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!

Biking For Charity

By Larry Squires

Beginning on May 20th, 2011, my good friend, Paul Lockard, and I, both members of Allegheny County, Ancient Order of the Hibernians, Div. 17 in Monroeville, PA, embarked upon a great 10 day adventure beginning with a short bicycle ride of ten miles to the Megabus stop in downtown Pittsburgh.  Just before the 11:00 p.m. departure, we met another brother from Division 17, Bill O’Neill, as well as LAOH State President, Colleen Bower, and past President, Sarah Mains, for an eight hour bus trip to New York City.  For the record, the Megabus staff in Pittsburgh was very accommodating with respect to loading our bicycles into the bus’s cargo bay.  Take note that this isn’t always the case.

On Saturday morning, we left the bus and made way to the AOH 175th Anniversary Mass at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in the heart of New York City, situated between Mulberry and Mott Streets at the intersection of Prince Street.  The Mass began at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning May, 21st, and was incredibly beautiful with Hibernians from across the United States in attendance, with heavenly music ministry provided by the New York State Hibernian Festival Singers.  A stirring homily was delivered by co-celebrant, our National AOH Chaplain, Fr. Thomas O’Donnell.  After Mass, we were treated to a fabulous reception in the Basilica’s beautiful enclosed courtyard, complete with food, refreshments, a live band, and vendor kiosks offering beautiful memorabilia of the event.

On Saturday evening, Paul and I, along with Pennsylvania State AOH President, Denny Donnelly, took the subway to St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 5th Avenue and 51st Street.  We toured this magnificent church for ninety minutes and barely scratched the surface of this magnificent church structure.

On Sunday morning, Fr. O’Donnell celebrated Mass at our hotel, for a small group of Hibernians with early travel plans.  While the remaining Hibernians traveled to ground zero for a Mass commemorating the Great Hunger, Paul and I got on our bicycles and made way for Pier 11, at the foot of Wall Street on the East River.  There we boarded the Seastreak Ferry to Atlantic Highlands, NJ, where we began our three day shoreline ride to Ocean City, MD.  Sunday’s weather was a little chilly, being dark overcast, fifty-seven degrees and drizzly in a few spots, along with a strong headwind from the South that made pedaling a little difficult, but not enough to keep us from our sixty-nine mile destination of Manahawkin, NJ.  However, after leaving the shoreline at Toms River, NJ, we were traveling New Jersey Route 9, a marked bicycle route, but were unaware that Route 9 ran along the same bridge as the Garden State parkway, as it actually crossed Toms River.

Consequently, we found ourselves merging into the right lane of the New Jersey Garden State Parkway, with absolutely no shoulder to ride, as it had obviously been sacrificed for the third lane.  For two miles, Paul and I pedaled as fast as we could, hoping the next exit was near, before we were discovered by the New Jersey State Police, or succumbed to an encounter with traffic whizzing by, which was only inches away from our left side.  Thanks to our veteran riding skills, but mostly the prayers of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, who were praying for us, we safely made it across the bridge and back onto the safety of the Route 9 bicycle route into Manahawkin, NJ.  Paul and I were also impressed with the courteous fashion the New Jersey drivers handled the situation.  At one point, a driver in a white Subaru actually blocked the exit ramp for us, so we could safely exit the interstate.  Combined with the nine miles from Friday, and a few on Saturday, we recorded a total of 81.64 miles at our terminus in Manahawkin on Sunday night, just before 8:00 p.m.

On Monday, we decided to re-check Route 9 to Atlantic City, NJ, and did indeed find another segment shared with the Garden State Parkway and decided to exercise the option of taking a New Jersey Transit bus from Manahawkin to Atlantic City.  The $6.00 bus trip cut about 30 miles out of the ride; however, we would have been riding through harsh thunderstorms, and the next bridge we were avoiding turned out to be under construction, with only one narrow lane in each direction, sandwiched between New Jersey barriers, making it virtually impossible, as well as illegal, to travel by bicycle.  For the record, the New Jersey Transit buses are very bicycle friendly, with many being fitted with bike racks on the front bumper, and plenty of cargo bay if not.  Once underway by bicycle in Atlantic City, we had a beautiful change in weather, as the skies cleared and temperatures made it to the low eighties.  At our terminus on Monday, the Aloha Motel in North Wildwood, NJ, we recorded 38.34 miles, at about 7:00 p.m.  We then took in some legendary hospitality at the Angelsea Tavern, Flip Flopz, and Westy’s Irish Pub.

Tuesday morning, we saddled up and took off for the Cape May Lewes Delaware Ferry and loaded our bikes into the vehicle bay, before embarking on the ninety minute trip across the Delaware Bay.  With sunny skies and temperatures in the low nineties in Lewes, Delaware, this was really starting to feel like a vacation.  As we arrived in Ocean City, MD, around 7:00 p.m., we recorded 45.35 miles.

We took Wednesday off, as a buffer day, just in case we needed to shuffle our schedule, due to inclement weather, or other unforeseen circumstances.  However, we were right on schedule, so we just enjoyed a day off at the beach.

Seaford, Delaware was the terminus for Thursday’s ride inland, as we began our three day ride to Washington, DC.  This was a relatively uneventful ride, but we were treated to beautiful landscapes, as we rode through the Delmarva Peninsula’s farm country.  At the end of the day, we recorded 43.60 miles, at about 3:00 p.m..

Friday morning, we rode 50.63 miles to Kent Narrows, MD, which is just on the East end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  Kent Narrows is a favorite spot for boaters and fishermen and boasts several great waterside pubs and restaurants offering fresh caught seafood.

We began Saturday morning with a call to Kent Narrows Taxi Company, as bicycles are not permitted on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  The driver, an avid Raven’s fan, was very informative and transported many cyclists across the bridge, and after chiding us for being Steeler’s fans, he dropped us right on the marked bicycle route that goes to Annapolis, MD and on to Washington, DC.  Before parting ways, we rhetorically asked the driver how many Super Bowls the Ravens had won, and he drove away grumbling something under his breath.  With respect to bicycle riding, this was easily the most scenic and challenging part of the trip.  However, even with 30+ pounds of cargo, we easily navigated the rolling hills of the Eastern Maryland countryside for the brief 37.46 miles, before connecting with the DC Metro in New Carrolton, MD.  As it turned out, the DC Metro was out of service for track maintenance, one stop past New Carrolton, so we were transferred to a bike rack equipped DC Metro shuttle bus that took us within blocks of the U.S. Capital Building, which was very close to our hotel.  As we checked into the hotel, around 3:30 p.m., we drew a few double takes, as the Washington Court Hotel clientele were obviously not used to guests checking in with their bikes.  As always, the hospitality and food at Dubliners, conveniently around the corner, was excellent on Saturday night.

On Sunday, we took the DC Metro to Catholic University of America, for 9:00 a.m. Mass at the Nation Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, before returning to the Washington Court Hotel and checking out.  Upon checkout, we rode our bikes to the nearby pickup spot for Megabus, as it had been relocated, since our last Megabus trip to DC in December, when we spent the weekend before Christmas touring DC with our wives.  Having almost three hours to kill, before departure time, we decided to ride back to the mall in DC and see what was going on.  As we arrived at Constitution Avenue and Fourth Street, we were stopped by a police blockade, as the “Thunder in DC” motorcycle ride had just gotten underway at 12:00 Noon.  We soon found out that there were about 250,000 motorcycle riding participants who would circle the Mall until 4:00 p.m. raising awareness for POW’s, mainly from the Vietnam War.  After watching the spectacle till about 1:30 p.m., we made our way back to the Megabus stop, to get a place in line.  This is where we found out not all Megabus staff are the same.  The supervisor came over and snapped off Megabus regulations prohibiting bicycles on Megabus, unless disassembled and packaged for shipping.  We asked if he had packing materials, and replied no.  So we related our positive experience in Pittsburgh, and that we were raising money for the Veterans Wheelchair Games and the Sisters of Charity, and he started rubbing his chin.  Here’s where all your prayers come in.  After a brief reconsideration, he said ok, and told us we could have the whole center cargo bay for our bikes, and we didn’t even have to remove the wheels.  So once on our way back to Pittsburgh, we made arrangements with my wife Kathy to pick us up in downtown Pittsburgh, so that we could save time to prepare for work on Monday.

Paul and I thank you for your prayers and support, and especially for your very generous donations to the VA Wheelchair Games and the retired Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.  May God richly bless you and your families.

 

Share

AOH Celebrates 175

It was a truly historic weekend as members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and their friends gathered in New York to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Order.  Although it wasn’t until 1853 that the name Ancient Order of Hibernians was officially adopted, the organization grew out of a fusion of fraternal societies from Pennsylvania and New York which met in 1836 near Old St. James Church on James Street, later renamed AOH Way for the 150th Anniversary of the Order.  It is from that point that the AOH dates its origin.

The weekend began with the hospitality of Ireland’s Consul General to New York, Noel Kilkenny and his lovely wife, Honora, at their rooftop residence in mid-town Manhattan overlooking Robert Moses Park and the East River.  As traditional musicians, Scott Mattey, Stephen Gara, Donie Carrol and Jimmy O’Neill provided lively Irish tunes, an endless parade of hors d’ouvres and canopes paraded through the assembled guests – a literal who’s who of Irish America – gathered to congratulate the AOH on its milestone.  As the sun set over a breathtaking view of Manhattan’s lights emerging like an earthly constellation, AOH Div 7 invited all to a buffet dinner sponsored by the New York County Board at their nearby local ‘The Black Sheep Pub and Restaurant’ where the gaiety went on. Irish Counsel General in New York  Noel Kilkenny It is a huge honor for me to join you in celebrating 175 years of service to Ireland, Irish America, and your communities.  I have seen the work you do and read about your York history. And now you are celebrating 175 years of what you have done for the Irish.  The Irish in the past when things weren’t easy – in fact when it as very dangerous to be Irish here in this city and right across this country.  It is an occasion to celebrate that, to celebrate what you have achieved.  And you have achieved so much.  What about today? As I travel around I see the AOH in action today and yesterday, and please God tomorrow – not only in your Divisions but in almost every facet of Irish life in this city, Irish) I have found AOH members at the center of it:  they have founding it they have funded it, they have supported it, they have volunteered in it.  So as an organization you have a glorious past, but you also have a great presence… But what of tomorrow Hibernians? What of next year? What of 30 years from now? He added,         Kilkenny called on Hibernians to plan for the next 175 years. You are the largest Irish organization in this country – you are coast to coast – you are in every city, in every community. future of the Hibernians is not the bloodline from Ireland but is the children and grandchildren of our members. He called on the AOH to hare with them your history engage them in your communities, encourage them to join divisions and to have to play their part in Irish America and to think to the future.  The Irish government is here and we want you to re-engage in Ireland.

On Saturday morning, the gates of the city opened wide to receive hundreds of Hibernian men and women from as far away as Pittsburgh, Rhode Island and New Orleans and they formed up on Mulberry Street, just north of  the infamous Mulberry Bend.  The Bend was one of the worst parts of the old Five Points neighborhood in which arriving Irish immigrants were forced to live in the 1840s and 50s with many notorious back alleys like Bandit’s Roost, Bottle Alley and Ragpicker’s Row.  The Bend is gone now, replaced by Mulberry Bend Park and so are the Irish who were forced to live there in more biased times.  Just as the Irish marched out of the Five Points into American prosperity, the AOH paraded north on Mulberry Street to the church that has become the icon of the Irish experience in New York – the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral – accompanied by four Hibernian Pipe Bands: Tara Pipes and Drums, Siol na hEireann, Glor na Gael and Orange County AOH Pipe Band.

Back in 1844, when Archbishop Hughes had called on the fledgling AOH to protect his church from a nativist threat, armed Hibernians lined the street in front of the Cathedral; on this day Hibernians again lined the street in front of the Cathedral, but this time it was Hibernian Pipe Bands and they were armed with pipes and drums; the massed band performance they provided would have made Archbishop Hughes proud.  The Mass in honor of the AOH milestone con-celebrated by the Pastor Monsignor Sakano, AOH National and Deputy National Chaplains, O’Donnell and Reid, and several AOH Chaplains and sung by the Hibernian Festival Singers.

Father O’Donnell’s homily read like a history lesson drawing in this wonderful spiritualism into the hearts of those gathered. The 175 year history of the AOH is intimately connected to the history of Old St Patrick’s Basilica. If it were not for the Irish and the Ancient Order of Hibernians the other historic events of this church may not have been possible.  In the 1830s there was a great deal of anti-catholic and anti-immigrant sentiment.  The need to defend the Cathedral against mob violence was not uncommon.  The “Know Nothing Party” organized Protestants to march against the Cathedral. Mobs and vigilante groups shouted anti-catholic epitaphs threatened the Cathedral and vowed to burn the Cathedral to the ground.  At this point Archbishop Hughes enlisted the Irish and in particular the Ancient Order of Hibernians to surround the walls of the Cathedral and safeguard the church. Then Archbishop Hughes wrote to the New York Mayor and told him, “Should one Catholic come to harm, or should one business be molested, we shall turn this city into a second Moscow.”  Although the AOH was able to save the Cathedral, they were not able to prevent the anti-papist mob who stoned the beautiful stained glass windows of both the church and the Bishops residence.  For 175 years the Ancient Order of Hibernians has continued to defend the church and its priests during times of both peace and turbulence.

Just as all of us who make up the Body of Christ give life to the bricks, stone, wood and steel of a church, likewise, the Ancient Order of Hibernians is more than just the AOH logo on a division building or the AOH emblem on the top of stationary.  Just as we are the living and breathing members of the Church so we must give live to our Hibernian virtues of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.  As members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians when we perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in our everyday lives, we are Christ to others. We are Christ when we protect the dignity of Human life from the first moment of conception until the time when our heavenly Father summons us to the Eternal Kingdom.  We are Christ to the world when we provide clothing for the homeless, provide meals for the hungry, and work at food banks so that poor families may have some nourishing meals.  We are Chris when we support the various Hibernian Charities not only by our material donations but by the gift of ourselves.  We are Christ when we fight for fair immigration laws not only for the Irish immigrants but for every immigrant who legally wishes to pursue freedom and the American dream.  We are Christ when we support seminarians and novices through Project St. Patrick and enable these men and women to pursue their vocations.  We are Christ when we provide scholarship funds for deserving students who wish to pursue their academic dreams.  We are Christ when we continue to fight for a free and independent Ireland so that perhaps by the centennial of the Easter Rising in 2016 we will have a united, free and independent Ireland.

As Hibernians we are alive, we are grateful for the glorious years of our past, but we must continue to be active in the present and be dynamically committed to the future because years from now we need future Hibernians to look back on us with the same aw with which we have looked back at 175 years of faithful and committed people.

The Mass was sung by the Hibernian Festival Choir under the direction of Maura Allen. This choir has performed at the White House and at many venues in Ireland, Canada and the U.S. and has always added to the solemnity of the liturgy. Ancient Order of Hibernians members were ushers and deacons who along with the altar servers under the guidance of a committee headed by past national director Martin Kelly of Brooklyn. Gifts presented by member Hibernians during the Mass included bread and wine, and in addition, a stature of St. Patrick, flags of the United States and Ireland, turf and potatoes, a model ship, and a Celtic cross.

After Mass, Monsignor Sakano invited all in attendance to a feast in the activities yard of the adjacent St. Patrick’s School where traditional music, food and beverage were plentiful and awards were presented to those responsible for the celebration. Hundreds of Hibernians and guests packed the old schools courtyard for food and drink and craic.  All were entertained by the band Celtic Justice and individual performers that included fiddler Scott Mettey and others.  The reception will be chaired by Sir Patrick Allen, a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and a brother Hibernian. Awards that included special plaques with bricks from the original church wall built by the original Hibernians were presented to the committee members who prganized the celebration.

Sunday morning dawned with the men and ladies of the AOH making their way to the tip of Manhattan and the oldest parish church in New York – St. Peter’ Church where a Mass was celebrated in memory of those AOH members and other victims of the cowardly attack on the World Trade Center right next door to the church.  After the Mass, a wreath was laid at the steel I-beam which remained standing amid the carnage in the shape of a cross and which has become an icon of faith and determination to recover.  It stands adjacent to St. Peter’s Church which is where Father Mychal Judge was carried after he was killed administering to the victims.

The day concluded with a visit to the Great Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City as part of the AOH New York remembrance of the International Hunger Memorial Commemoration.  As ceremonies took place all over the world in May to the memory of those victims of An Gorta Mor, the AOH National Board laid a wreath to the memory of the victims of that tragedy at the impressive memorial at New York Harbor.

 

Share

AOH Celebrates 175

It was a truly historic weekend as members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and their friends gathered in New York to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Order.  Although it wasn’t until 1853 that the name Ancient Order of Hibernians was officially adopted, the organization grew out of a fusion of fraternal societies from Pennsylvania and New York which met in 1836 near Old St. James Church on James Street, later renamed AOH Way for the 150th Anniversary of the Order.  It is from that point that the AOH dates its origin.

The weekend began with the hospitality of Ireland’s Consul General to New York, Noel Kilkenny and his lovely wife, Honora, at their rooftop residence in mid-town Manhattan overlooking Robert Moses Park and the East River.  As traditional musicians, Scott Mattey, Stephen Gara, Donie Carrol and Jimmy O’Neill provided lively Irish tunes, an endless parade of hors d’ouvres and canopes paraded through the assembled guests – a literal who’s who of Irish America – gathered to congratulate the AOH on its milestone.  As the sun set over a breathtaking view of Manhattan’s lights emerging like an earthly constellation, AOH Div 7 invited all to a buffet dinner sponsored by the New York County Board at their nearby local ‘The Black Sheep Pub and Restaurant’ where the gaiety went on. Irish Counsel General in New York  Noel Kilkenny It is a huge honor for me to join you in celebrating 175 years of service to Ireland, Irish America, and your communities.  I have seen the work you do and read about your York history. And now you are celebrating 175 years of what you have done for the Irish.  The Irish in the past when things weren’t easy – in fact when it as very dangerous to be Irish here in this city and right across this country.  It is an occasion to celebrate that, to celebrate what you have achieved.  And you have achieved so much.  What about today? As I travel around I see the AOH in action today and yesterday, and please God tomorrow – not only in your Divisions but in almost every facet of Irish life in this city, Irish) I have found AOH members at the center of it:  they have founding it they have funded it, they have supported it, they have volunteered in it.  So as an organization you have a glorious past, but you also have a great presence… But what of tomorrow Hibernians? What of next year? What of 30 years from now? He added,         Kilkenny called on Hibernians to plan for the next 175 years. You are the largest Irish organization in this country – you are coast to coast – you are in every city, in every community. future of the Hibernians is not the bloodline from Ireland but is the children and grandchildren of our members. He called on the AOH to hare with them your history engage them in your communities, encourage them to join divisions and to have to play their part in Irish America and to think to the future.  The Irish government is here and we want you to re-engage in Ireland.

On Saturday morning, the gates of the city opened wide to receive hundreds of Hibernian men and women from as far away as Pittsburgh, Rhode Island and New Orleans and they formed up on Mulberry Street, just north of  the infamous Mulberry Bend.  The Bend was one of the worst parts of the old Five Points neighborhood in which arriving Irish immigrants were forced to live in the 1840s and 50s with many notorious back alleys like Bandit’s Roost, Bottle Alley and Ragpicker’s Row.  The Bend is gone now, replaced by Mulberry Bend Park and so are the Irish who were forced to live there in more biased times.  Just as the Irish marched out of the Five Points into American prosperity, the AOH paraded north on Mulberry Street to the church that has become the icon of the Irish experience in New York – the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral – accompanied by four Hibernian Pipe Bands: Tara Pipes and Drums, Siol na hEireann, Glor na Gael and Orange County AOH Pipe Band.

Back in 1844, when Archbishop Hughes had called on the fledgling AOH to protect his church from a nativist threat, armed Hibernians lined the street in front of the Cathedral; on this day Hibernians again lined the street in front of the Cathedral, but this time it was Hibernian Pipe Bands and they were armed with pipes and drums; the massed band performance they provided would have made Archbishop Hughes proud.  The Mass in honor of the AOH milestone con-celebrated by the Pastor Monsignor Sakano, AOH National and Deputy National Chaplains, O’Donnell and Reid, and several AOH Chaplains and sung by the Hibernian Festival Singers.

Father O’Donnell’s homily read like a history lesson drawing in this wonderful spiritualism into the hearts of those gathered. The 175 year history of the AOH is intimately connected to the history of Old St Patrick’s Basilica. If it were not for the Irish and the Ancient Order of Hibernians the other historic events of this church may not have been possible.  In the 1830s there was a great deal of anti-catholic and anti-immigrant sentiment.  The need to defend the Cathedral against mob violence was not uncommon.  The “Know Nothing Party” organized Protestants to march against the Cathedral. Mobs and vigilante groups shouted anti-catholic epitaphs threatened the Cathedral and vowed to burn the Cathedral to the ground.  At this point Archbishop Hughes enlisted the Irish and in particular the Ancient Order of Hibernians to surround the walls of the Cathedral and safeguard the church. Then Archbishop Hughes wrote to the New York Mayor and told him, “Should one Catholic come to harm, or should one business be molested, we shall turn this city into a second Moscow.”  Although the AOH was able to save the Cathedral, they were not able to prevent the anti-papist mob who stoned the beautiful stained glass windows of both the church and the Bishops residence.  For 175 years the Ancient Order of Hibernians has continued to defend the church and its priests during times of both peace and turbulence.

Just as all of us who make up the Body of Christ give life to the bricks, stone, wood and steel of a church, likewise, the Ancient Order of Hibernians is more than just the AOH logo on a division building or the AOH emblem on the top of stationary.  Just as we are the living and breathing members of the Church so we must give live to our Hibernian virtues of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.  As members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians when we perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in our everyday lives, we are Christ to others. We are Christ when we protect the dignity of Human life from the first moment of conception until the time when our heavenly Father summons us to the Eternal Kingdom.  We are Christ to the world when we provide clothing for the homeless, provide meals for the hungry, and work at food banks so that poor families may have some nourishing meals.  We are Chris when we support the various Hibernian Charities not only by our material donations but by the gift of ourselves.  We are Christ when we fight for fair immigration laws not only for the Irish immigrants but for every immigrant who legally wishes to pursue freedom and the American dream.  We are Christ when we support seminarians and novices through Project St. Patrick and enable these men and women to pursue their vocations.  We are Christ when we provide scholarship funds for deserving students who wish to pursue their academic dreams.  We are Christ when we continue to fight for a free and independent Ireland so that perhaps by the centennial of the Easter Rising in 2016 we will have a united, free and independent Ireland.

As Hibernians we are alive, we are grateful for the glorious years of our past, but we must continue to be active in the present and be dynamically committed to the future because years from now we need future Hibernians to look back on us with the same aw with which we have looked back at 175 years of faithful and committed people.

The Mass was sung by the Hibernian Festival Choir under the direction of Maura Allen. This choir has performed at the White House and at many venues in Ireland, Canada and the U.S. and has always added to the solemnity of the liturgy. Ancient Order of Hibernians members were ushers and deacons who along with the altar servers under the guidance of a committee headed by past national director Martin Kelly of Brooklyn. Gifts presented by member Hibernians during the Mass included bread and wine, and in addition, a stature of St. Patrick, flags of the United States and Ireland, turf and potatoes, a model ship, and a Celtic cross.

After Mass, Monsignor Sakano invited all in attendance to a feast in the activities yard of the adjacent St. Patrick’s School where traditional music, food and beverage were plentiful and awards were presented to those responsible for the celebration. Hundreds of Hibernians and guests packed the old schools courtyard for food and drink and craic.  All were entertained by the band Celtic Justice and individual performers that included fiddler Scott Mettey and others.  The reception will be chaired by Sir Patrick Allen, a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and a brother Hibernian. Awards that included special plaques with bricks from the original church wall built by the original Hibernians were presented to the committee members who prganized the celebration.

Sunday morning dawned with the men and ladies of the AOH making their way to the tip of Manhattan and the oldest parish church in New York – St. Peter’ Church where a Mass was celebrated in memory of those AOH members and other victims of the cowardly attack on the World Trade Center right next door to the church.  After the Mass, a wreath was laid at the steel I-beam which remained standing amid the carnage in the shape of a cross and which has become an icon of faith and determination to recover.  It stands adjacent to St. Peter’s Church which is where Father Mychal Judge was carried after he was killed administering to the victims.

The day concluded with a visit to the Great Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City as part of the AOH New York remembrance of the International Hunger Memorial Commemoration.  As ceremonies took place all over the world in May to the memory of those victims of An Gorta Mor, the AOH National Board laid a wreath to the memory of the victims of that tragedy at the impressive memorial at New York Harbor.

 

Share

International Hunger Remembrance

Where did it all begin?  Remembering the victims of Ireland’s artificial famine has been an ongoing event since it occurred; although at first, it was mostly in quiet, private and prayerful recollection.  Then, in 1859, workers constructing Montreal’s Victoria Bridge across the St. Lawrence River discovered a mass grave.  It was the final resting place of Irish immigrants who had been released from the Grosse Ile Quarantine Station in 1847 and sailed on to Montreal, carrying early stages of Typhus.  Some 75,000 had been released and Montreal erected fever sheds at the water’s edge to house them.  By year’s end, 6,000 were buried in mass graves near the sheds.  The bridge workers, many of Irish descent, created a make-shift memorial with a 30-ton granite boulder over the spot to ensure the grave would not be forgotten.  Erected on Dec 1, 1859, that Black Stone Memorial was the first international monument to the victims of Ireland’s Great Hunger.  The City of Montreal installed an interpretive plaque, which states that 6,000 Irish immigrants were buried on the site in 1847.  A Mass and wreath-laying ceremony has been held at that memorial each May since 1904 and the AOH in Canada is the leading participant.

Then in 1909, another international memorial was added as the AOH erected a great Celtic Cross on Grosse Ile in memory of all the victims of An Gorta Mór, especially the more than 5,000 who never left the island and died there in 1847 alone.

The American and Canadian AOH made pilgrimages to Grosse Ile in 1997 on the 150th anniversary of the tragedy and in 2009 on the 100th anniversary of the Great Cross.

In 1995, the American AOH and the AOH Board of Erin collaborated and erected yet another memorial to the victims of the Great Hunger – this time in Ireland.  Located in County Clare, it was the first ever memorial of its kind to be located in Ireland.

In March of 2008, the AOH in America introduced the An Gorta Mór Awards to encourage individual jurisdictions to contribute to those less fortunate in memory of those Irish who suffered during Ireland’s greatest tragedy.   At the same time, Dublin resident, Michael Blanch, who had been pushing for a national commemoration in Ireland since 2003, led his annual procession from Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance to the sculptures of famished Irish along the Liffey.  The Irish Government finally established an annual memorial day in Dublin in May 2008.  Apparently May was selected since it had been the month of the oldest international commemoration at the Black Stone Hunger Memorial in Montreal.

An Ad Hoc International Committee was founded with 3 members of the AOH, two members of the Irish American Unity Conference and two others including Michael Blanch in Dublin.  The Committee works to raise awareness and coordinate international commemorations with the Irish Government and get the word out to the Irish Diaspora.  The Committee waits for the Irish Government to announce their dates and coordinates from there.

In May 2009, the Irish National commemoration took place in Skibbereen, Co. Cork with parallel events held in Canada and Australia. International participants were encouraged to hold their own local events to commemorate the Great Hunger.  The AOH National and NY State Boards produced a one-hour, four-part DVD on the tragedy, especially for teachers, entitled The Reasons For Learning as the AOH part in the international commemoration.

In May 2010, the Irish National commemoration site was in Murrisk, Co. Mayo and even more members of the Irish Diaspora around the world celebrated masses and/or sponsored events as world-wide interest grew.  Masses were also celebrated and services held at Great Hunger Memorials across America.  The DVD Reasons for Learning was put on the AOH.Com national website for free download with a number of lesson plans and exercises in support of the DVD.  A number of divisions held public showings of the DVD on that weekend.  The Committee also got the Irish Consulates in NY, Boston and San Francisco involved and coordinated activities with them.

This year, a delay in establishing the date from Ireland was caused by the change of Government and the redistribution of Departments and the Committee couldn’t wait to establish dates.  Based on years past, the month of May was chosen and participants were asked to choose their dates within the month.  The main thing is that something be done in as many places around the world as possible.

In Dublin, Michael Branch has been in contact with Glasnevin Cemetery on establishing an appropriate marker near the mass grave of 40 to 60,000 victims lying beside babes of innocence in the Angel’s Plot.  There is also a mass grave with 30,000 victims approximately 50 yards from O’Connell’s grave to be marked as well.

In 2011, the 8th annual Dublin Famine Victims and Emigrants Memorial Day took place on May15th with a procession of people dressed in rags leaving the Garden of Remembrance led by a lone piper down O’Connell Street and up to the Famished Sculptures at Custom House Quay where the Lord Mayor of Dublin laid a wreath to their memory.  Bouquets of flowers were laid at the individual famine sculptures, a bouquet of flowers in the shape of a ship was lowered into the River Liffey to remember the Emigrants past and present and the Victims who died on the Coffin Ships at sea.  In the final part of the ceremony, singer/songwriter Pete St. John and Friends sang his composition, The Fields of Athenry, from on board the Jeanie Johnson Emigrant Ship in memory of the survivors of An Gorta Mór.

Among the American commemorations , The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Hudson County dedicated an 18-foot tall Celtic cross with various images and symbols representing Ireland and An Gorta Mór at Lincoln Park on May 7; on May 14th a commemoration in tribute to those who lost their lives during the Great Hunger took place on the steps of the Hackensack, NJ Court House; on May 21-22 in San Francisco, the California Irish Cultural Society and the Irish American Unity Conference coordinated with Consul General of Ireland Gerry Staunton to hold the Second Annual An Gorta Mór Commemoration to support Saint Anthony’s Dining Hall which feeds the homeless in honor of the victims of An Gorta Mór.  In Michigan’s Irish Hills, the AOH led a Mass and commemoration ceremony at the Great Hunger memorial that they erected to the memory of the victims of the tragedy and on May 22nd, a Mass and wreath-laying ceremony was conducted by the Massachusetts AOH at the Great Hunger Memorial in Boston.  In New York on May 22, the National Board of the AOH, assembled in lower Manhattan to remember the 175th anniversary of their Order, took time out to celebrate a Mass and lay a wreath at Ground Zero for those AOH members who lost their lives the World Trade Center and then went to the Great Hunger Memorial to hold a ceremony and wreath-laying at the Great Hunger Memorial at Battery Park City as part of the International Commemoration of the Great Hunger.

 

Share

AOH Celebrating Quartoseptcentennial

Quartoseptcentennial is a mighty big word!  Taken from the Latin, it literally means one-quarter (quarto-) times seven (sept-) times 100 years (centennial); it is also a mighty big accomplishment.  A Quartoseptcentennial celebration is, in essence, a 175th anniversary and the Ancient Order of Hibernians will celebrate that in the year 2011.  We will be celebrating 175 years of service to our heritage which includes our Catholic faith, our ancestral homeland and the United States of America.

Our National Board is considering a special 175th anniversary commemoration weekend in New York City, where it all started, so many years ago.  The celebration may be combined with the National President’s Dinner, will take place October 7 – 9, 2011.  Special events are being considered such as celebratory Mass at old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was key to early Hibernian activities and will, by that time, be designated a Basilica.  A gala Banquet and Ball is also being investigated.  Details of all the events will be revealed in subsequent issues of the Digest.

In conjunction with the celebration, a special commemorative souvenir publication is in preparation.  It will be a colorfully illustrated keepsake that will contain the roots of the AOH and notable accomplishments in the 25 years since the last major anniversary.  It is presently being prepared by the National Historian’s office with the assistance of other past AOH Historians.  The history will be printed on the upper 80% of each page with the lower 20% of the page allocated to the sponsor of that page for future generations to note.  A tag line across the bottom of the page will note: This page is sponsored by: and beneath that will be the name of the sponsoring individual, Division, County or State Board with officer’s names or any other message limited to four lines.  Your sponsorship will allow future researchers into the history of the AOH to determine the names of your officers and their commitment to its history.  Sponsoring a page of our history will only cost $100.  However, if you or your organization would like to include a history of your Division or Board with such data as a list of past presidents and/or notable accomplishments for future researchers, you can do so on 25 lines for only $150. or 50 lines at $200.  Copy for larger ads should be in digital form in WORD or WordPerfect and sent to AOHBard@Optonline.Net.  Since the number of history page sponsorships at $100. is limited to the number of pages containing the history and those pages are still being created sponsorship will be honored on a first come, first served basis.  Ads with checks made payable to AOH National Board (with journal on the memo line) must be submitted to Tom O’Donnell, 9512 Northeast Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19115 before May 1, 2011.   More details will be given in future editions of the Digest.

Also in honor of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, the National Board has authorized the minting of a limited edition of numbered commemorative medallions to be sold among the membership of the Order.  The medallion was struck by the Highland Mint in 3D and is one and one-half inch, ten gauge, antiqued bronze and comes in a protective case with a certificate of authenticity describing the historic icons on the medallion.

Born in Liberty is the theme of the anniversary, and of the medallion, since the Order was born in the search for religious and cultural liberty in America as well as liberty for a united 32-county Ireland.  Further, the Order was founded simultaneously in New York and Pennsylvania and the symbols associated with those two sites are the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell.  These two icons are engraved on the face of the medallion while the theme, in both American and Irish, and the dates 1836 – 2011 encircle the images.  Also engraved is the notation 175 YEARS and the legend HERITAGE AND HOMELAND – the two strongest motivations of the Irish people.

The reverse side of the medallion contains one of the earliest known representations of our organizational logo dating from before the turn of the 19th century.  It was the design originally adopted by the Ohio State Board.  In addition to the early logo, there is engraved a Celtic Cross, as was uppermost on the Sesquicentennial (150th) Commemorative Medallion, to illustrate the Order’s commitment to the faith of our fathers.  The motto of the Order, Friendship, Unity and Christian charity, and the founding date of 4 May, 1836 complete the inscription.  The medallion was proposed by Mike Byrne, designed by Mike McCormack and approved by National Chairman, PNP Ed Wallace, National President Seamus Boyle and New York State President Chip McLean.  A pre-sale of the medallions has been authorized in order to make them available for Christmas giving.  They are available for only $30 each (includes postage and handling) to members for gifts, as awards and as collectors items, only by using the order form in this Digest.

Buy your 175th coin by downloading this form.

Share

Donations To Old St. Patrick’s

Members of The Francis P. Beirne AOH Division 9, NY County at the presentation of $10,000 check to St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. (L to R) Brian Andersson, NYC Commisioner of Archives; Pete Coyle, Division Treasurer; Paul Mahoney; Monsignor Donald Sakano, Pastor and NY County Chaplain; Martin Beirne, Division President; Archbishop Timothy Dolan; Brendan Lynch, Past Division President; Mary Beirne; Tom Beirne, NY County President; John Pesche, South Florida State Organizer; Sir Patrick Allen.

Members of The Francis P. Beirne AOH Division 9, NY County at the presentation of $10,000 check to St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. (L to R) Brian Andersson, NYC Commisioner of Archives; Pete Coyle, Division Treasurer; Paul Mahoney; Monsignor Donald Sakano, Pastor and NY County Chaplain; Martin Beirne, Division President; Archbishop Timothy Dolan; Brendan Lynch, Past Division President; Mary Beirne; Tom Beirne, NY County President; John Pesche, South Florida State Organizer; Sir Patrick Allen.

Members of the AOH attended a memorial Conference and Mass to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Cardinal John O’Connor in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Monday May 3, 2010. Cardinal O’Connor was a proud Hibernian, a member of Division 9, NY County, recipient of the John F.Kennedy Memorial Medal from the AOH National Board; and the 1996 Grand Marshal for the NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.

After the conference and prior to the Mass Martin Beirne, President of the Francis P. Beirne Division 9, NY County AOH presented a check for $10,000 to Monsignor Donald Sakano, Pastor of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral and to Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Division 9 has pledged $30,000 as part of the Cathedral’s 200th Anniversary Capital Campaign; to cover the costs of installing transparent doors into the burial crypt under St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.  The Division is proud to help with the restoration and improvements at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, which the AOH were called on by Archbishop John “Dagger” Hughes to defend by force during the 1830 and 1840’s.  The AOH defended the church grounds and prevented the “Know Nothings” from destroying St. Patrick’s old Cathedral.  A reenactment of the defense of the Old Cathedral was made on Sunday June 7, 2009 after a Mass and Parade to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the laying of the Cornerstone for St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. Archbishop Timothy Dolan announced at the St. Patrick’s Day Mass in the New Cathedral that St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral was granted Basilica status by the Holy Father.

Monsignor Donald Sakano, who in addition to his duties as pastor of the Old Cathedral also serves as chaplain to the New York County AOH Board, said “I am both grateful for the practical support shown by Division 9 of the New York County AOH, and moved that its membership is still standing “shoulder to shoulder” in defense of the Old Cathedral, as their forebears did long ago.  The gift of the members, which is the first donation tied to a specific 200th Anniversary Campaign project, will enable visitors to the Old Cathedral to see through transparent doors, emplaced in the Mott Street courtyard of the Old Cathedral, into our one of our most notable features, our historic crypt, which contains the remains of many prominent New Yorkers, as well as many of the pioneering priests of the Archdiocese going back to the early 19th century.  As we undertake a number of restoration projects in connection with the 200th anniversary of the Old Cathedral, this generous gift is deeply appreciated.”

Plans are now under way for the 175th Anniversary of the AOH in America and many of the events, including masses and tours of the Old Cathedral, are currently being planned for the Fall of 2011.

Share