and many of the men stayed in


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Australia once their sentences were served, settling down and marrying or giving up hopes to move to Ireland or America due to poverty. This, however, did not deter prisoners from keeping up on the news back home, especially as petty crimes such as food theft increased during the Famine. ““One of the interesting things that happened was that most of the crimes took place during the summertime because even though the potato crop hadn’’t [yet] failed, the supplies would’’ve dwindled by the summertime. So in early summer they would’’ve been waiting for new potatoes and run out of the old ones.”” If Transport seems like a departure for Kirwan from his usual subject matter, it’’s only due to geography. Black 47 has done for America what Keneally wanted to do for Australia: to describe what happened to the people from around the time of the Famine whose stories were never recorded. When asked what Black 47’’s role is in portraying the Famine to Americans who continue to be compelled by its tragedy, the answer is clear to Kirwan. ““We knew what our role was exactly. We were formed to be a political band. To me, Black 47 meant ‘‘never again,’’ the same as in the Jewish cry. . . . I’’m not one of those people who believe the British did it on purpose; in fact I know they didn’’t. But what they did do was they allowed millions of people to starve and leave the land because they didn’’t want to change the particular economic system they had at the time.”” Black 47’’s namesake is not a random political statement but a surprisingly personal one with origins in Kirwan’’s

own family. ““I was raised by a very old grandfather who was the youngest son of a man who had escaped the famine by becoming a stonecutter on one of the great Anglo-Irish houses in County Carlow,”” he explains. ““So he had actually seen the famine and passed on the stories to my grandfather who passed them on to me. He made me promise that these people would not be forgotten. Because they were. In the Ireland I grew up in, there was no talk of Famine. . . . It had scarred the consciousness of the country.”” Kirwan and Black 47 have clearly taken this history to heart, using music as a bridge between not only Ireland and America but also between past and present. He cites the song ““Black 47”” as one that still has a ““chilling effect”” on him. Working with Ric Ocasek of The Cars on the track, Kirwan went into the recording studio laying voice over voice, trying to recreate the sound of famine victims. ““Some are women’’s voices, some are men’’s voices, some crying, some muttering, some talking. And I would come out after each one and say, ‘‘Was that it?’’ and he’’d go, ‘‘Nah, that’’s not it, got to keep going,’’ and then we did this collage of twenty voices with instruments over them. It had this huge effect on people because in a certain way we were channeling those voices of people who were never heard.”” The song contains the same stories Kirwan’’s grandfather had told him growing up, but with the inflection of rock and roll ““so that young people would actually hear it and feel it viscerally.”” The song caused a stir when it was released in 1993 because, according to Kirwan, many older fans had a close link to their Famine ancestors. Despite the subject matter being nearly 150 years old, ““Black 47”” still

“WE KNEW WHAT OUR ROLE WAS EXACTLY. WE WERE FORMED TO BE A POLITICAL BAND.TO ME, BLACK 47 MEANT ‘NEVER AGAIN,’ struck a chord for many Irish Americans who had simply never discussed the Famine before. If there’’s anything to be said for Black 47’’s legacy, it is that music still influences and describes our understanding of what it is to be Irish. Though the Famine issued only silence for many years, Kirwan’’s work today is indicative of the desire of other Irish Americans to add their voices to IA the chorus.

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{sláinte}

By Edythe Preet

Spring’s Precious Nettles – the edible leaf that is also known as the devil’s leaf.

S

ome foods don’’t have a real come-hitherness about them. Who was the bold soul to first slurp a raw oyster? Artichokes have thorns and stickers growing on every surface. Rhubarb is notorious for its super sour pucker power, and, if carelessly ingested, its leaves are quite capable of killing a foolhardy forager. The edible that really amazes me is the stinging nettle, also known as ‘‘devil’’s leaf.’’ In the field it appears to be just another innocuous weed. Brush up against it with bare skin, however, and that patch of unprotected epidermis instantly feels like it’’s on fire. The sting comes from formic acid, the same venom that is found in bee and ant stings, which is released when the tiny pointed hairs covering the leaves break off on being touched. The sensation is what gives the nettle its botanical name Urtica from the Latin word urere, which means ‘‘to burn.’’ The term nettle derives from the Anglo-Saxon word noedl meaning ‘‘needle.’’ My first encounter with the stinging nettle occurred one fine spring evening at County Cork’’s legendary Arbutus Lodge (alas, now closed). Spying nettle soup on the menu and never having tasted it before, I promptly ordered a bowl and asked if there were any leaves in the kitchen that I could see. A few minutes after bringing the soup (delicious!) my server reappeared cradling a sprig of nettles in a pristine white napkin. Thinking ‘‘what an elegant presentation’’ and unaware of the plant’’s reputation, I picked it up and immediately my fingers felt like I had touched a glowing ember. With profuse apologies for not having warned me –– why should she, as

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every Irish child knows better than to fondle fresh nettles –– the waitress informed me that in the wild the plants grow alongside dock, the leaves of which are a folk cure for the skin irritation. Unfortunately, there were no dock leaves in the larder. Nearly twenty years passed before I encountered nettles again. Recently at a

local farmer’’s market, I spotted a bin of the greens accompanied by a large handprinted sign that read: ““Caution Handle Carefully –– nettles sting the skin!”” Despite the warning, shoppers one after another picked up the bunches and just as quickly dropped them. The grower –– an Irish-American former U.S. Marine turned organic farmer –– hastily assured his customers that not only does cooking or freezing neutralize the sting but that nettles are loaded with nutrients and,

like fiery chiles with which today’’s gourmet cooks are well acquainted, well worth the extra bit of caution needed when preparing them. Indeed, nettles are a rich source of vitamin C and potassium. They contain more iron than spinach, anti-histamines that help alleviate allergy symptoms, and serotonin, which imparts a feeling of well-being. Nettles are also reputed to be a blood purifier, useful in treating kidney infections, and an aid to hemoglobin production in red blood cells. Since the 6th century, they have been eaten in Ireland to relieve the pain of arthritis. Also, if you wanted to keep the rheumatics away for a year, it was customary to eat nettle soup three times during May, beginning on May 1, the spring festival of Beltaine. But nutrition and medicinals are not the only roles the nettle has played in Irish history. Like flax, the source of linen, nettles can also be made into cloth. The plant’’s fibers are, in fact, stronger than flax and when spun and woven create a textile similar to hemp. Well into the 20th century, nettle fibers were still being transformed into household sheets, tablecloths and fishing nets. Nettles were also once used as dyes. The leafy parts of the plant will color wool green, or black when iron is used as a mordant, and the roots produce a gold color when mixed with alum. Hens fed nettle seeds will lay more eggs, and oil extracted from the seeds can be burned in a lantern. Lastly, nettles can be used as a vegetarian substitute for rennet when making cheese. The Irish have been eating nettles for so many eons that the plant is well rooted in folklore. It was long believed that eating nettles would protect one from


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RECIPES

Sting

NOTE: Always wear gloves when handling nettles!

Irish Nettle Soup (The Festive Food of Ireland –– Darina Allen)

1 1⁄2 ounces butter 1 1⁄2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced 3 ounces onions, minced 3 1⁄2 ounces leeks, minced 4 1⁄2 cups chicken stock 5 ounces young nettles, washed and chopped 3 ⁄4 cup milk or cream salt and pepper to taste

PHOTO: SCOTTFILKINS.WORDPRESS.COM

The Irish Hunger Memorial in Manhattan’s Battery Park. Patches of nettles can be found among the plantings of native Irish flora that surround a derelict stone cottage on the small hillock that recreates a plot of 19th-century Irish farmland.

sorcery and feeding wilted leaves (which also negates the sting) to cows would safeguard the dairy herds from hexes that could cause them to stop producing milk. Even now some people still swear that nettles will only grow where elves live and thus deliberately plant nettles in their gardens, a practice that inevitably proves how mischievous the fairy folk are as nettles, which reproduce both by seed and underground rhizomes, can quickly take over nearby flowerbeds. Since nettles grow wild and are easily foraged everywhere in Ireland, they have long played a vital role in the diet of the poor, a fact that is celebrated in the song ‘‘The Town of Ballybay’’ which was recorded by Tommy Makem and The Clancy Brothers and can be listened to at http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=cqu2mwPdkGE&feature=related. In this humorous tune, a woman of dubious character feeds her brood of more than twelve children ““on potatoes and on soup she made with nettles and lumps of hairy bacon that she boiled up in the kettle.””

During An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger), a clause in the Irish Poor Law stipulated that anyone who owned more than a half-acre of land was not eligible for any aid or relief, forcing the starving famine victims to forage for edible plants, the most vital of which was the humble nettle. At the Irish Hunger Memorial in Manhattan’’s Battery Park two miles of undulating walls that support the Memorial are lined with illuminated text of famine statistics and quotes, and patches of nettles can be found among the plantings of native Irish flora that surround a derelict stone cottage on the small hillock that recreates a plot of 19th century Irish farmland. Our ancestors may have lacked the wheel, thermal underwear and television, but they were no pikers when it came to food. They ate just about anything. And therein lies the answer. Times were tough, and food was scarce. If it didn’’t kill you, it went into the pot. And thankfully so, because nettles are one of the food world’’s great tastes. Sláinte! IA

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes, onions and leeks. Toss them in the butter until they are well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover. Steam on gentle heat for about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the vegetables are just cooked. Add the nettle leaves and cook until soft. Blend in a food processor until thoroughly pureed. Add milk or cream and blend some more. Taste and correct seasoning. Makes six servings.

Spring Soup (Traditional Irish Food –– Theodora Fitzgibbon)

4 thin slices bread 1 head of lettuce, washed and chopped 1 large mixed bunch of watercress, sorrel and nettles, washed and chopped 10 spring onions, minced 2 ounces butter 1 pint chicken broth 1 pint milk salt and pepper pinch of nutmeg 1 teaspoon sugar 1 bunch each parsley and chives, chopped 4 poached eggs grated cheddar cheese

Toast the bread, cut into strips and set aside. Heat the butter in a large saucepan and soften the vegetables in it for about 5 minutes, stirring and turning the vegetables well. Add the stock and the milk. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and sugar. Place the toast strips in four soup bowls and scatter liberally with parsley and chives. Ladle the soup over all. Place one poached egg in each bowl. Sprinkle with cheese. Makes four servings. JUNE / JULY 2010 IRISH AMERICA 111


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Family Pictures

Jack Moran on Tar Beach M

y father Jack Moran arrived in New York on April 5th, 1923. He was from Athea, a small village in County Limerick. He loved New York. And Brooklyn. My mother was born in Kerry and raised in Limerick but she didn’’t meet my father until she came to the States in 1927. The Irish in New York would all get together for parties and they met at one of those parties. My mother was nine years young and she had the prettiest blue eyes. They got married in 1928, had me in 1929, and my brother in 1931. At some point my father started to work at the Stock Exchange. He ran what they called ““the car”” –– the elevator from the first floor to the sixth. It was for ““Members Only,”” and he was fascinated by the way the ““members”” dressed. He loved nice clothes. After they married, they lived in what was called a railroad apartment –– the rooms went from front to back, the front room, then the bedroom, then a long hallway, then another bedroom, the dining room and the kitchen. The air would flow all the way through. The [buildings] weren’’t brownstones, but they were brown. People did keep them nice. Each one was separated by a metal gate. People parked their [baby] carriages inside; women would sit on the stoop, shoot the breeze. We lived on the top floor, and it was one short step up to the roof. It was a few blocks to the subway station, get off at Wall Street, and he was at work. He liked the easy way. In the summer, to catch a breeze, he’’d bring his beach chair up to ““Tar Beach”” so called because the roofs were tarred over. He had a radio with a cord. He’’d throw the cord down through the airy way, and my mother would bring it in through the dining room window and plug it in. He’’d listen to the Dodgers. On the weekends we’’d go out to his brother and sister’’s in Long Island and play card games. They were building a house, and he helped. But come Monday morning, he was back in the city. We loved the shows, especially the music. There was an

LEFT:Tar beach: Jack Moran on “Tar Beach”: a folding chair brought up to the rooftop of his home in Brooklyn BELOW LEFT: Coney island: The family at the “real” beach on Coney Island: Jack Moran, his wife Joan, and their two children, John and Peggy BELOW RIGHT: Uniforms: Jack Moran (left) with his co-workers on Wall Street

Irish show, the McNultys, which consisted of Ma, Eileen, and Peter [McNulty]. We’’d go to the Academy of Music in Brooklyn to hear them. That only happened once a year. We went to Carnegie Hall once. They were the high spots, the enjoyable musicals. My brother and I were small. We’’d take a roast chicken off to Prospect Park in the summer and have a picnic lunch. Dad liked New York but he loved Brooklyn. We all did, really. IA Submitted by Margaret “Peggy” Phelan Willingboro, New Jersey

Please send photographs along with your name, address, phone number, and a brief description, to Kara Rota at Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10001. If photos are irreplaceable, then please send a good quality reproduction or e-mail the picture at 300 dpi resolution to Irishamag@aol.com. No photocopies, please. We will pay $65 for each submission that we select.

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By Charles E. Orser, Jr.

“Forget Me Not” Archaeology sites expose hidden history of the Famine.

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he Famine rests within Irish memory on many levels and is told with diverse voices. With each passing year, as the stories of those terrible years recede further into history, the Famine becomes slightly more intangible, less real to our modern minds. The archaeology of the Famine challenges our views on that awful history and provides special glimpses into the reality of those times in unparalleled ways. Beginning in the summer of 1994 and

trymen and had only then just opened. The excavation of the two houses presents a unique look at the daily lives of the Narys, an average rural Irish family, at the height of the Famine, immediately before and during their eviction. Their material possessions, lying hidden in the soil for over 150 years, have powerful stories to tell. Careful analysis revealed that their plates, cups, and bowls –– variously decorated with intricate blue patterns, one or

One of the Nary houses after excavation. Only the smaller stones and artifacts remained after the family was evicted.

continuing for five consecutive summers, my students and I excavated the buried remains of two house sites in County Roscommon in the old townland of Ballykilcline. Historical records say that the residents of these two houses were members of the Nary family (father, mother, and sons) and that they were evicted in 1847-48 by the forces of the Crown. Ballykilcline became a Crown estate in 1834 and shortly thereafter the tenants began a protracted rent strike. After twelve years of non-payment, the Crown's agents decided to evict the residents en masse and assist their emigration to America. The individual families of Ballykilcline spread throughout the country. Many of them, including the Narys, eventually settled on the flat, fertile farmland of central Illinois, not far from the Illinois & Michigan Canal that had been dug by thousands of their coun114 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2010

two colorful flowers, or broad bands of blue and brown –– were practically indistinguishable from those used by urbanites in New York and Boston, but with some subtle differences. That many of the dishes’’ designs were upside down or badly applied suggests that poorly made seconds were marketed to such rural ““peasants”” as the Narys. And, that these white dishes –– mass-produced in the English midlands –– were found alongside pieces of earth-toned ““milk pans”” –– made locally by traditionally trained potters –– shows that rural Ireland was in the midst of change. Other artifacts suggest the roles that women played in the household economy: glass beads of blue, green, red, and white from lace-making bobbins, a white ceramic nesting egg to encourage the hens to lay, and a rusted pair of sewing scissors for extending the lives of the family's clothing. A small, silveralloy thimble stamped with the words

““FORGET ME NOT”” offers a touching reminder of love and tenderness that transcends time. These tiny artifacts, left on the ground because they were broken or could not be taken to America, provide silent testimony to the mundane features of daily life in the Irish countryside during the era of the Famine. Their very presence forces us to confront the richness of Irish life in new and often subtle ways. The artifacts lack the bias that accompanies the characterizations of the Irish ““peasantry”” as lazy, uninspired, and dull. These tiny monuments from the past force us to think about what we share in common with these men and women. The archaeology also tells us another thing of great importance. It informs us that people can attempt to erase history. Before excavation, the Nary houses were completely hidden under a thin layer of sod and earth. The archaeology substantiates that crowbar brigades were very good at their work; they could destroy, dismantle, and spread the remains of stone houses in ways that would leave no trace on the ground surface. Someone walking through this quiet Irish pasture would have had no idea of the history just beneath their feet. The rocks from the interior of the houses’’ stone walls, intermingled with the artifacts, were all that remained after the largest stones had been removed to build walls and other structures once the land was emptied of people. Since 2002, our discoveries at Ballykilcline have been supplemented and substantiated by additional, annual excavations at Famine-era houses in counties Sligo and Donegal. Working with Maggie Ronayne of NUI Galway’’s Department of Archaeology and communities in the Burren, our new project –– the Burren Field School in Historical Archaeology –– will involve full community participation from the outset. Archaeological research –– when added to written records, community knowledge and memory, landscapes, and other forms of information –– has the potential to change our perceptions and to enrich our IA understanding forever. Charles E. Orser, Jr. is Curator of Historical Archaeology, New York State Museum, Albany, and Adjunct Professor, National University of Ireland, Galway.



Irish America June / July 2010