“Tugged up from their home roots, taken and going willingly from the sea smell and the peat smells...Shoved into a boat with seating and cursing and stinking and praying, with deaths and births, with old age and youth, they landed and a shovel was placed in their hands or a hammer or a spade and they built B o s t o n and New York and Chicago and Philadelphia. And in the evening they walked home in the leaning shadows of the gray stone to their one room or two rooms and fell into bewildered sleep.”
~Jack Dunphy, “Prologue,” John Fury
Boston celebrates its Irish history re e h e l t i T By Meghan Smith News Editor
Photo by Meghan Smith/Gavel Media
t is no secret that Boston and Ireland have a long history, and Boston College is no exception. From buildings with names like O’Neill, Fitzpatrick, McElroy, and McGuinn, to students’ celebrations on St. Patrick’s Day on , it is clear that Boston College has a lot of Irish pride. But what many students may not know is that the whole month of March is Irish-American Heritage Month. Anyone who has seen The Departed, The Town or Good Will Hunting will undoubtedly pick up on the Irish pride as seen through tough, Irish, workingclass neighborhoods like South Boston, otherwise known as “Southie.” But the roots of Irish-American culture run deeper than some shamrock tattoos and the camaraderie of having a pint of Guinness at a local pub.
Potatoes and immigration
ollowing the Great Irish Famine from 1845 to 1852, which destroyed potato crops that were vital for the livelihood of many Irish farmers, more than one million Irish immigrated to America in search of a better life and to escape starvation. They settled among major metropolitan areas, such as New York, Chicago, and of course, Boston. Like many immigrants, the Irish faced many obstacles, from discrimination in employment to assimilating to the new culture. They were caricatured in newspapers as irresponsible drunks, and signs were frequently seen saying “Irish need not apply.” In order to overcome prejudice, Irish-Americans started to organize for change, especially politically. The voting bloc became known as the
“green machine,” and was successful in advancing into political offices locally and nationally. John F. Kennedy made Irish-Catholics (as well as Bostonians) proud when he made it to the highest public office in the country. Now it is not at all uncommon to see Irish last names on local and national ballots
Obama with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Oval Office. Photo Courtesy of Pete Souza/Wikemedia Commons
A university for Irish sons
t was in this environment that Boston College was founded in 1863, with its original campus in the South End. The institution was originally meant to serve the sons of Irish immigrants, who commuted to campus, and has since evolved in to one of the country’s leading Catholic universities. Of course, looking at Boston now, it is hard to imagine a time when the Irish were not an integral part of the local culture. Massachusetts is the most Irish-American state in the country, with 24 percent of residents claiming Irish heritage. Because of this legacy, Boston has become one of the best places in the world to be on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th. Ever since the first parade in 1762 in New York, American cities have taken on this tradition, and Boston’s Southie neighborhood is now acclaimed for its festivities. Although North America has the biggest events, countries all around the world celebrate with green everything and Guiness. At BC, St. Patrick’s Day is certainly an excuse to go out, but also to celebrate the culture, whether you are Irish or not.
Both Barack and Michelle Obama have Irish blood; the president’s third great grandfather Falmouth Kearney moved from Moneygall to New York City in 1850, and Michelle is traced back to the first Irish immigrants in the South. “The green strands they have woven into America’s heart, from their tiniest villages to our greatest cities, is something truly unique on the world stage,” Obama said.
Celebrating Irish Heritage In his presidential proclamation declaring March Irish-Heritage Month in 2012, President Barack Obama outlined the importance of Irish-Americans in America’s history, and encouraged remembrance of their legacy. “Defying famine, poverty, and discrimination, these sons and daughters of Erin demonstrated extraordinary strength and unshakable faith as they gave their all to help build an America worthy of the journey they and so many others have taken,” Obama said. “During Irish-American Heritage Month, we recall their legacy of hard work and perseverance, and we carry forward that singular dedication to forging a more prosperous future for all Americans,” he said.