The Draft Riots

As National Historian for the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, I am concerned that the 150th Anniversary of the 1863 Draft Riots in New York from July 13 to 15 will be commemorated using some of the bigoted information that appeared in the press at the time.  We all know that the anti-Irish Nativist mentality did not die with the demise of the Know Nothing movement in 1856 and many were quick to blame Irish Catholics as the rioters.  To make it seem even worse, the casualties were grossly exaggerated citing 1,155 killed when, in fact, later studies revealed 119 killed and 181 injured.

The bigotry of the time must be considered.  Many Americans, whose immigrant ancestors had climbed out of the poverty in which they  arrived, considered the poverty of the newly-arriving Irish immigrants to be a ‘function of their lazy character’.  To the contrary, the ambition and determination of the Irish insured the success of subsequent generations, but in the first generation, they suffered from outrageous prejudice.  America’s Irish population grew after 1845 as a result of the Great Hunger in Ireland and didn’t slow down until  after 1855.  This sudden influx of poverty-stricken, often diseased Irish Catholics alarmed the Protestant community, among whom were many so-called ‘nativist’ Americans.  They forced and held the new arrivals in social and economic limbo, denouncing them and their church in biased media, leaflets and forums.

Despite the unfair treatment, the Irish flocked to the defense of the Union when the Civil War broke out.  On April 15, 1861, President Lincoln issued a call for volunteers amid rumors that a force of Confederates was moving up from South Carolina.  Lincoln’s problem was that new volunteers would take weeks to train and arm.  What he needed were well-trained units, already armed and led; and he needed them immediately.  One unit that fit the bill was the Irish 69th Regiment of the NY State Militia.  The regiment asked for 1,000 volunteers from the Irish community to support Lincoln’s call and before they realized their quota had been filled, 1800 had enlisted; the excess 800 were released to New York’s 37th Regiment which became known as the Irish Rifles.  They all rushed to defend Washington D.C. where they were visited by Abraham Lincoln, who thanked them for coming to his government’s rescue.  Just three weeks after the war broke out he sent them to the first battle of Bull Run!  Recognized for their courage, ferocity and resilience in that battle, the 69th was expanded into an entire Irish Brigade under the Irish patriot Thomas Francis Meagher.  Meagher added New York’s Irish 63rd and 88th regiments and in the fall of 1862, the 28th Massachusetts and 116th Pennsylvania were added – all Irish and all volunteers!

The Brigade was fearless and in many battles was used as cannon fodder by unscrupulous and inexperienced commanding officers.  Casualties were horrendous.  In all, more than 150,000 Irishmen, most of whom were recent immigrants and not yet U.S. citizens, voluntarily joined the Union Army.  Between 1861 and 1863, Irish casualties mounted and Meagher returned to New York several times to recruit replacements.  Out of a total enlistment of 7,000 men during the war, the Brigade returned to New York in 1865 with 1,000; one company was actually down to seven men.  In 1863, as Irish units were running out of manpower, so too was the Union.  That’s when Congress passed the first Conscription Act to draft men into service.

The draft was inherently unfair since it gave the wealthy a way to avoid service by buying their way out of serving by paying $300.  Unscrupulous politicians, trying to build their political base, told the working class, You will be drafted and sent to fight while freed blacks will take your jobs and the rich will buy their way out.   It should be noted that the Emancipation Proclamation has just been passed, at the time $300. was more than a year’s wages for a laborer.  Further, if a man was drafted there was no municipal social safety net for his family and a soldier’s pay was small and often delayed.  Impoverished workers felt that they would be leaving their families to starve.  It put the whole sacrifice of life, limb, health and home upon the poor and laboring classes who have the least at stake in the preservation of the Union, wrote Joseph Medill, editor of the Chicago Tribune and a personal friend of the President on 5 March 1863. He added, there is no possible defense, justification or apology that can be made for this outrage.  Opposition to the law poured in from around the Union and the poor rebelled against the law in Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Detroit and other cities, but New York was the worst.

Many historians place Confederate secret service operatives behind the Draft Riots. In Civil War St.Louis, for example, D.H. Rule wrote, For now, bear in mind that a St. Louis Confederate courier enroute from Richmond to Canada made a stop in New York shortly before the Draft Riots began. This same agent’s stop in Philadelphia immediately preceded the most violent draft resistance in that city, too.  Coupled with this is the participation of Missouri agents (documented by a number of noted historians) in the attempted burning of New York.  The ethnic makeup of the St Louis mob was apparently different than the New York mob for several Germans were identified as participants.

By 1863, the ethnic makeup of New York’s Five Points, where the opposition originated, had changed and now included Germans, Jews, and Italians as well as native-born Americans; it was  home to the city’s impoverished though the Irish were still the most numerous among them.  Angered at the fact that the rich could buy their way out of the draft, the poor and laboring class of New York started a protest march headed for the offices of the Draft Board to destroy the ballots.  According to News in History.com, Italian, German and Irish immigrants banded together to march in a protest that turned violentThe Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP.ORG) also recorded, German-speaking artisans, Native-born Protestant journeymen, and working-class Irish laborers attacked and burned the Provost Marshal’s office on 46th Street and 3rd Avenue.   It should be noted that many of the Irish also served in the Metropolitan Police force that was sent to stop the protest march.

When the confrontation became violent, the biased media of the day used it as another opportunity to defame the Irish, claiming that they were the disloyal rioters in spite of the fact that at the time, many  of the Five Points Irish were dying on the battlefield of Gettysburg as they had done at Fredericksberg, Antietam and other fields of conflict defending the Union.  The media also ignored the Irish makeup of the police and that Supervisor of Police John Kennedy was one of those killed by the mob or that the commander of the 11th Regiment State Guard who were called in to assist was Col. H.T. O’Brien.

Fueled by the fear that freed blacks would take their jobs, blacks became a target of the protesters and the media invented an Irish vs black prejudice in spite of the fact that they not only peacefully lived together in the Points, but in earlier times together they had invented tap dancing.  However, in August, 1863, even Harper’s Weekly uncharacteristically had to admit,  It must be remembered that in many of the wards of the City during the late riot, the Irish were the primary, and often only, friends of law and order. That it was the Irish that risked their lives at 43rd street and 5th avenue at the Colored Orphan Asylum to save the little children from certain death at the hands of the mob. That many of the police officers injured during riot were Irish.   And it must also be noted that Police Officer Paddy McCafferty put his body between the mob and 20 colored children and brought them to the safety of the 35th precinct at great peril to his own life.  Further, that to a man, the Catholic Priesthood which is almost entirely Irish in our city used their influence on the side of law and order.

One of the saddest incidents in modern history is the constant accusation in current published media that the Irish were responsible for the Draft Riots in July 1863.  They have used the biased media of the day as source data.  To those of us who know the true story, the authors of such tripe are only embarrassing themselves as Amadons (ignorant people) at best and Gombeen Men (those who seek the favor of the establishment) at worst.  Yet, if we would not be called Lackeys (those who mindlessly go along with the majority), it is up to us to educate the masses.  July 13, 2013 is the 150th anniversary of the tragic event and you can be sure you will see anniversary articles by some ignorant authors.  Start now and send a letter, e-mail, or tweet to your local news media, radio or TV station, politician and/or school with the truth.  Remember, it’s your heritage, DEFEND IT!

Thomas J. Clarke

Every nation honors the memory of Patriots whose personal sacrifices contributed to their freedom.  In our United States, George Washington looms up larger than life as the personification of the American Revolution, even though Samuel Adams was its architect and Nathan Hale was a martyr for its cause. In Ireland’s struggle for independence, the Easter Rising of 1916 is the landmark rising that led to today’s Republic of Ireland.  It is the Lexington and Concord of Irish history when a handful of hopefuls stood firm against the might of England for the principle of freedom.  Padraig Pearse led the men of Easter Week and is the personification of the Easter Rising in the minds of many, yet the architect of that rising, and a man who also gave his life in its cause was Thomas J. Clarke.

Thomas Clarke was born in 1858 and raised in County Tyrone where the landlord-dominated Irish population had been reduced to a condition bordering on serfdom.  In August 1878, young Tom joined the ranks of the Fenian Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a secret revolutionary organization not unlike our own Sons of Liberty.  In 1881, his activities caused him to flee to New York where he became active in Clan na Gael, the American branch of the Fenian movement.  On a trip to England in 1883, he was captured and sentenced to life for Fenian activities.  Prison existence was so severe for Fenian prisoners that two men sentenced with him went insane under its conditions.  Clarke persevered however, and was released in 1898. The following year, he returned to the U.S., married Miss Kattie Daly and settled in Brooklyn. He returned to Fenian activities and was employed by an Irish-American newspaper edited by John Devoy, the most powerful figure in Clan na Gael.  Highly respected for the suffering he had endured for Irish freedom, Clarke became one of the Clan’s most trusted members.

In December 1907, he was sent to Ireland to rejuvenate the IRB. As the trusted link with the Irish exiles of Clan na Gael, he was appointed to the Supreme Council of the Brotherhood and was one of its most powerful advocates of revolutionary action.  He plotted a course with young IRB organizer, Sean MacDiarmada, to replace inactive members of the Council with young militants and to attract new blood into the movement.  Clarke saw a young schoolteacher speak at a commemoration ceremony and invited him to deliver the 1913 oration at the grave of Irish patriot, Wolfe Tone, an annual event of considerable nationalist significance.  Within a few weeks, the young schoolteacher, Padraig Pearse, had joined the IRB.

As the most consistent advocate of revolutionary action, Clarke set the course that led to the Easter Rising.  With the start of the Irish Volunteer movement in 1913, Clarke insured that IRB men were on the provisional committee and Pearse became the critical link between the two groups.  In May of 1915, Clarke established a Military Council of the IRB; by year’s end, they had set a date for a rising. In January 1916, he brought labor leader, James Connolly, onto the Military Council, thereby securing the support of the Irish Citizen Army – a group formed to protect the workers during the great Dublin labor lock-out of 1913.  In February, Clarke informed Clan na Gael that a rising would take place in Dublin on Easter Sunday which would signal the start of a nation wide rebellion.

The confusion of events caused by Volunteer Chief of Staff MacNeill’s late cancellation of maneuvers, upset the original schedule and caused the historic decision to rise on the following day – Easter Monday.  It was not the rising that Clarke had planned, but a braver one in military terms since hope had vanished for a subsequent rising on a national scale.  Yet, it altered the course of the Irish nation, for Irish resentment to the brutality with which the rising was crushed led to her War of Independence.  The Easter Rising was led by Tom Clarke, Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Eamon Ceannt, Sean MacDiarmada, Joseph Plunkett and Thomas MacDonagh – all of whom were executed for their dreams.  Yet the respect and admiration of these leaders for their mentor was paramount.  Just prior to the rising, when the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was drawn up, the man given the honor of having his name affixed first was the veteran Fenian, Thomas J. Clarke.  His execution was significant because America did nothing while the Brits executed an American citizen.

In 1983, a sentence found in an old biography of Tom Clarke led to a remarkable search. The sentence referred to his relocation to Suffolk County without naming the town.  As AOH County Historian, I set up a committee to locate the homesite for its historic significance.  Intensive research through old books, records and conversations with recognized experts in the field, revealed little.  Finally, a search of deeds in the Town of Brookhaven archives produced two deeds showing that Thomas J. Clarke of Brooklyn had purchased 30 acres in Manorville in 1906, and an adjoining 30 in 1907.  The name on those deeds was verified to be the same as that found in the primary position on the historic Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Today, a monument of Wicklow Granite stands on the site of Clarke’s Long Island homestead, erected by the Suffolk County A.O.H. and where an annual commemoration ceremony is held for Clarke and all who died in the quest for Irish freedom.  In 1996, the name of Kathleen Daly Clarke was added to the monument in recognition of her great contribution to the cause.  Thomas J. and Kathleen D. Clarke were an inspired, as well as an inspirational couple.  They prepared a whole generation for liberty and guided them through its fulfillment.  In no other nation’s history can one find a husband and wife so actively devoted to the goal of freedom.

Kathleen Daly Clarke grew up enduring the harassment of alien soldiers aimed at her nationalist family yet, she voluntarily placed herself, and her three children in the position of enduring that harassment again, for the sake of Ireland. Together,  Tom and Katty taught the Irish to be proud of who they were, and inspired leaders among them to action.  It was Tom who called the men of Easter Week to their duty, and led them to their destiny.  And when that destiny turned out to be the ultimate sacrifice, he went proudly and defiantly to the wall, and fired the fury of the Irish nation.  When he did, Kathleen Daly Clarke was waiting to lead them to the final victory with the tools that he had fashioned.  She established a network of Prisoners Defense offices around the country to assist the dependents of those in jails and when the prisoners were released in a general amnesty, she chose the next leader as she handed the names, plans and assets of the IRB to Michael Collins who converted the offices to recruiting stations.  It was too perfect to have been orchestrated by the hand of man alone – there had to be some divine intervention.

After her life of service, Kathleen recorded that her only regret was refusing to allow a memorial to be erected in honor of her late husband.  Her logic was that as long as one person in Ireland still suffered as a result of the Rising, she could not sanction putting money  into bricks and mortar.  Years later, realizing that not even one street in Dublin had been named for Thomas J. Clarke, she regretted that position.  In 1987, when we erected this memorial to Thomas J. Clarke, Sam O’Reilly, one of the last surviving soldiers of the Easter Rising, and a man who had known the Clarkes in life, said to me, “Tom would have liked this.”  In 1996, when we added the Katty’s name to the monument, there were some who said that if you listened hard enough, you might have heard a woman’s voice saying, “I like it too.”

This year’s service was attended by National, State and County Officers and members of the AOH and LAOH.  The Siol na hEireann Irish Pipe Band of AOH Div 8 opened the service with a selection of patriotic tunes and National Historian, Mike McCormack gave a short address at the monument evoking the memory of Tom and Katty Clarke.  Two wreaths were then placed: one with green, white and orange flowers for deceased Irish patriots and one with red white and blue for Ireland’s deceased American supporters.  Siol na hEireann then closed the ceremony with A Nation Once Again and as the last notes were sounding, the thunder of motorcycles punctuated the reverie as the Hibernian Riders Motorcycle Club rode by in salute with Irish and American flags flying.  It was a stirring finish to an emotional ceremony.  The spectators then retired to a local Country Club for a Communion Mass and Breakfast in memory of Ireland’s patriots.

New York News

The Easter Rising Remembered on Long Island

By Joe McDonald

 

On April 25th, more than 150 people attended the annual Easter Rising memorial service in Mineola, NY. At a location behind the courthouse, stands the now completed Irish memorial, a testament to those who gave their lives for Ireland’s freedom in the early 20th Century. Sponsored by the Irish Monument Committee each Easter Monday, the one hour ceremony allows all those present to remember the martyrs of 1916.

The committee is comprised of various Irish organizations including the Nassau County Board of the Ancient order of Hibernians, the Nassau Police Emerald Society, the Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, the Irish Culture Society of Garden City, Irish Northern Aid, The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and the Irish Americans in Government.

“It’s important to have this ceremony”, said Nassau County AOH Freedom For All Ireland Chairman Vic Sackett, “because after 800 years of oppression by the British, Irish leaders who knew very well what freedom was, had the courage to plan and train an uprising to would have some chance of success.  Although the rising was not successful, within two years, it rallied the Irish population to elect their own representatives and government, which then declared the 32 County Republic in 1919.”

This year’s ceremony, which was headed by the Police Emerald Society, included remarks from Consul General of Ireland Noel Kilkenny, and Leitrim County Councilor Martin Kenny. Kilkenny spoke about those who died in the Easter Rising and why it is important for people to believe in freedom and independence, while Kenny remarked about the culture of Ireland and how it is not a Catholic Protestant rivalry, but the mentality of peasants vs. planters.  “And the Irish people rose above the peasant mentality to become something more,” he remarked. “Now the planters need to change their way of thinking, for Ireland to become the great county it can be.”

The monument has been located behind the Nassau County Court House since 1979, albeit unfinished. Recently, Irish groups throughout Long island decided to complete and renovate the project. Two years ago the top was put on the monument, a harp with 32 strings representing the 32 counties and the names of 15 who died on the base. Last year, flowers, lights and a walkway were added and to finish it off benches will be installed and the plaques will be placed back onto the memorial.

The memorial concluded with a laying of a wreath at the monument.  “It’s rather unique that the Easter Rising is remembered on public ground in the United States,” said AOH Brother Robert Lynch. “I can’t think of any other place in America that has something dedicated to such an important event.”

Color Guard at the Easter Rising Memorial. Photo by Jim Henry

Div. 11 Hicksville marches proudly in the NYC Parade

The Mohawk Valley Irish Cultural Center will be built in Utica, NY

by John E. Fox

 

The Mohawk Valley Irish Cultural Center will be built in West Utica following discussions with city leaders, Great American Irish Festival Inc. organizers said. An Irish cultural center not only would be a benefit to West Utica’s Brewery District, but it bodes well for the entire city, Mayor David Roefaro said.  “It’s a win-win for everybody,” Roefaro said. “That piece of property is passionate to the Irish,” he said of the parking lot at Cooper and Columbia streets, where the former St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was founded in the 1850s. The $2 million project — funded almost exclusively from proceeds of the Great American Irish Festival — will yield a two-story building with an authentic Irish pub, kitchen, meeting rooms and office space. Matthew Sullivan, director of the festival, will serve as executive director of the center. A variety of Irish organizations, including the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, will make use of the space, Sullivan said. Construction of the 2-story multi-purpose, 10,000 square foot facility will include, a full basement, a banquet hall that will be able to accommodate about 300 people, a full commercial kitchen, an authentic Irish Pub, a cultural room, a meeting room as well as office spaces. Construction of the building will begin, “as soon as the weather will allow,” Sullivan said, adding that “We wanted this to be an investment in the hub of downtown and we wanted to be part of Varick Street, with the brewery,” A groundbreaking ceremony emceed by Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks and attended by about 150 people was held at 623 Columbia St. was held Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day.  Brooks commended Sullivan for his efforts and joked about the fallacy of the phrase, “the luck of the Irish.”  “The Irish got where we are by hard work and fighting for what we believe in,” he said. The center site was once home to the first Irish Catholic parish in the city, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, which was founded in the 1850s but disbanded and later demolished in the 1960s. “This site is sacred ground for the Irish community,” Sullivan said. The plan has been through the city zoning and planning boards and has gained all necessary approvals Sullivan said. The entity that will run the center will be a non-profit, registered with the State Education Department as a Historical Society with Collections. The Irish pub will be open to the public and should be part of the Varick Street bar scene. Sullivan first began working on the project in 2003 through his involvement with the AOH, Brooks told the gathered crowd. Though some of the money came from other sources, both Sullivan and Brooks said no government money is involved. The ceremony also included several prayers from local priests, bagpipe tunes, the Irish and American national anthems and Irish ballads. Shortly after a procession down Varick Street, a robust party was held at the Celtic Harp.

The Honorable Michael Dwyer named Grand Marshal

by John E. Fox

Judge Michael Dwyer

Oneida County Court Judge Michael Dwyer was named as the grand marshal for Utica’s (NY) 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, said Kevin Dowling, the parade director. Dwyer is a “standup” person who is very deserving of being named grand marshal and has a difficult job as county court judge, “He works very hard for this community,” Dowling said. Dwyer said there are many others who deserve the honor just as much or more than he does. “I am very proud, and also very humbled,” Dwyer said. 141 groups turned out for the annual parade down Genesee Street this year, according to event director Kevin Dowling. Other participants included seven bagpipe bands, nine or ten additional musical groups and a plethora of service organizations – all of which made their way from Oneida Square to Columbia Street.

“This is the third largest parade in the state behind New York City and Buffalo,” Dowling said. “Last year, we counted about 2,000 people marching in the parade. With 33 more units that entered this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got up to 2,500.” Many say for them the parade is a way to honor their ancestors by remembering Irish traditions and traditional music.

“I see the pride in being Irish; just being Irish you know, having it in your blood, but it represents the day and the spirit and the holiday,” said parade attendee Michael Collins.

Parade goers say the event wasn’t just about celebrating their heritage, but also about recognizing some important members of the community. It was a chance for local organizations — from emergency squads to food banks — to shine. Dowling, and other parade organizers, said the parade remains a community-oriented event, where rowdier celebrators mix with families and children – and where everyone has a good time. “The key theme that we try to stress is respect,” Dowling said. “Everyone is respectful of each other and we have a good time.”

New York News

The Easter Rising Remembered on Long Island

By Joe McDonald

 

On April 25th, more than 150 people attended the annual Easter Rising memorial service in Mineola, NY. At a location behind the courthouse, stands the now completed Irish memorial, a testament to those who gave their lives for Ireland’s freedom in the early 20th Century. Sponsored by the Irish Monument Committee each Easter Monday, the one hour ceremony allows all those present to remember the martyrs of 1916.

The committee is comprised of various Irish organizations including the Nassau County Board of the Ancient order of Hibernians, the Nassau Police Emerald Society, the Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, the Irish Culture Society of Garden City, Irish Northern Aid, The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and the Irish Americans in Government.

“It’s important to have this ceremony”, said Nassau County AOH Freedom For All Ireland Chairman Vic Sackett, “because after 800 years of oppression by the British, Irish leaders who knew very well what freedom was, had the courage to plan and train an uprising to would have some chance of success.  Although the rising was not successful, within two years, it rallied the Irish population to elect their own representatives and government, which then declared the 32 County Republic in 1919.”

This year’s ceremony, which was headed by the Police Emerald Society, included remarks from Consul General of Ireland Noel Kilkenny, and Leitrim County Councilor Martin Kenny. Kilkenny spoke about those who died in the Easter Rising and why it is important for people to believe in freedom and independence, while Kenny remarked about the culture of Ireland and how it is not a Catholic Protestant rivalry, but the mentality of peasants vs. planters.  “And the Irish people rose above the peasant mentality to become something more,” he remarked. “Now the planters need to change their way of thinking, for Ireland to become the great county it can be.”

The monument has been located behind the Nassau County Court House since 1979, albeit unfinished. Recently, Irish groups throughout Long island decided to complete and renovate the project. Two years ago the top was put on the monument, a harp with 32 strings representing the 32 counties and the names of 15 who died on the base. Last year, flowers, lights and a walkway were added and to finish it off benches will be installed and the plaques will be placed back onto the memorial.

The memorial concluded with a laying of a wreath at the monument.  “It’s rather unique that the Easter Rising is remembered on public ground in the United States,” said AOH Brother Robert Lynch. “I can’t think of any other place in America that has something dedicated to such an important event.”

Color Guard at the Easter Rising Memorial. Photo by Jim Henry

Div. 11 Hicksville marches proudly in the NYC Parade

The Mohawk Valley Irish Cultural Center will be built in Utica, NY

by John E. Fox

 

The Mohawk Valley Irish Cultural Center will be built in West Utica following discussions with city leaders, Great American Irish Festival Inc. organizers said. An Irish cultural center not only would be a benefit to West Utica’s Brewery District, but it bodes well for the entire city, Mayor David Roefaro said.  “It’s a win-win for everybody,” Roefaro said. “That piece of property is passionate to the Irish,” he said of the parking lot at Cooper and Columbia streets, where the former St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was founded in the 1850s. The $2 million project — funded almost exclusively from proceeds of the Great American Irish Festival — will yield a two-story building with an authentic Irish pub, kitchen, meeting rooms and office space. Matthew Sullivan, director of the festival, will serve as executive director of the center. A variety of Irish organizations, including the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, will make use of the space, Sullivan said. Construction of the 2-story multi-purpose, 10,000 square foot facility will include, a full basement, a banquet hall that will be able to accommodate about 300 people, a full commercial kitchen, an authentic Irish Pub, a cultural room, a meeting room as well as office spaces. Construction of the building will begin, “as soon as the weather will allow,” Sullivan said, adding that “We wanted this to be an investment in the hub of downtown and we wanted to be part of Varick Street, with the brewery,” A groundbreaking ceremony emceed by Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks and attended by about 150 people was held at 623 Columbia St. was held Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day.  Brooks commended Sullivan for his efforts and joked about the fallacy of the phrase, “the luck of the Irish.”  “The Irish got where we are by hard work and fighting for what we believe in,” he said. The center site was once home to the first Irish Catholic parish in the city, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, which was founded in the 1850s but disbanded and later demolished in the 1960s. “This site is sacred ground for the Irish community,” Sullivan said. The plan has been through the city zoning and planning boards and has gained all necessary approvals Sullivan said. The entity that will run the center will be a non-profit, registered with the State Education Department as a Historical Society with Collections. The Irish pub will be open to the public and should be part of the Varick Street bar scene. Sullivan first began working on the project in 2003 through his involvement with the AOH, Brooks told the gathered crowd. Though some of the money came from other sources, both Sullivan and Brooks said no government money is involved. The ceremony also included several prayers from local priests, bagpipe tunes, the Irish and American national anthems and Irish ballads. Shortly after a procession down Varick Street, a robust party was held at the Celtic Harp.

The Honorable Michael Dwyer named Grand Marshal

by John E. Fox

Judge Michael Dwyer

Oneida County Court Judge Michael Dwyer was named as the grand marshal for Utica’s (NY) 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, said Kevin Dowling, the parade director. Dwyer is a “standup” person who is very deserving of being named grand marshal and has a difficult job as county court judge, “He works very hard for this community,” Dowling said. Dwyer said there are many others who deserve the honor just as much or more than he does. “I am very proud, and also very humbled,” Dwyer said. 141 groups turned out for the annual parade down Genesee Street this year, according to event director Kevin Dowling. Other participants included seven bagpipe bands, nine or ten additional musical groups and a plethora of service organizations – all of which made their way from Oneida Square to Columbia Street.

“This is the third largest parade in the state behind New York City and Buffalo,” Dowling said. “Last year, we counted about 2,000 people marching in the parade. With 33 more units that entered this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got up to 2,500.” Many say for them the parade is a way to honor their ancestors by remembering Irish traditions and traditional music.

“I see the pride in being Irish; just being Irish you know, having it in your blood, but it represents the day and the spirit and the holiday,” said parade attendee Michael Collins.

Parade goers say the event wasn’t just about celebrating their heritage, but also about recognizing some important members of the community. It was a chance for local organizations — from emergency squads to food banks — to shine. Dowling, and other parade organizers, said the parade remains a community-oriented event, where rowdier celebrators mix with families and children – and where everyone has a good time. “The key theme that we try to stress is respect,” Dowling said. “Everyone is respectful of each other and we have a good time.”

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Flushing Division Celebrates 100 Years

In 1909 the AOH National Board received an application to form a new Division in Flushing, New York.  Queens County President Peter McSarry told State President S.W. Brown there was great interest for the new Division. At the time, Flushing had a growing Irish population and was changing from farming to a residential community. The application was reviewed and approved by the National Board in January 1910.

The next month, on February 10, 1910, Division 9 was founded in Flushing at Saint Michael’s Church. The founding officers were M.J. Connor – President, James Tracy -Vice-President, James Hayes – Recording Secretary, John J. Mayer – Finical Secretary and Patrick Sellers -Treasurer. The Charter reflected the times in that Ireland was not an independent country and the flag was the traditional 1798 rising banner.

In its early years Division 9 was a source of comfort to the growing Irish immigrant population of Flushing and western Queens. Members of the Division actively supported the WWI war effort and sent care packages to the solders in France.  During the 1920s the Division was involved in transforming Main Street Flushing into one of the biggest commercial areas of New York City.  The 1930s were a very difficult time for the Division.  The economic depression inspired members to provide food packages to Brother Hibernians throughout Queens County who were in need. During WWII the Division participated in war bond drives and they again sent care packages to soldiers fighting overseas.

The greatest growth and activity of Division 9 came after WWII.  That’s when Flushing saw a population boom due to the construction of new single family and attached homes, along with new apartments. Division 9 held events at the Flushing Armory with crowds of more than 300 people. Members of the Division were involved in civic, commerce and industry in the Flushing community.

Division 9 was the first division in eastern Queens. Members assisted in the creation of Divisions in Whitestone, Woodhaven, Rockaway Beach, Bayside and Bellerose. Many of the people who were involved in Division 9 activities went on to form Divisions in Nassau and Suffolk counties; and in other states across the country.

In 1993, the Division responded to the changing Irish population by moving from Saint Michael’s Church in downtown Flushing to Saint Andrew Avellino Church in east Flushing. In 1997, the Division was named in honor of Patrick J. Curran – a 67 year member of the Division 9, a National Life Member, County officer, Division President and Treasurer of the Division for more than 30 years.

Members of the Division have been actively involved on the AOH Queens County Board. The County Men of the Year were Patrick J. Curran in 1991, his son Joseph Curran in 2000 and John Mahoney in 2007.  Division member Joseph Curran was also Freedom of All Ireland Chairman from 1988 to 2009, while John Mahoney was County Treasurer from 1989 to 1991; Thomas Friel was County Treasurer form 1999 to 2001 and A. Warren Scullin was County President from 2003 to 2005. Division members have also served on the Queens County Degree Team.  The current Queens County Board members are Gregory Farren – County Finical Secretary and Owen Kelly – Organizer.

Division 9 has always had an active participating role in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City.  The Aides to the Grand Marshall were Patrick J. Curran in 1970 and his son Joseph Curran in 1997.

Throughout the years the Division has been an active in the cause of a United Ireland. Members of the Division have written to government officials, participated in AOH National and State Freedom for All Ireland events and supported programs of economic development and social justice causes in Northern Ireland. Joseph Curran was an inspiration to all of the members for such a just cause. His passing in 2009 was a time of great sadness for all of the members of the Division, yet his memory lives on and it inspires the members to work harder for peace and justice for all the people of Ireland.

Over the past few years the Division has been involved with working with the New York State AOH for the growth of the order.  Current Division President A. Warren Scullin was State Deputy Finance Chairman from 2003 to 2005, State Deputy Organizer from 2007 to 2009 and is presently a State Director.

Most recently, the Division has hosted Andy Cooney and Tony Kenny concerts, sponsored sporting events, donated to Saint Andrew Avellino Church, participated in AOH National and State Conventions and helped to form a Division in Woodside.

Today Division 9 still plays an active role in the Flushing community. It is a networking environment where people of a common background and faith can share their love of Irish heritage. Times change, yet the members still keep the faith of the founding officers and live by the Hibernian motto of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.

Members of Monsignor McLaughlin Division 7 in Wantagh, NY pose with Town of Hempstead Executive Kate Murray after marching in the Wantagh 4th of July Parade this past Independence Day.

New AOH Hall at Hudson Valley’s Historic Verplanck

New Peekskill AOH Hall

On August 1, 2010 the Red School House (circa July 1876) in historic Verplanck in the town of Cortlandt in Westchester County became the Hudson Valley Irish Center, home of Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 18, Peekskill Hibernian Hall thanks to generosity of the Verplanck Volunteer Fire Department.

The solid red brick building was built by the Irish immigrants who mined and made the bricks that built NYC. Their names are etched in the bricks over the entrance along with the date in early July, 1876. Many of those family names can still be found in the Town of Cortlandt where the Hibernian Hall is located, the neighboring City of Peekskill and amongst the roster of our members.

Dan Dennehy, AOH National & NYS Board Immigration Chair and Chairman of the Hudson Valley Irish Fest Inc. stated, “We are excited to see our organizations grow in our new home, a place built by our ancestors and an appropriate place to display and promote our rich Irish American heritage. I look forward to the local schools of music and dance, pipe bands and traditional musicians, along with our families, sharing this facility and its grounds, which overlook the majestic Hudson River.”

Last year, the Hudson Valley Irish Fest at Peekskill’s Riverfront Green was founded by AOH members Dan Dennehy and Ray Bermingham and fellow Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Committee member Scott Mettey. Their purpose was to promote the idea of a much needed home for Irish American heritage. At that time, the active local Irish American community was reeling from the loss of Jimmy Guinan’s and PJ Kelly’s, two local establishments that were centers of Irish music and dance. The Hudson Valley Irish Fest, a not for profit charitable corporation and educational trust was established and contributed to by the combined efforts of  AOH Division 18 and the Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Committee. They recruited members of the community to their Fest Committee and raised funds with a series of successful Pub Quizzes.

The result of the extremely dedicated Committee work saw 3,000 guests at the beautiful riverfront on Fest day. Also many new friendships were made and membership and interest in the local Irish organizations blossomed. The committee compensated the two organizations for their initial outlay and further unexpected dividends of this effort became apparent.

AOH Division 18 more than doubled its membership and the Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Committee welcomed many new participants. The Hudson Valley Irish Fest Inc. and Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Committee established the John McGurty Sr. Library, a multimedia section of Irish & Irish-American literature and history at the Field Library in Peekskill.

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