You want a great song for St Patrick’s Day? Hard to do better than this, about 2 waves of Irish emigration to America, separated by about 150 years https://t.co/n5MbC1AjH0
— Dana Houle (@DanaHoule) March 17, 2022
Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Where e’er we go, we celebrate
The land that makes us refugees
From fear of priests with empty plates
From guilt and weeping effigies
Still we dance to the music
And we dance…
My mother’s people — well, my maternal grandmother, who was born (but not conceived) in New York; her husband died when I was too small to remember him — were very much Lace Curtain Irish. My father’s people… were not. Although the epithet ‘Shanty Irish’ was never used in their presence, that I remember.
It wasn’t till after those grandparents and their only child, my dad, had died that one of my siblings discovered the skeleton in our closet. We knew they’d both grown up in the same small Connemara community, separately emigrated to Montreal as the Troubles intensified in the early 1910s, and moved to New York shortly after marrying. What we did not know (my father probably never did) was that while my grandfather was raised in the (Catholic) Church, my grandmother… well, they had every reason to leave the Olde Sod, and then to move further away from their extended families once they were able to plight their troth.
And I’m officially one-quarter Ian-Paisley Orange.
That’s the heritage I blame all my least attractive failings on.
If you’ve never heard an otter purr, well…
@HumboldtBlue: well, it’s not the most soothing sound in the world.
J R in WV
My Irish roots are also Scots-Irish… Presbyterian, moved to Ireland by the filthy English, fled to America at some point in time there. That would be one quarter or so of the roots. Another quarter is Swiss German, and the other 2 quarters are too far back to know the roots!
Well, one of them was a Hessian deserter during the Revolution.
“People who knew when to get the f*ck out, in other words.”
My grandfather was born in Brooklyn in the 1890s, to a Presbyterian family from Ulster. They would dress him in orange on St Patrick’s to make sure that the Irish Catholic kids in the neighborhood would hate him.
Among his grandchildren include two married to Catholics, two married to Greek Orthodox, and one married to a Jew. And the next generation from that appears to be all atheist. So thankful to leave that world behind.
My favourite song about Irish people emigrating to America is Springsteen’s American Land.
@Xenos: We had some like that. Their Catholic mother left each of the kids who married non-Catholics three dollars in dimes ( thirty pieces of silver, like Judas got for selling out Jesus). She was my grandmother’s grandmother.
@Amir Khalid: Thanks. I had never heard that before. Now it’s my new ear worm. (Mostly I like ear worms. They are memorable.)
@J R in WV:
We may be related. One of my ancestors was a Hessian who was a POW. He refused to be repatriated after release and settled down in Pennsylvania.
Technically, they weren’t mercenaries. The Hessians were in the army of the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, who rented them out. They are properly termed auxiliaries.
David Hackett Fischer wrote an excellent history that includes the Hessian experience in the early days of the RW in Washington’s Crossing.
Also, my Godmother, Aunt Philomena is from Galway and my first cousins are first cousins with the Tubridys.
Aunt Phil’s father was a doctor and an early member of Sinn Fein,
Last gasp Irish song fun. Nora Bayes, 1910 Ziegfeld Follies.
@HumboldtBlue: Thanks, added it to my Kindle.
@J R in WV: @Origuy:
David Hackett Fischer also wrote Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkwatys In America.
Paddy’s Day = “Bottle of Smoke” by the Pogues
One dreary March day after going with my Irish better half to the shitfest that was the parade in South Boston, and enduring the worst fucking people north of the Confederacy (Irish Americans in Southie), we meandered back to the Brendan Behan in Jamaica Plain (where the actual Irish– green card or no– lived).
Shortly after we settled in with our friends, The Pogues came on the music. It was a dancing tornado. On tabletops, on the bar…. broken chairs, glasses and tables abounded. Not violent, but delirious and youthfully reckless.
After a bit, the owner commandeered the music, with an announcement “No more Pogues!”
It was 4 pm on St. Patrick’s Day.
More Erin musique: JF Murphy & Salt.
(Emceed a concert by them during the early 70s; brassist played two saxophones at once.)
My great great grandfather whose last name I was born with, was born in Ireland around 1800, Edgeworth. Not an Irish-sounding name, probably it had English origins. By 1832 he was in Canada and married to a woman named Hannah Freeman, recorded being granted land claimed by Loyalist families. Her father and grandfather were Royalists, farming in Stillwater, NY, and they made the mistake of helping Johnny Burgoyne find the Continental Army, by then camped on their farmland. In thanks, the English troops burned down the farmhouse. After the battle of John Freeman’s Farm, now called the Battle of Saratoga, Freeman and his family were allowed to go to Canada, to Montreal, in October, just in time to catch whatever plague was overwhelming the city, (smallpox?), and all of them died except for the 13 yo son (my great great great grandfather) and his two oldest sisters. The Freemans had a habit of being on the wrong side when battles were lost, and Thomas found himself on a prison boat during the War of 1812. His daughter married my great great grandfather, and they had 12 sons, and possibly a daughter, but that’s not certain.
I have a letter from John (the immigrant) Edgeworth and Hannah, written in 1862 during the Civil War to their 3 sons who had moved from Toronto to Chicago, One side is fiery commentary about what should be done with Confederate leaders, and exhorts my great grandfather to take his brothers to church. The other side is full of news about who has gone to the gold fields, who is now married, and a paragraph about the price of commodities like beans, corn, and wheat. It’s written in the most beautiful and nearly unreadable script, and it took me a month to transcribe it.
Connemara has one of the more quintessential small cottage, stone wall landscapes in Ireland. And it probably rains there more than anywhere else in Ireland it seems.
My dad’s family were originally from Connemara too — we might be cousins! My father’s ancestors came to the U.S. in the 1840s and headed to Florida, settling in the Cedar Key area shortly after the Second Seminole War and spreading out from there to adjacent counties in subsequent generations.
My last name is recognizably Irish, but my paternal relatives never emphasized our Irishness, maybe because that side of the family is refreshingly indifferent to religion, or maybe because they identify more as Southerners/Floridians than anything that came before.
My mother-in-law makes more of a fuss about my Irish heritage than I ever have. She calls each 3/17 to wish me a Happy St. Paddy’s Day, even though I am not Catholic. She lives here now, but she’s from Up North, and it’s a bigger deal there.
Thank you for recognizing this song.
I learned my kids this early on, packed them off to elementary school with a copy of the lyrics for their teachers on St. Patrick’s Day, so folks could better grasp the Irish diaspora/holocaust, and to help dispel the happy green-beer-shamrock-leprechaun bullshit.
Always brings tears to my eyes, and I always regret that my first-gen Irish-American father didn’t live long enough to hear the Pogues, nestled in that sweet spot between the Chieftains and the Clash.
‘Thousands are Sailing’ on St. Patrick’s Day, ‘Fairytale of New York’ at Christmas…pretty much tells the story, dunnit? Props to Philip Ryan, AKA Philip Chevron for some amazing work.
” And I’m officially one-quarter Ian-Paisley Orange….”
For a taste of that Ian Paisley charm, here’s Harry Enfield’s pitch-perfect impression:
??? Not sure I blame you!
I’m only two generations removed from the famine exodus on my mother’s side, my great-great grandfather was a boy of 16 when he came to the U.S. in the 1840s, he died aged 106 in the 1930s, during the depression. The Scotts Irish had food during the famine, the Catholics didn’t. Their language (banned in 1616), their music (uilleann pipes were outlawed), and finally even enough of the food grown on their land was all taken from them by the Protestant overlords of Great Britain, who considered the Papists subhuman. Tends to provoke bad feelings on both sides of that divide.
Me Nana (Da’s Ma) was named Paisley and came from Belfast. In her later years, she had many a disdainful word for the black and tans. Happier to be Catholic in metro NY than in Belfast, you may be sure.
I once heard a historian say (sorry, but I don’t remember who) that everything the English did in their colonies, they first did in Ireland. My family’s story is like everyone’s story. A tale of hardship and heartbreak with the promise of a better future. I’m happy to report that the following two generations have been healthier and happier.
My husband’s family came during the famine. His great great grandfather, George, came with a brother named Francis to America sometime before 1861, to New York City. His last name sounds more Swedish than Irish, but the family is from Killyleagh, County Down, not far from Belfast and they were Catholic. George married Mary, another immigrant, and they had six kids, and lived not far from Five Points. They both worked in one of the earliest orphanages in the city, House of Refuge. The place where a policeman would take you if your mother told him that you wouldn’t behave, and handed you over, and this really happened. Before the first orphanage, thousands of children were abandoned on the streets of New York as their disillusioned parents fled back to their home countries, or went west.
George didn’t like working at the House of Refuge so he decided to return to Ireland and told his wife that he’d send for her and the children. In 1881 he took their 13 yo daughter with him, Elizabeth, and neither were heard from again. Most of the children were teens and had jobs working in a stocking factory or trimming brass and the oldest daughter lived with her uncle and aunt and worked at the Colored Orphans Home, rebuilt after the draft riot during the Civil War, but mr opiejeanne’s great grandfather Thomas was 8, and his little brother William was 5 when their mother put them on an orphan train and they were adopted by different families in Illinois. Thomas’s story is a horror until his “adoptive” family kicks him out and another one takes him in and treats him well, about 16 but he would not be an adult until 21 so that’s 5 years of misery he was rescued from. As soon as the children were gone Mary threw herself into the Harlem River, a policeman fished her out, and the judge sent her to the infamous Blackwell Island Insane Asylum, a place where if you weren’t insane when you went in you probably were when you came out. Nellie Bly wrote about the place a few years later, exposed the inhumane practices.
Thomas kicked the dust of the Catholic Church from his sandals and became a minister in the Church of the Brethren. He tracked down his New York family in the 1901, just after his mother died.
I did find some evidence that George might have returned to Killyleagh and that, if it’s the right George, he died in 1883. Haven’t found Elizabeth yet, though.
Connemara roots as well! We went back to live there for a year in the 70s when I was a kid. We lived in Dublin suburbs, visited the Connemara cousins several times. My grandfather’s generation had kept in touch. There was a great aunt who had lived in Boston for many years and then moved back.
The cousins lived in the classic thatched rood cottage and did not have running water. There was an outhouse in the front yard. I just remember being insanely jealous of their beautiful horses.
Of course the family scandals. One set of Boston cousins parents met back in Connemara at a funeral and are in fact distant cousins. A fact which the children would remind them of whenever there were complaints about their grades.
Those Scotch/Irish – like my father’s family, will marry anyone, like my Sicilian grandfather on mom’s side. There is supposedly some Blackfoot Indian in there as well. A regular Heinz 57 world it is.
Humans – who coulda known we’d all be – well – human? OK most of us anyway…..
My mother’s family always thought it was funny that her grandfather, from an Irish family came to Indiana and married their DAR member grandmother. They did not have a good marriage but had four sons. Forward to my aunt doing serious family research. Grandma was descended from Oliver Cromwell, his son came to North America to escape the hunt for the regicides. She had married a Catholic born in Tipperary. I like being subsequent revenge on the Protector.
David Hackett Fisher is a great historian. I read Historians’ Fallacies in college and it influences me to this day.
My mother’s people were Boston Irish and very devoutly Catholic. I once heard my ferocious grandmother (1899-1993) refer to Protestants as “filthy Orangemen.”
Boris Rasputin (the evil twin)
My older relatives would talk about the awful trips they had coming to America, but everyone shut up when great aunt Helen came into the room. Her trip was fine until Sunday night, when things got confusing. We know three different versions of how she got from steerage to the boat deck, and had the shock of watching the Titanic go down.
She didn’t talk about it; everyone learned to not ask
@Boris Rasputin (the evil twin): My God, everyone’s stories are wonderful and sad and shocking.
It sounds like BJ could have a sizable Connemara reunion.