Historical Happenings for December 2018

CHRISTMAS IN IRELAND

by Mike McCormack, AOH NY State Historian

The Christmas season in Ireland was a happy combination of modern and ancient customs that combine to bring a unique meaning to this special time of year.  While Christmas shopping, decorated trees, and Santa Claus are evident everywhere, traditional customs that signify the true meaning of this holy season still remain, especially in the small towns and villages where people still celebrate the holy feast as their ancestors had for generations.

On Christmas eve, the windows of the house were decorated with garlands of holly and ivy, with candles centered in each  – often in a hollowed-out turnip for support.  This holly encircled candle should be familiar since the Christmas Wreath we know today is an outgrowth of an Irish tradition that began back in 16th century, when Penal Laws outlawed the Catholic religion and clergy.  The Irish kept their faith though, and secretly met outlawed priests to celebrate Mass in the woods and mountains whenever they could.  Mass might be celebrated once a month, or even less, but one time they never missed was Christmas.  In spite of persecution, Christmas still brought hope.  An alien power may have controlled the land, but they couldn’t control the hearts of the Irish; they still had their customs, faith, and pride, and by God they would have their Mass.  Some of those customs, by the way, were older than the race that ruled them, originating back to pre-Christian days, like the ringing of doors and windows with holly and ivy.  That came from the ancient Celtic custom of ringing the openings of a dwelling with those magical leaves to ward off the evils of winter.  After all, holly and ivy remained green when all other plants died, so they were deemed immune to the killing force of winter.  The custom carried into the Christian era as a decorative function and the Brits marveled at the hope that still burned in hearts they had tried so hard to discourage. During the Penal days when the Catholic religion was outlawed, the source of that hope was their faith and, in each community, courageous families would risk fine and imprisonment to attend a mid-night Mass celebrated by an outlawed priest. When an especially brave family agreed to host the celebration, the house to be used was kept secret until just before the Mass was to begin, at which time a lighted candle was placed in the window to signal the faithful.  Once the signal was given, candles were lit in windows of every house to confuse any who might try to interfere with the celebration.  To the Irish, the meaning of the candle was clear, but to the stranger, it was merely an extension of the pagan custom of holiday decoration.  The candle, eventually became part of the custom, remaining long after its need as a signal disappeared.  Today’s wreath serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by our ancestors who placed a candle in a holly-encircled window to send out the message “The Lord is in this house tonight“.

In later years, as evening fell over the Irish hills on Christmas eve, the candles in each window cast a magical glow over the hillside like scattered jewels on Erin’s cloak of evening, the largest were the churches dotting the landscape and beckoning the faithful to Midnight Mass.  After Mass people returned home and retired for the night leaving their doors slightly ajar as a sign of hospitality insuring that no wandering couple seeking shelter would be turned away as was Joseph and Mary on that first Christmas eve.  A cup and saucer was placed on the table in each home with home-made soda bread for the wandering souls from Purgatory who were thought to come home for Christmas.  On Christmas morning, the candles would be snuffed out, preferably by someone named Mary.

On Christmas day came the Christmas meal – assorted vegetables and potatoes deliciously prepared to compliment the Christmas goose or turkey, followed by the Christmas pudding.  After dinner, the children would play games while the adults sat about the fire, reminiscing about Christmases past until it was time to cut the Christmas cake amid much excitement.  The reverent celebration of Christmas in Ireland did not conclude with the setting of the sun on Christmas day.  The season would extend for a full twelve days, and any feast that fell within that period was considered a part of the overall Christmas celebration. Saint Stephen’s Day, December 26, is one such feast.

In early times, the children of Ireland would begin December 26th  with a hunt for a small wren which they would kill and place in a little box. Today, a box decorated with feathers simulates the victim satisfying bird-lovers as well as saving the boys the trouble of the hunt.  Dressed in in old clothing and flour sacks with colored ribbons in as many combinations as imagination allows, they set off carrying the `victim’ and musical instruments centering around the Bodhran (a one sided drum) which is beaten with a wooden stick. They make their rounds from door to door, singing the traditional Wren Song and collecting pennies as a reward for their deed, and to `bury the wren’.  They are practicing a ritual that was old in western Europe before the Christian gospel was preached in the hills of Galilee. Originally of Celtic origin, with the coming of Christianity, its meaning was Christianized.  What had the little wren done to be hunted down through history?  The ancient Druidic version is that the wren was condemned to persecution by his fellow birds because, he used trickery to oust the eagle from the kingship of all birds; the story was used as a lesson to children about the virtues of honesty.  The Christian version related that the wren flew from a bush betraying the hiding place of St. Stephen who was captured and martyred as a result, which explains the custom falling on St. Stephen’s day, and why it is the duty of all good men to hunt and kill the little beast.  The tale associated with St. Stephen adds one more measure of religious significance to the season

January 6 is Little Christmas, when the visit of the Magi, or the three wise men, is celebrated by extended family (in-laws etc.) coming to visit. It is also the day for Christmas decorations to come down, not before, or risk bad luck for the rest of the year. Another custom has been formally attached to January 6. In recognition of all the baking, cooking and preparation for Christmas done by the woman of the house, in some small-towns, women would gather on that day in each other’s homes for a few stolen hours of relaxation while the men looked after the home. Today it is recognized as Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas and is becoming more wide-spread to include all women regardless of their effort at Christmas, but for their caring devotion all year long.

Christmas is celebrated in various ways in various countries but nowhere is it more beautiful or meaningful than on God’s emerald Isle where the true meaning of the season is not forgotten.  Nollaig shona dhuit, (Happy Christmas to you).

Historical Happenings for July 2018 – “America’s Irish”

AMERICA’S IRISH

by Mike McCormack, NY State Historian

Signing of the Declaration of Independence – 1776

Independence Day, July 4, is America’s biggest holiday. It’s her birthday; but it doesn’t mark the day she won her independence, it marks the day when it was declared. And the Irish were there! We’ve often heard of the Irish in America’s Patriot Army, but there were also those who were unable to suffer the hardship of a colonial soldier yet contributed in other ways. The military won the war, but who supported the march to the battlefield? It was the settlers, merchants and community leaders who were the real shapers of our destiny, for they dreamed the dream, organized its creation, and financed its success.

In the late 1700s, England’s American colonies suffered increased Crown exploitation driving them to protest; among the loudest were the Irish who had no great love for the Crown to begin with. And there were many Irish in the American colonies; they had been coming since the 1650s. The first major influx came to New England in 1652 with the arrival of 400 Irish children sent by Cromwell to be sold as servants. From then on, the shipment of men, women and children as indentured servants was common practice. Among the first to come of their own volition were those who fought the English theft of their lands and ended up hunted men. They were followed by Catholics and Presbyterians who fled discrimination by the Church of England and lastly, by businessmen escaping the economic oppression fostered on them by the Crown to benefit their British competitors. The destruction of the Irish wool trade ruined countless families all over Ireland, while destruction of the Irish linen trade reduced the population of Ulster by tens of thousands. They came to America with their looms and spinning wheels, before the start of the American Revolution, bringing an industry that would be important to the nation awaiting birth.

In the beginning, they came in such large numbers that one Massachusetts Court, fearing the “malignant spirit that has from time to time been manifest by the Irish against the English,” prohibited the Irish from its jurisdiction and fined anyone who should buy an Irishman and bring him in. But they came anyway. Some altered their names and settled in outlying areas like the ancestor of John Hancock who came from Co Down. They also settled in New Hampshire, where they founded the town of Concord and where Capt. Maginnis commanded the militia; in Vermont, where their sons would lend strength to the Green Mountain Boys led by Irish-American John Stark and Wicklow-born Matthew Lyon; in Maine, home of the O’Briens, who would capture the first British ship in the war that was yet to come; and in Pennsylvania, founded by Wm Penn who grew up in Co. Cork and where Thompson’s Rifle Battalion became the First Regiment of the new Continental Army as Wexford-born William Thompson was appointed its first Brigadier-General on 1 March 1776.

They became the majority in many communities in Pennsylvania where a 1729 table of immigrants shows: 267 English, 43 Scots, 243 Germans, and 5,655 Irish. In 1728, it was reported that most of the 4,500 who landed at New Castle, Delaware were Irish. Philadelphia likewise reported that 3,500 people from Ireland had arrived in the first two weeks of August, 1772. The city had a Hibernian Club as early as 1729; it later became the Friendly Sons of St Patrick, whose first President was Stephen Moylan of Co Cork ─ soon to be one of Washington’s top Generals. In 1772 and 1773, Irish immigration to the American colonies was more than 18,500 and most were anxious to be rid of British colonialism.

There was no shortage of leaders either and men like Patrick Henry, Thomas McKean and other Irish-American orators used their eloquence to urge separation from England. When confrontations became frequent, it seemed that the Irish were always in the middle of it. Among those killed in the Boston Massacre in 1770 was Irish-born Patrick Carr; Boston Tea Party participants met at an inn owned by man named Duggan; and the tea was dumped at Griffin’s Wharf by a group dressed as Indians, some of whom had a notably Irish accents. While young Irishmen rushed to arms in support of Washington, Irish civilians, businessmen, and merchants participated in the deliberations of Councils and in Congress, raised money to feed and clothe the army and advance the credit of the new government. Tyrone-born Oliver Pollack personally donated more than $300,000. (close to 4.5 million today), only France and Holland gave more.

On July 1, 1776 after a year of hostilities, the leaders met to discuss their options. Some wanted to settle grievances and resume amicable relations with the Crown; others opposed them, including four Irish-born members of the Constitutional Convention and six members of Irish descent. A resolution was presented which read, “Be it resolved, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” After much heated debate, the vote was indecisive. They met again on July 2 to continue the debate and finally the ayes carried the question. On July 3, John Adams wrote to his wife that: July second was the most memorable day in the history of America and would be celebrated forever. However, approval of the final draft of the document did not occur until two days later. On 4 July, the Philadelphia State House was packed, despite a sweltering heat, as Secretary Charles Thomson of Co, Derry read the formal document that Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and Livingston had composed, and that he (Thomson) had drafted. It was a declaration explaining why their action was justified. After a full day of debate, modifying copy and amendments, Secretary Thomson recorded the changes, and America’s Declaration of Independence was complete.

The formal copy would not be ready for signature until August, but the public first heard that document read on 8 July 1776 by Col. John Nixon, son of a Co. Wexford immigrant. Philadelphia printer Charles Dunlap of Co. Tyrone rolled out copies that were snatched up before the ink was dry. And that is the event marked by the 4th of July ─ not the winning, but the declaring of our independence on a document. There would be many more years of struggle and sacrifice before the last battle was fought on 10 March 1783, but America had made her stand. That last battle, by the way, saw Wexford-born Commodore John Barry defeat the British ship Sybil. He had been carrying a cargo of gold with which Congress would establish the new Bank of North America with the help of Wicklow-born Thomas Fitzsimmons.

Yes the Irish were there, and the fact that that they made loyal Americans was evidenced by François Jean de Beauvoir, Marquis de Chastellux, a Major General in the French expeditionary force led by general Comte de Rochambeau. After the Revolution, Marquis de Chastellux wrote: An Irishman, the instant he sets foot on American soil, becomes an American. During the whole of the war, English and Scots were treated with distrust even with the best of attachment for the cause, but the native of Ireland stood in need of no other certificate than his accent. While the Irish emigrant was fighting for America on land and sea, Irish merchant’s purses were always open and their persons devoted to the country’s cause, and on more than one imminent occasion Congress itself, and the very existence of America, owed its preservation to the fidelity and firmness of the Irish.

It was perhaps best said by George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of the beloved first President and Martha Washington at a St Patrick’s Day dinner in 1828. He said: Ireland’s generous sons, alike in the day of our gloom, and of our glory, shared in our misfortunes and joined in our successes; With undaunted courage (they) breasted the storm which once threatened to overwhelm us; and with aspirations deep and fervent for our cause, whether in the shock of liberty’s battles, or in the feeble expiring accents of famine and misery, cried from their hearts ‘God Save America’. Then honored be the good old service of the sons of Erin in the war of Independence. Let the shamrock be entwined with the laurels of the Revolution, and truth and justice, guiding the pen of history, inscribe on the tablets of American remembrance ‘Eternal Gratitude to Irishmen.’ GWP Custis also asked the favor that when St Patrick’s Day is annually celebrated, that some generous Irishman would place a shamrock on his grave and say, God Bless Him. Up to a few years ago, a sprig of shamrock was planted on his grave by the Washington DC AOH as they said in chorus, God Bless Him!

Historical Happenings for March 2018

MARCH’S SIBLINGS FOR FREEDOM

By Mike McCormack, AOH NY State Historian

Terence James MacSwiney (McSweeney) was born on 28 March 1879.  Playwright, author and politician, in 1901 he helped found the Celtic Literary Society and in 1908 the Cork Dramatic Society and wrote several plays. He also wrote pamphlets on Irish history. His writings in Irish Freedom brought him to the attention of the IRB and he became a founder of the Cork Brigade of the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and President of the Cork branch of Sinn Féin. He founded a newspaper, Fianna Fáil, in 1914, but it was suppressed after 11 issues. In 1916, he was to be second in command of the Easter Rising locally, but stood down on the order of Eoin MacNeill. In the internment sweep following the rising, he was imprisoned in Wakefield, moved to Frongoch, called ‘The University of Revolution’ and finally to Reading Jail, where he remained until December 1916. On his release, he resumed activity with the Volunteers and was again lifted in February 1917.  He was in internment camps until in June 1917. He returned to Cork and in November 1917, was arrested for wearing an Irish Republican Army uniform. Inspired by Thomas Ashe, he went on a hunger strike and was released four days later. In the December, 1918 general election at the end of WWI, he was elected unopposed as TD for Mid-Cork and took an active part in the formation of the first Dáil Eireann serving on the Foreign Affairs committee organizing the Dáil loan to finance the Republican government. His friend Tomás MacCurtain was elected Lord Mayor of Cork on March 20, 1920, but was murdered in his home by disguised members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. MacSwiney was then elected Lord Mayor of Cork to succeed him.

On 12 August 1920, he was arrested for possessing seditious documents, court martialed and sentenced to two years’ in Brixton Prison. He immediately started a hunger strike to protest being tried by a military court. Eleven Republican prisoners in Cork Jail went on hunger strike with him. On the 39th day of his hunger strike, he wrote in a letter to Cathal Brugha, If I die I know the fruit will exceed the cost a thousand fold. The thought of it makes me happy. I thank God for it. Ah, Cathal, the pain of Easter week is properly dead at last. The pain he referred to was his anguish at not having played a part in the 1916 Easter Rising. He also wrote, It is not those who can inflict the most, but those that can suffer the most who will conquer. On 26 August, as Thomas starved, the British felt that the release of the Lord Mayor would probably lead to a mutiny of both military and police in Ireland. MacSwiney’s hunger strike gained world-wide attention. The British government was threatened with a boycott of British goods by America, while four countries in South America appealed to the Pope to intervene; protests were also held in Germany and France. An Australian member of Parliament, Hugh Mahon, was expelled from the Australian parliament after condemning the actions of the British.

MacSwiney died on 25 October 1920 after 74 days on hunger strike. His death brought him and the Irish struggle to international attention. India’s Jawaharlal Nehru took inspiration from MacSwiney’s example and Mahatma Gandhi counted him among his influences. Even future North Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, who was working in London at the time of MacSwiney’s death, said of him, A nation that has such citizens will never surrender.

Nine years his senior, Terence’s sister Mary had also been born in March; on the 21st in 1872.  After the death of their mother, she became the maternal caretaker of her baby brothers and sister and was as much a patriot as they were in later life sharing MacSwiney values and courage. Educated in the Ursuline Convent, she trained as a teacher at Cambridge University. She taught in Cork where she became a founding member of the suffragist Munster Women’s Franchise League and a member of the Gaelic League. In 1914, she helped found Cumann na mBan and became President of the Cork branch and National Vice-President of the organization for which she was also interned after the 1916 Rising. As a result of her imprisonment, Mary lost her teaching job and in 1917 she and her sister Annie founded St. Ita’s School for girls in Cork City, a sister-school to Padraic Pearse’s St. Enda’s in Dublin, where all subjects were taught in Irish. In 1917, she joined Sinn Féin and in 1918 was elected to the First Dáil for Cork. She was Vice-President of Cumann na mBan when they voted against supporting the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. She was also appointed to the Cabinet of the Second Dáil in 1922 and was twice imprisoned during the Civil War fighting on the side of a full independent 32-county Ireland. Like her brother, she underwent a 21-day hunger-strike in Mountjoy Jail. On 21 November 1922, her younger sister, Annie, was refused permission to see Mary so she  encamped at the prison gates and went on hunger strike as well!  Mary was released, but retaken again and held in Kilmainham Jail where this time she went on a 24-day hunger-strike. After her release she continued to maintain a republican position until her death on 8 March 1942; by then she was vice-president of Sinn Féin and Cumann na mBan.

Their brother Seán, also born in March, on the 19th in 1878, was an officer in the IRA and Sinn Féin politician. During the Irish War of Independence, he served as an officer in Cork No 1 Brigade. Captured in 1921, he was sentenced to death, later commuted to 15 years’ penal servitude, but in April 1921, he escaped. He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty and during the Irish Civil War, was quartermaster for the 1st Southern Division of the anti-Treaty IRA and served on the IRA executive. He evaded capture until after the IRA called a cease fire. In 1933, standing on a Republican ticket, he was elected to the Cork Corporation and died at Glenvera hospital, Cork on 22 January, 1942.  The month of March was a big month for birthdays in the MacSwiney household and they all had a part in Ireland’s birthday.

Historical Happenings for January 2018

JOHN O’NEILL

by Mike McCormack, AOH Historian

On 8 January, 1878 – 140 years ago – General John O’Neill breathed his last in Omaha, Nebraska.  Today, his memorial is greater than a tombstone and even greater than a monument – it’s an entire City!  O’Neill, Nebraska is the county seat of Holt County and Nebraska’s Irish Capital; it also has the world’s largest permanent shamrock, made of green-tinted concrete, covering the entire main intersection of the city. Who was this man that he be remembered so proudly?

John O’Neill was born in Drumgallon, Co. Monaghan, on 9 March 1834 to John and Mary O’Neill. His father died six weeks before he was born. His mother, unable to make a living in Ireland, emigrated to the United States in 1835 with two children, settling in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  John stayed with his grandfather, a staunch supporter of Irish Nationalism with a deep hatred of Englands presence in Ireland.  The grandfather saw to it that his grandson received a good education and made sure that he knew Irish history.  In December 1848, at 14, filled with his grandfather’s views on England, John left to join his mother.  After arriving in New Jersey he completed his education and took a job with a Catholic publishing company as a salesman.  He traveled throughout New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. 

In 1855, he settled in Richmond, Virginia and opened a bookstore.  To meet other Irish exiles who shared his antipathy toward England, he joined the local branch of the Emmet Monument Association founded to train men who would free Ireland.  In 1857, he enlisted in the 2nd U.S. Dragoons and served in the Utah War (May 1857 – July 1858), afterward moving to California where he met his future wife Mary Crow, an Australian of Irish parentage.  He later joined the 1st Cavalry and from March to July of 1862 served as a sergeant in the American Civil War’s Peninsular Campaign.  On 27 June, O’Neill was promoted from sergeant to second lieutenant for gallantry.  In 1863 he was promoted to first lieutenant in the Fifth Indiana Cavalry for his courageous leadership.  In December, he received a citation for bravery at Walker’s Ford, where he was wounded in the leg.  In the summer of 1864 he was appointed Captain in the 17th United States Colored Infantry, but was forced to resign due to the wound received the previous year.  Later that year he married Mary and settled in Nashville where they had three children over a span of ten years.

While in Tennessee, O’Neill reconnected with the Emmet Monument Association which had now become the Fenian Brotherhood.  When the Fenians split over the best way to free Ireland, he aligned himself with the group who wanted to invade Canada and hold it hostage for Ireland’s freedom.  He said, I have always believed in striking at England wherever we could reach her, and wherever the English flag floats and the English government is recognized and there are English soldiers in arms to defend the flag and maintain the government.  I hold that the Irish people, particularly the Irish Exiles whom her oppressive laws have driven from their native land, have a right to go there and make war on England.

General Tom Sweeny, a native of County Cork, was in charge of a plan which included a series of co-coordinated raids from Chicago, Buffalo and Maine.  Command of the Buffalo expedition was entrusted to O’Neill who crossed the Niagara River at the head of 800 men on the night of 31 May 1866 and captured Fort Erie.  He moved to Ridgeway where he defeated a British and Canadian force.  In the end the invasion was stopped by U.S. authorities who blocked supplies and reinforcements at the border.  The other crossings were also stopped.  Ridgeway made O’Neill a Fenian hero as it was the only success in the many Fenian campaigns against Canada.  The Brotherhood appointed him ‘General of the Irish Republican Army.’ and he became president at the end of 1867.  After two more failed attempts in May 1870 and October 1871, he turned his attention to his other great passion – the resettlement of Irish families from the slums of eastern cities.

He traveled throughout the west in search of the best place to settle and decided on Nebraska as it possessed an abundance of pure water, fertile land and millions of acres of free government land.  In 1874, O’Neill embarked on a lecture tour along the east coast, offering his impoverished countrymen a better standard of living if they would resettle with him in Nebraska.  He was convinced they could succeed in rural America better than in the poverty of the miserable slums in which they then resided.  In his lectures, he quoted from the writing of the Reverend Stephen Byrne, OSD, Let the crowded tenement houses of eastern cities, where the very atmosphere is poisoned by the occupancy in one house of 20 to 40 families and where morality itself is greatly endangered on account of association that cannot be avoided, answer.  Let the unnamed and unnumbered graves along the canals and railroads of the United States, answer.  Let the forlorn and forgotten creatures who, having neither homes nor friends, lie down and die in the common hospitals of the country, answer.  The response comes home to us in a hundred forms that as a people, while doing more than any other to build up this great Republic, we have been negligent, not to say reckless, in regard to our individual interests.

O’Neill set up the first Irish colony in Nebraska in Holt County in the city that today bears his name – O’Neill, Nebraska. His second colony in Greenley County was seen by him as just the start of many that would cover America’s plains with Irish families.  His legacy still exists in those successful farming communities especially in the spirit of Irish generosity that is part of their culture today.  In 1877 while on a speaking tour, John O’Neill the consummate Irish and American patriot, became ill and returned home to Nebraska.  His condition continued to deteriorate and after being admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital, Omaha in November, he suffered a stroke and died on 8 January 1878.

Historical Happenings for September 2017

A MONTH FOR BRAVERY

by AOH Historian Mike McCormack

On September 13, the members of the AOH celebrate one of the major holidays of their Order – Commodore John Barry Day.  It is not a day unique to our Order, for it has been commemorated on the American national calendar more than once.  There were even statues erected in his honor back in the days when Americans remembered with gratitude the contributions of this dedicated man.  Today, few remember his deeds.  The American Heritage dictionary doesn’t even list his name, and his statue in front of Independence Hall, Philadelphia, is just a platform for pigeons unnoticed by passers-by.  It is truly unfortunate that so few remember because, during his lifetime, Barry gave so much to America at a time when she needed it most.  It has even been said that had it not been for John Barry, the American Revolution would have been lost.  Dr. Benjamin Rush said in his eulogy at Barry’s grave side, “He was born in Ireland, but America was the object of his devotion, and the theater of his usefulness.”   A sea captain in colonial America, he seemed destined for a prosperous career in the colonies, but his integrity and sense of justice led him to risk all in the patriot cause.  With nine years’ experience as a seagoing Captain, and five successful commands to his credit, the young Irishman was warmly welcomed, and given command of a ship under the authority of the Continental Congress.  Eight months after the first shots were fired at Lexington, Captain John Barry took the helm of a new 14-gun vessel aptly named, Lexington.  He quickly trained a crew, and began the task of supplying and supporting Washington’s ground forces.

He captured British ships and took their cargo: he captured an armed British vessel when ammunition was scarce, and a supply ship when food was at a premium, he then came to Washington’s aid when the leader was planning to cross the Delaware.  He organized seamen and joined the land forces which crossed the river in boats supplied by his friend, Cavan-born Patrick Colvin.   Barry was held in such high esteem that Lord Howe made a flattering offer to Barry to desert the patriot cause. “Not the value or command of the whole British fleet,” Barry replied, “can lure me from the cause of my country which is liberty and freedom.”  The last sea battle of the Revolution took place as Barry was returning with a shipload of bullion from Havana, and was set upon by three British ships.  He destroyed one and outdistanced the other two, returning with the precious cargo which was used to establish a National Bank for the new nation. Even after the war, this courageous seaman assisted America by transporting Virginia tobacco to Holland to repay America’s war debts.

In recognition of his experience and bravery, Washington asked the popular naval hero to form and train a class of midshipmen, who would form the nucleus of the new American Navy.  Barry himself was named the ranking officer, and granted Commission number one making him Father of the American Navy. He died on Sept 13, 1803.  Today, largely due to the efforts of the AOH, a monument to Barry stands inside Barry Gate at the naval academy at Annapolis.

Years later, in 1920 to be exact, another Barry bravely fought the Brits — this time in Dublin during Ireland’s War of Independence. On Sept 21, a British lorry, heavily guarded by armed soldiers, was being loaded with supplies as a voice from the street called, Drop your rifles and put up your hands.  It was a group of Irish Volunteers.  Suddenly, one of the soldiers fired, then a fusillade erupted as Volunteers and soldiers dueled with revolvers and rifles.  When it was over, one soldier was killed and four wounded, and the Volunteers fled.  The British spotted a young man hiding under their lorry and pulled him out.  They threw him into the back with their wounded and sped off.  An official statement that day from British HQ stated that, One of the aggressors had been arrested.

The aggressor, as it turned out, was an 18-year old medical student named Kevin Barry.  Kevin had joined the Volunteers when he was only 15. His job was to cycle to various parts of the city delivering correspondence between officers of the movement.  As a courier, young Kevin knew all of the leading figures, and the British knew they had a prize catch in young Barry.  Questioning and persuasion began in earnest:  Kevin refused to betray the movement. He was offered amnesty and freedom, yet he refused.  He was tortured for days on end, and still he refused.  Finally, he was charged with murder and sentenced to death by hanging.

Late at night, Kevin was taken to see the scaffold that would end his life the following morning.  With incredible cruelty and mental coercion, he was again pressured to reveal the names of his officers and comrades.  In return he was promised a full pardon and his tuition paid at any Medical school in the world.  Kevin, visibly shaken, listened to the officer in silence, then glanced up at the beam from which hung the noose.  Yes, he said, I think that should hold my weight.

On November 1, at 8 AM, his hands tied behind him, a slender 18-year old boy was led to the gallows at Mountjoy Jail where his short life was ended.  Later Father Albert, one of Kevin’s last visitors, reported that Kevin’s last words were, Hold on to the Republic.

In this month of September, as we are reminded of two Barrys and Bravery, we are also reminded of the courage and bravery of those whose stories, unlike the Barrys, may never be told.  They lie forever in the rubble of the Twin Towers that were destroyed on September 11.  We may never know how many Irish died in that horror with their friends and co-workers, but we do know that in the rubble were found close to five hundred Claddagh Rings.  Remember them all in your prayers.

Historical Happenings for August 2017

THE QUEEN’S VISIT

by Mike McCormack, AOH NY State Historian

By the mid-1800s, the Irish had become dependent on a crop that could produce the most yield per acre – the potato – since British landlord’s held most of the arable land. Then late on August 20, 1845, Dr. David Moore reported that a potato fungus was discovered at the Dublin Botanical Gardens. The following day, August 21, is a date remembered in Irish history as the first day of An Gorta Mor – the Great Hunger – a tragedy that saw millions lost to emigration, disease, and starvation.  Within a month, reports came from all over Ireland that the potato crop had turned black in the ground.  It was the only crop affected, since everything else grew in abundance, but the other crops belonged to the landlord.

The landlords protected their crops from the Irish until they were exported for profit. Parliament, quoting the economic doctrine of Laissez Faire left the country to the effect of natural forces. Many starved awaiting a better harvest in ‘46, but it didn’t come. The potato crop in ‘46 was almost totally destroyed. People were forced to eat what little seed potato they had to survive, many fell victim to the diseases which attend starvation and, when the sick and starving Irish couldn’t pay their rent, they were evicted. The blight partially returned in 1847, but that year saw the largest death toll in a 5-year period since those who ate their seed potatoes had nothing to plant, those who were evicted had nowhere to plant, and the  victims of disease were unable to plant. The blight returned in 1848 and 1849 and neither landlord nor Parliament provided adequate assistance. Millions died on the roads beside prosperous farms. Some aid was provided but it was too little and soup kitchens were set up, but in some, the cost of receiving food was conversion to the Church of England. It was a price too high for many, and they turned their backs on the food, rather than turn their backs on God.

Parliament was denounced for not helping and they reacted by declaring the crisis over in 1849 when the blight on the potato began to fade, but the blight on the Irish continued. Most historians estimate that the effects of the calamity were not over for another 30 years as food shortage and disease continued. Emigrants sent money back to those they had to leave behind and it helped them climb back to a stable life, but it would be years before many emigrants could establish themselves in their new lands. In the end most victims of the Great Hunger were gone before its effects were. One of the most insensitive events of the Great Hunger was Parliament’s premature declaration of the end of the blight. In order to show that all was well, a massive publicity campaign was mounted, the highlight of which was a visit by Queen Victoria at harvest time in 1849. As the Irish starved and died in the workhouses and on the roads, hundreds of thousands of Pounds were spent to beautify the areas she would visit. Crowds of curious and angry onlookers were kept in check by British soldiers as reports were sent to the world that wherever she went, the Queen was cheered by her adoring subjects and headlines proclaimed that “THE FAMINE IS OVER AS THE QUEEN VISITS IRELAND.”

Ironically that headline, though propaganda in its time, would eventually come true for a most remarkable incident occurred on the exact anniversary of the first day of the hunger, exactly 30 years after the blight had begun to fade!  The date was August 21, 1879, and the place was the Church of St. John the Baptist in the Irish village of Knock in Co. Mayo.  On that evening, a small group witnessed an astonishing vision as three figures, surrounded by a mysterious glowing light, suddenly appeared, beside an altar on which rested a cross and a lamb surrounded by adoring angels.  The witnesses knew that they were in the presence of St. Joseph, St. John and Mary, the mother of God.  They couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  Word spread and others arrived and saw it too.  No such heavenly visitation had ever before been reported in Ireland, and the people fell to their knees and prayed, oblivious of a soaking rain.  The figures remained silent for nearly two hours and vanished. In 1939, after years of investigation, the apparition was granted canonical sanction. Of the hundreds of visions reported, it is one of the few to have received such recognition and it ranks with Lourdes and Fatima as a holy site of pilgrimage, yet during her appearance the Virgin remained silent.

Many have questioned why Mary said nothing and only stood praying; praying for what, for whom?  Any student of Irish history should know the answer for the clues are in the date of the apparition. Consider that the Great Hunger wasn’t really over for 30 years after 1849; Mary appeared in 1879 – exactly 30 years later!   And She appeared on August 21, the exact anniversary of the first day of the Great Hunger!  Is it possible that, since the Irish had suffered so much for their faith that the Lord, in appreciation, sent His beloved mother and that She, as any mourner would, stood in silent prayer for the generation which had just passed away? Think of it, the timing is incredible.  Not only is August 21 significant, but the year 1879 was truly the end of the Great Hunger for the Irish began taking their land back from the landlords.  In Daly’s Hotel, Castlebar on August 16th 1879 the Mayo Land League was founded by Michael Davitt. When MP Charles Stewart Parnell joined it became the National Land League and by the end of 1879, the Land War began. It was only then that it could be truly said that the Great Hunger was over and the Irish began to take back their land.

Yet, while the dates have an uncanny significance, there is another irony.  Since August 1879 marked both the historic end of the Great Hunger and the year in which Our Lady visited Knock, a 30-year old headline had at finally come true: THE FAMINE WAS OVER AND THE QUEEN HAD VISITED IRELAND – but it wasn’t Victoria; it was the only Queen that the Irish had ever recognized!  Millions have visited Knock since 1879 and numerous miracles have been reported at the shrine. The Catholic people of Ireland, who struggled so hard to keep their faith alive, had received a visit from heaven and the Virgin had received a new title – Our Lady of Knock.

Historical Happenings for July 2017

Joyce Kilmer

by Mike McCormack, AOH NYS Historian

When America entered World War I in April 1917, War Department regulations required the NY 69th Regiment to triple its size and its ranks were filled mostly with Irish-Americans and New Yorkers.  It sailed off in late October 1917 to support the allies as part of the 42nd ‘Rainbow’ Division of the American Expeditionary Force, commanded by General John J. Pershing. All National Guard regiments received new “100 series” numbers and the 69th was renumbered the 165th Infantry Regiment.  However, they retained their Irish spirit and every non-Irish member was designated an honorary Irishman by Fighting Father Francis Patrick Duffy, who became the Regimental Chaplain in 1914.  He described them as Irish by adoption, association or conviction.  One of Father Duffy’s closest adoptees was the famous poet, Joyce Kilmer, author of such memorable classics as Trees (I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree).  Determined to join the war, Kilmer enlisted in the Seventh NY Regiment, but seeing no future action, requested a transfer in August to the Fighting Sixty-Ninth, stationed at Camp Mills in Mineola, Long Island.

Kilmer was of  English ancestry, descended from Thomas Kilburn, Church Warden of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Cambridgeshire, who came to America in 1638.  He even told his father that he intended to study for the Episcopal Ministry.  In 1908 he married Aline Murray of Metuchen, NJ and five years later they both converted to the Catholic faith.  He was then  considered America’s premier Catholic poet.  His public writings in support of the 1916 Easter Rising endeared him to the Irish.  He wrote many poems about Ireland including Easter Week in which he criticized William Butler Yeats verse which claimed Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave and in his poem, Apology, he named three poet leaders of the Rising.  Author and editor, Robert C Holliday, speculated in his memoir: It is not at all improbable that had he been an Irishman, born and resident in Ireland, he (Kilmer) would have been among the martyrs of Easter Week.

With Sergeant Joyce Kilmer in their number, the 69th arrived in France in November and saw their first action on 26 February 1918 in the trenches of the Rouge Bouquet where they lost 21 men in a dugout collapse during a severe bombardment.  Kilmer memorialized the event in his poem Rouge Bouquet (In a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet, there is a new-made grave to-day). He also wrote the Prayer of a Soldier in France (My shoulders ache beneath my pack; Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).  Though often recommended for a commission, Kilmer stated that he would rather be a sergeant in the Fighting 69th than an officer in any other regiment.  One companion wrote: He was worshiped by the men about him. I have heard them speak with awe of his coolness and nerve in scouting patrols in No Man’s Land.  On 30 July, during the Second Battle of Marne, Kilmer volunteered to accompany Major William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan when Donovan’s First Battalion was sent to lead the day’s attack. Kilmer joined Donovan in scouting the Oureq River Battlefield to identify German strong-points and machine gun nests.  The two separated as Kilmer assessed the area. When Donovan returned, he discovered that the poet of the regiment had been killed. According to Father Duffy: A  bullet had pierced his brain. His body was carried in and buried by the side of Lt. Oliver Ames. God rest his dear and gallant soul.  Kilmer died at at the age of 31 and Father Duffy retrieved the rosary that Kilmer always wore around his neck. The 69th led with distinction during that 4-day battle, suffering 264 killed, 150 missing and 1,200 wounded out of their 3,000-man regiment, but they broke the German line.  As the Germans were retreating, the Brigade commander, Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur, wanted to press forward.  He was informed by the other regiments that they were too fatigued, but the decimated 69th replied that they would consider an order to advance as a compliment.  MacArthur exclaimed, By God, it takes the Irish when you want a hard thing done!  For his valor, Kilmer was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) by the French Republic.

Kilmer was buried in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial, near Picardy, France and a memorial service was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.  Though he sleeps in France, he is not forgotten in America where a memorial stands to him on the Kilmer family plot in Elmwood Cemetery in New Brunswick, NJ.  Memorial Plaques to his memory can also be found at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Tree in Central Park, NY; in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in North Carolina, in the Joyce Kilmer triangle in Brooklyn and in Joyce Kilmer Park in the Bronx near Yankee Stadium.  There is also a Kilmer Triangle in Rogers Park, Chicago; a Joyce Kilmer Road in Roscommon, Michigan; a Joyce Kilmer Memorial in Como Park, St. Paul, MN; and countless schools and libraries carry his name. Yet, there is one memorial to this beloved adopted Irishman which is undoubtedly the most sacred.  It is the cross from the rosary that Father Duffy retrieved from the neck of Joyce Kilmer.  It was given in trust to the Commander of the Fighting 69th Regiment and it has been passed down from Commander to Commander since that day.  For a time it was proudly carried in a special leather pouch by the commanding officer on every important occasion where the Fighting 69th was publicly mustered and carried in every St. Patrick’s Day Parade on New York’s Fifth Avenue led by the Fighting 69th

In 2014, it was decided to retire it from active use in muster and better preserve it for future generations. It is now encased in a special framed display box along with Kilmer’s photograph and the final stanza from his Rouge Bouquet poem which is read at the funeral of every member of the Fighting 69th.  The display box hangs in the Battalion Commanders’s office in the Sixty-Ninth Infantry Regiment Armory. According to Bert  Cunningham, 69th Regiment historian, It’s permanently in the case now out of concern for its fragility. It’s in good condition and we want it to be preserved in the best condition possible.  The same can be said of Joyce Kilmer’s memory.

Historical Happenings for June 2017

They Happened in June

by Mike McCormack, AOH NYS Historian

June is a remarkable month in Irish History as so many things occurred in that month over the centuries.  For Example:

On June 1, 1866, a Fenian Army invaded Canada and captured Fort Erie with the intent of seizing all of Canada and trading it back to England for Ireland’s freedom.  They went on to beat a British force at Ridgeway before being stopped by the U.S. closing off the border behind them and cutting off their supply lines.  A trip to the Ridgeway battlefield might be a good idea during the coming New York State convention.

On June 3, 1974, patriot Michael Gaughan, on hunger strike in Parkhurst Prison for political prisoner status, died after force-feeding.  Six guards would restrain him at the top of the bed, stretch his neck over the metal rail, force a block between his teeth and force a feeding tube down his throat through a hole in the block. Michael’s brother described him noting: His throat had been badly cut by force feeding and his teeth loosened. His eyes were sunken, his cheeks hollow and his mouth was gaping open. He weighed about 84 lb.  He’d been force-fed 17 times at the end of his 64-day hunger strike. After he died at age 24, his family stated it was from food lodged in a lung punctured by the force-feeding tube.

On June 4, 1798, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, leader of the United Irishmen, died of wounds received during his capture. He was a Lord, brother of Ireland’s leading peer and tremendously popular with the common people. Since a public trial would be embarrassing and might start the rising they feared, the British decided that although his wounds were not serious, they would not be treated.  The bullets were left in his shoulder, and the wound infected.  Septicaemia spread through his body and tortured his mind.  Mad with fever, he shouted, Dear Ireland, I die for you, and My country, you will be free. Then, after 16 days of intense pain, Lord Edward Fitzgerald died of his wounds.

On June 5, 1646, Owen Roe O’Neill, a brilliant strategist who had returned from Spain to fight for Ireland, defeated the British at the Battle of Benburb.  It was the first major win for the Irish who lost only 300 men to Gen. Munro’s 3,000.

On June 20, 1764, Theobold Wolfe Tone was born to introduce a new Republican concept to Ireland that has been followed to this day.  His idea of  joining Catholics, Protestants and dissenters together to oppose the Crown for Ireland’s freedom became the basis for all the Republican movements from the Young Irelanders to Sinn Fein.

On June 21, 1877, a day remembered as Black Thursday, four members of the AOH accused of being members of an imaginary group called the Molly Maguires, were hanged in Mauch Chunk, PA.  A special gallows had been constructed so that all four lives would be ended at the exact same time.  In 1979, Jack Kehoe, reputed leader of the Mollies was posthumously pardoned and the Governor of PA recognized the group as part of the fledgling mine workers union of that historic period.  On June 21, 1997, 120 years later, a memorial Mass was attended by 100 descendants of those hanged and members of the AOH at the jail where they had been hanged.

On June 28, 1920, after hearing of British atrocities in Dublin, Irish soldiers in the British Army in India engaged in the legally prescribed manner of peaceful military protest. They laid down their arms and declared that they would fight for the Crown no more. They were immediately arrested and confined in brutal conditions.  Private James Daly, who was declared to be the instigator, was sentenced to death and became the last member of the British Army to be executed by firing squad.

On June 22, 1922, the Provisional government of the Irish Free State bombarded the Four Courts which had been seized by anti-treaty IRA forces.  Many count that as the start of the Irish Civil War in which more than 2,000 were killed before it ended in May, 1923 – less than one year later!

On June 29, 1848, leading members of the Young Ireland confederacy, who had been traveling Ireland organizing a rising, were surrounded in Ballingarry, Tipperary.  After a lengthy gun-battle they were defeated and the dreams of another rising died.  James Stephens and John O’Mahony escaped and fled to France while Michael Doheny fled to America.  They would all revisit the dream and later form the Fenian brotherhood.

These are only a few of the historic events we recognize in June.  There are also important births like Edmund Ignatius Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers (June 1, 1762); teacher and author Sinead DeValera (June 3, 1878); James Connolly, Irish Citizen Army leader and 1916 commander (June 5, 1868); Wm Butler Yeats (June 13, 1865); tenor John McCormack (June 14, 1884); and Charles Stewart Parnell (June 27, 1846) among others.  We also lost some great people like Matt Talbot, servant of God (June 6, 1925); Saint Colmcille (June 9, 597); Tenor Frank Patterson (June 10, 2000); Molly Malone, who died of a fever (June 10, 1886); and Journalist Veronica Guerin who was gunned down on a Dublin street (June 26, 1996).  Also, on June 16, 1904, James Joyce had his first date with the love of his live, Nora Barnacle.  It is the date he later memorialized as the day everything takes place in his masterpiece Ulysses and is remembered today as BLOOMSDAY!

These dates and many more which happened, not only in June, but on every day of the year are listed on the 2018 Calendar of Mens & Ladies Irish and Irish-American Historical Events available from Pete Durkee (518) 274-8448. The calendars also provide the opportunity to win more than $10,000 in prizes, so give Pete a call.

Historical Happenings for May 2017

by Mike McCormack, NY State Historian

Virginia City, Nevada is a tourist mecca in America today for those seeking remnants of the Old West.  In 1859 it was a wild town of 110 saloons catering to a thirsty population of more than 600 miners, most of whom were Irish.

The story of Virginia City began in 1857 when four miners discovered gold.  They were James (Old Virginia) Finney, John Bishop, Aleck Henderson and Jack Yount.  Their discovery was not a main vein, only the rediscovery of earlier mine that had been deserted.  In the Spring of 1859, two Irish miners, Peter O’Riley and Patrick McLaughlin, finding the so-called ‘paying ground’ already claimed, went to the head of Six Mile Canyon and began prospecting under the eastern slope of Mount Davidson, a peak in the Virginia Range of Nevada.

After finding nothing, they were about to abandon their claim when they decided to sink just one more small, deep pit.  At the bottom of this pit was a blue-black material, the bottom of which was covered with a layer of gold.  They had finally found a small bit of gold, but when they brought the mixture to be assayed, the blue-black material that they had to scrape away to get at the gold, turned out to be almost pure silver.  The discovery caused the greatest excitement throughout the entire United States since the California Gold Rush of 1849.  Prospectors swarmed to the area and mining camps soon thrived in the vicinity, giving birth to bustling commercial centers, including Virginia City and Gold Hill.

Another miner, Henry T. P. Comstock filed claims all around the mine and the Comstock Lode as it came to be known, was soon to become the richest silver strike in America.  Dubliner John Mackay bought shares in the Kentuck mine with the few dollars he had and within six months, the shares were worth $22,000 each!  Soon Mackay and his partner James Fair, another Dubliner, bought controlling interest in another mine and made so much money that they were able to buy even more properties.  With partners William O’Brien from Dublin and New York-born Irishman James Flood, they acquired controlling interest in the Virginia City and Gold Hill Water-Works; several quartz mills; the Pacific Wood, Lumber & Flume Company; and several other businesses. 

Their Robert E. Lee Mine produced $3 million by 1882 and was called “The Silver Vault of Fryer Hill”.  The nearby residential town of Stumpton is where Margaret “Unsinkable Molly” Brown lived in the early 1880s before moving to Leadville.  Her husband devised a way of overcoming drainage problems in the mines and was rewarded with 1/8th interest in a mine that had vast quantities of high-grade copper and gold which made his fortune and reputation; Molly made hers by her heroics during the Titanic disaster.

In 1869, John Mackay, James Fair, James Flood and William O’Brien were relative nobodies, but in a few short years, they became the richest men in America, known as ‘The Silver Kings.  A poem about their discovery was written back in the day and it read as follows

There’s a mountain in Nevada, where the shamrocks cannot grow,
where leprechauns hid their treasure three thousand feet below.
But O’Reilly and McLaughlin with a bit of Irish luck
and ‘Old Virginny’ Finney stumbled in the muck.
They found the buried treasure and in Eire the tale was told
and a thousand eager Irishmen arrived to dig for gold.
The West had many heroes courageous, brave and grand,
but the great Bonanza Silver Kings all came from Ireland.
Back among the shamrocks the leprechauns still say
that they up and lost their treasure on a mountain far away!

Historical Happenings for April 2017

IT’S STILL HAPPENING

by Mike McCormack, AOH NYS Historian

National Anti-Defamation Chairman, Neil Cosgrove, alerted me to a NY Times article by Liam Stack published on St. Patrick’s Day. It was the worst example of Paddy Bashing, seen in recent years. I got the article and felt that Stack, a controversial correspondent, who in the past has been accused of selling fear, obviously read an internet posting by Travis Gettys for it is extremely similar. Gettys is an editor for Raw Story – a site only slightly better than the media sold at checkout counters and both quote a Librarian named Liam Hogan who is obviously trying to create an audience for a book he is writing about white racism. Based on select few insensitive Irish-Americans who brought up Irish slavery as a counterpoint to Black Lives Matter arguing We got over it why can’t they! as typical of Irish sentiment, Hogan decided to debunk Irish slavery.

While I know a great many Irish men and women, I know not one who has voiced that or a similar sentiment. The problem with the Stack/Gettys/Hogan argument is that there exists documented evidence of Irish men, women and children being sold into slavery as far back as the Cromwellian wars. They were sent to America, St Kitts, Antigua and Barbados where the Redleg (Redshanks) community is very aware of their historic origins and has even been recorded in interviews. One said, When I was a boy in St. Kitts, we learned about Irish slavery, why doesn’t (sic) Americans? There are even documents of parentage saved from the archives of the Montserrat library, during the June 1977 volcanic eruption. These documents read like animal pedigree papers showing the forced mating of young Irish girls with Mandingo warriors to breed a better slave more capable of working in the burning sun. One document noted that in October 1657, 6 Irish slaves were among a group of 20 captured after running away and were put to death by a British Court which wouldn’t surprise anyone, except that it happened in Bridgetown, Barbados.  The history of Irish slavery even moved a St. Kitts Minister, G.A. Dwyer Astaphan, to introduce legislation in the St. Kitts Parliament to grant land for a monument to remember the 25,000 Irish men and women who were shipped there as slaves.  There is no doubt that the Caribbean islands, Virginia and New England played a role in the original slave trade of Irish banished for political crimes and after the ethnic cleansing of the mid-1600s Confederation War. Montserrat’s nearly 70 percent Irish slaves even earned it the title Emerald Isle of the Caribbean.

Don’t you think that if Irish slavery was a myth, more accredited professors with doctorates in history would be coming out and saying so instead of a few nondescript yellow journalists and bigots? They aren’t because they know you can’t change history. Luminaries such as Aubrey Gwynn, Professor of Medieval History at University College Dublin and President of the Royal Irish Academy in his 1932 work Analecta Hibernica; Richard Dunne, Guggenheim Fellow for Humanities and Director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of PA in his 1972 work Sugar and Slavery; as well as dozens of bibliographic references in Sean O’Callahan’s To Hell or Barbados, all verify the findings in Thurloe’s State Papers of 1742 that King James VI sold thousands of Irish as slaves to the New World. In fact, an earlier proclamation by James I (17 September 1603) For the Due and Speedy Execution of the Statue against Rogues, Vagabonds, Idle, and Dissolute Persons renewed an earlier Elizabethan law that criminalized vagabondage and “idleness” in 1597 authorizing transportation. James VI’s policy of selling Irish political prisoners to English settlers in the West Indies was continued by Charles I and Oliver Cromwell furthered the practice. The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery at Yale University  also uncovered numerous historical documents regarding Irish slavery! They conclude that the number of ‘Barbadosed’ Irish varies from 12,000 to 60,000 (so many were sent to Barbados that the term ‘Barbadosed’ was coined to define them). When our Revolution closed America as a receptacle for England’s unwanted, ask any Australian what happened next!

One point overlooked by Stack and Gettys in Hogan’s writing is that while he calls the Irish only indentured servants (slavery in politically correct terminology), he readily admits that some of indentures were involuntary! That sounds like slavery to me!  However, his main argument is that it was not in as great a number as some proclaim. To this writer, any number is horrible and unjustified brutality. As for those who later unwisely volunteered to become indentured to secure a ticket to America, it is recorded that only about 40% survived to become free men. While Ireland and St. Kitts erect monuments to remember the Irish who were enslaved in  English colonies, one closer to home memorializes Anne Goody Glover.  She was the last supposed witch hanged in Salem, MA, who was in fact an Irish slave who escaped Barbados seeking refuge in that Puritan village.  A monument in Boston commemorates her unjust and tragic end as an Irish slave.

The maddening part of this whole argument is that some insensitive headline hunters are trying to erase the memory of our people who suffered incredibly for no other reason than that they were Irish and in the way of English colonialism. We cannot let them be forgotten.  We wrote to the NY Times asking them to please verify the trash they publish, no matter that it is found on the Internet and in other scurrilous media, especially when it downgrades or demonizes decent people who have contributed so much to earn for them the very right to publish such trash. I also suggested that if they wanted historical Irish opinions on slavery, they should consult the writings of Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet, Daniel O’Connell and Gerry Adams.