Monday, December 15, 2014

Celtic Corner - December 2014


Some more stories about the Irish Immigrants

        By the time he was fourteen, Andrew Jackson, the man whose face adorns the U.S. twenty dollar bill, was an orphan.

        During the Revolutionary War, Jackson’s two brothers, who lived with Jackson and his mother at the Waxshaw settlement in South Carolina, were killed by British soldiers (Jackson himself was seriously wounded for defying a soldier and was taken prisoner). A short while later his mother an immigrant from County Antrim in Ireland, contracted cholera and died. His father had died a year after he had arrived in America in 1765.

Jackson could be described in one word: tough. As an adult, he engaged in a number of wars, and he was so tough that his troops dubbed him “Old Hickory” after the hardwood.

        In 1784 he went to Salisbury, South Carolina, and, with a legal career in mind, apprenticed himself to a law firm. In 1787 he passed the bar; then he headed west to Nashville. He was able to buy a planation and raise horses, but marauding Indians were very much a problem in the area. Jackson fought them effectively, garnering a well-deserved reputation. In 1802 he married Rachel Donelson Robards.

        Jackson was six feet one inch tall, a thin man, with reddish brown hair and a quick temper, which led him to a number of duels. His most famous, a duel over horses, occurred with a man named Charles Dickinson. Dickinson fired first, thinking with horror that he had missed because Jackson just stood there and fired back and Dickinson was mortally wounded. However, Dickinson had hit Jackson. But Jackson had worn a large, heavy coat that had caused Dickinson to misaim: The coat was so oversized that the bullet hit Jackson below the heart. He recovered from the wound after a few weeks.

        During the War of 1812 Jackson became famous for his military prowess. In 1818 President James Monroe appointed him to deal with Indians in Florida, which he did by torching Pensacola and summarily hanging two Englishmen he thought were conspiring with the Indians, and that caused an international incident.

        Gradually, he emerged as a presidential candidate. He ran in 1824 against John Quincy Adams and lost because of what he characterized as a “corrupt bargain” among various people. But in 1828 he won.

        During his two terms, Jackson increased the power of the presidency. He used the “spoils system” appointing his own political cronies to office and organizing counties into branches of the Democratic Party so they could deliver the vote more effectively. He also made good use of the presidential veto. He used it a dozen times, more than all other previous presidents combined.

        He also put the “pocket veto” to good use: If a bill came to his desk fewer than ten days before Congress adjourned, the law permitted him to put the bill “into his pocket” and turn it down without giving Congress a reason why. For example, Jackson was opposed to restructuring of the Bank of the United Sates and used the pocket veto to defeat relevant legislation. Jacksonian scholar Robert Remini wrote that Jackson created a gain in Presidential power that did not abate until the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974.

        In foreign affairs, Jackson also achieved much. He revived trade with England, exempting English goods from the harsh tariff of 1828 (the so called Tariff of Abominations. He also used his influence to help reopen trade with the British held West Indies. He also succeeded in getting payments for France for the “spoliation” attacks on American ships during the Napoleonic Wars earlier in the century.

        One great domestic triumph was the annexation of Texas. Though Jackson wanted to annex it, he did nothing while in office because he feared that the unresolved slavery question could cause problems for the election chances of his handpicked successor, Martin Van Buren. After Van Buren was elected, Jackson supported annexation, which took place in 1845, the year he died.

        Jackson liked to give parties, and he was a man of the people- everyone was welcome. At his last party as president, he had a fourteen hundred pound cheese brought in the White House and it was eaten in two hours. The White House smelled of the cheese for weeks.


Nollaig shona duit

Merry Christmas

Frank Darcy

Friday, November 7, 2014

Celtic Corner - November 2014


Some stories about the Irish Immigrants

        An Irishman named John P. Holland, a schoolteacher in Paterson, NJ uses his spare time to invent a submarine or, at the very least, to put it on track to becoming a practical-indeed, deadly- weapon of war.

        Holland was born in Liscannor Bay in County Clare in 1842. He was educated at the Limerick Christian Brothers School, and he originally intended to be a Christian Brother, to which end he took vows in 1858 and over the years taught in a number of different places. He also wanted to go to sea, but his poor eyesight prevented him from doing so.

        In 1872 the family emigrated to the states, but before leaving Holland was released from his vows.

        Holland, the son of a coastguardsman in Ireland, had no formal engineering education, but he started educating himself in engineering and drafting when he was very young and showed a brilliant aptitude for it. He had always been interested in submarines. After all, at the time the British navy was formidable, and Holland looked on the sub as a way of sneaking up unseen and sinking its ships.

        In 1874 and 1875, when Holland was trying to first interest the U.S. Navy in his submarine, the idea was not new. Indeed, using a submarine to sink a warship had been demonstrated in the Civil War by the Confederate sub Hulney, which had succeeded in its attack on a warship but sunk in the process. And one hundred years before that a submarine invented by a man named David Bushnell had tried to sink a British ship during the Revolutionary War.

        The navy thought the idea a bit preposterous, in part because Holland was not a sailor; this idea, of course, was also preposterous, as if only a sailor could invent a seagoing craft.

        But the Fenians were interested. Though they had been dealt a serious blow in the war against England because of their defeat in Canada in 1866, a number of them had reassembled, and Holland presented his idea to them. He impressed them enough to invest some sixty thousand pounds from their “skirmishing fund” for him to build the real thing. He did, and one day the Fenians and Holland assembled on the banks of the Passaic River and the fourteen foot craft was launched.

        It didn’t even float, quickly filling up with water and sinking to the bottom. But it was raised, and after an examination it was discovered that one of the workman had failed to install a pair of screws, which had left an opening for the water to pour in through.

        The submarine was drained, the screws were installed, and Holland himself too it out. It floated, it dived and surely much to the relief and joy of Holland, it resurfaced.

        Holland set about fine tuning the craft. The plan for mounting an attack against British ships was already settled. Holland was well aware of the power of their ships, which made a direct confrontation foolhardy. Sneakiness would be the key. His plan involved launching the sub from a trapdoor in the side of an innocent looking ship that would anchor near the British craft. It was a plan, indeed, that modern navies would use over and over again.

        Then, in 1883, the Fenian organization abruptly started to deteriorate. One night a group of Fenians took the sub, which was anchored in New Jersey, hauled it up to New Haven, Connecticut, and tried to launch it. They didn’t succeed, and they abandoned the craft at a nearby brass factory. Holland was incensed, and the great scheme was abandoned. Holland and the Fenians never communicated again.

        Holland was truly ahead of his time. His theory about the submarine was that the best possible shape would be that of a cigar. But the soundness of this idea did not emerge until the 1950s, long after Holland was gone.

        He never made any money from the submarine, and as time went by he started to be deeply concerned about the havoc a sub could wreak. The validity of his concerns were borne out particularly in World War II, when German “wolf packs” roamed he Atlantic, sending thousands of tons of materials and thousands of people, many of them civilians, to the bottom of the ocean.


John P. Holland was only one of many influential Irishmen that came to America

Erin Go Bragh


Frank Darcy

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Celtic Corner - October 2014


The Fenian Movement

My dad. Frank Darcy Sr, will be honored by the Fenian Grave Society on October 26. Dad was recognized as a champion amongst Fenians fighting for the Freedom of Ireland.  I am very proud of dad and when I refer to him as a Fenian Man, people would ask what is a Fenian, so here is the Fenian story.

The Fenians were members of the so-called Fenian movement in Ireland and elsewhere, though primarily America and England. The Fenians wanted one simple desire for Ireland - independence from British rule. The Great Famine had a massive impact on Ireland. Some in Ireland believed that the government in London - to solve the 'Irish Problem' - had deliberately done as little as possible to aid the people of Ireland – a form of genocide – and these people concluded that the only hope Ireland had for its future was a complete separation from Great Britain. If London was unwilling to grant this, then the Fenians would fight for it.

Anger against the British government spilled over in 1848. In this year a group of revolutionaries known as Young Ireland launched an ill-prepared uprising against the government. It was a failure.

Two of the members of Young Ireland were James Stephens and John O'Mahony. In the eyes of the authorities both had committed a very serious crime. To escape punishment both fled to Paris. Though near to Britain, both men were relatively safe in Paris. In 1853, O'Mahony went to America. Here he tried to gain support for another uprising from those who had left Ireland during the Great Famine.

Stephens returned to Ireland in 1856. In Dublin in March 1858, he formed a secret society that became known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Its aim was Independence for Ireland.

In America O'Mahony became the leader of a new organization called the Fenian Brotherhood. It took its name from the Fianna who were a band of Irish warriors of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The name ‘Fenians’ became an umbrella term to cover all the groups associated with wanting independence for Ireland. By the very nature of what they wanted, those elements within the Fenian movement who were prepared to use violence to advance their cause, had to remain secret.

The Fenian movement quickly attracted thousands of young supporters both in Ireland itself and America. When one of the 1848 Young Ireland rebels, Terence Bellew McManus, died in America in 1861, his funeral in Ireland was attended by thousands of people.

However, as the Fenian movement grew, so did the difficulties of keeping it organized. This had proved difficult because of the Irish-American geographic split and the problems of communications. But the two founders – O’Mahony and Stephens – disagreed on how the movement should develop. In 1863, Stephens founded a newspaper called the ‘Irish People’. He wanted to make as many people as was possible aware of what the Fenians stood for. O’Mahony did not approve of this move as he felt such a paper would attract even more attention to the movement from the British government based in Dublin. He preferred the movement to develop in secrecy.

Another problem faced by the Fenians was that the Roman Catholic Church was generally not supportive of them. The power of the local priests was great and their influence within a local community, and especially among the older members of such communities, meant that they could undermine whatever influence the Fenians tried to establish.

The Fenians always faced the possibility of being infiltrated by British spies. An uprising in Ireland had been planned for 1866 but it never took place because the government knew about it. In September 1866, the ‘Irish People’ was shut down by the government and Stephens was arrested and sent to prison. He escaped from jail and went to America. Anyone suspected of being involved with the Fenians was arrested. Money sent from America for the Fenians was seized. The government also believed that some units of the British Army based in Ireland were sympathetic to the Fenians. These units were moved out of Ireland.

There was an attempted uprising in 1867, though it was a failure. The ‘uprising’ was led by Thomas Kelly who had fought in the American Civil War. Kelly did not base himself in Ireland but in London. Here he gained support from the large Irish community that had come to the city during the Great Famine

Kelly and other Fenians attempted to attack Chester Castle to gain weapons and ammunition. This was not a success and Kelly and another Fenian were arrested. In September 1867, Kelly was being taken to Manchester to be tried when he was rescued by other Fenians. During the rescue, a policeman was killed. Three of the Fenians were caught and after a trial were hanged for murder. To the Fenians, they became known as the "Manchester Martyrs". To many in Ireland, the sentence was considered far too harsh for what they saw as an accidental killing. Of course the Fenians continued their philosophy of a Free & United Ireland into the present day politics and of course supports the peace process. And dad always quoted Padric Pearse:

“Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”



Thank you for showing your interest in the Fenian movement.

Frank Darcy

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Celtic Corner - September 2014

CELTIC CORNER >>>>>> Analysis: An urgent need for action
By Gerry Adams
 This week marks the 20th anniversary of the 1994 IRA cessation. The
Ireland of the early 1990s was a very different place. Political censorship and exclusion was the norm. Successive Irish governments worked with British governments in pursuing a negative agenda which merely fed the cycle of discrimination, resistance and conflict.
 Unionist leaders, supported by elements of the British and Irish establishments, opposed any dialogue between the British and Irish governments and republicans. However, by early August 1994, despite continued conflict, there was a feeling among republican leaders that we were driving forward a historic process of change. This had been years in the making. Indeed if we go back to when Fathers Alec Reid, Des Wilson and I started our discussions, over a decade had passed. Progress on developing the peace process had been made behind the scenes in meetings with John Hume. These later emerged as the Hume/Adams initiative. There was also progress with the Irish government. Martin McGuinness and I had given the IRA our assessment that there was a convergence of views between Sinn Fein, John Hume and the Irish government on a range of issues.
 We had achieved agreement on a number of important points. There was an acceptance that partition had failed; there could be no internal settlement within the six counties; the Irish people as a whole had a right to national self-determination; there could be no unionist veto
over discussions or their outcome and any negotiated settlement required fundamental constitutional and political change.
 We also agreed that there were practical matters of immediate concern to nationalists in the North including parity of esteem, equality of opportunity and equality for Irish culture and identity.
 The Irish government had given written assurances that in the event of an IRA cessation, it would end its marginalisation of the Sinn Fein electorate and that there would be an early public meeting between Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, John Hume and myself. To show that change was imminent, we worked to develop public manifestations of support for an alternative approach which might convince republicans to back a cessation. Irish America was key to this. The peace process was also now on the agenda of the Clinton administration. A powerful group of Irish Americans had committed to campaign in the US for an end to visa restrictions for republicans; establishment of a Washington office to inform the US media and public on the peace process; to lobby for investment in the North and for the US to act as guarantors of any agreements. The fledgling Clinton administration had indicated positivity.
 Events were now moving quickly. We had asked for a visa for Joe Cahill to travel to the US to brief Irish Americans on developments. This would test the Clinton administration's commitment to the peace process in the face of what would prove to be strident British opposition. Fr Alec, US ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, her brother senator Ted Kennedy and taoiseach Albert Reynolds spent long hours lobbying for a visa for Joe Cahill.
 On Sunday, August 28th, John Hume and I issued another joint statement making clear that agreement threatened no one. It was followed that evening by a statement from Albert Reynolds who said a historic opportunity was opening up and the British had a responsibility to respond on demilitarisation and inclusive all-party talks.
 On August 29th, in the face of strident British opposition, visas were granted to Joe Cahill and Pat Treanor to travel to the US. This demonstrated there would be a strong international focus in support other Irish side in negotiations with the British. I reported to the Sinn Fein and chomhairle that the final pieces of the jigsaw were coming together but we understood the ultimate decision on a cessation rested with the IRA. Martin McGuinness and I went to meet the IRA leadership again. Martin said the Hume/Adams initiative had given people hope, that more nationalists saw republicans making a real effort to build peace, that Irish nationalism was reasserting itself and that Sinn Fein was growing in strength.
 We made it clear that the struggle wasn't ending and given that the political commitments made were multilateral and public that there was a better chance of delivery than with previous cessations. We argued that it was an opportunity to test the British government's desire for peace and to reach out to unionists, who we had been meeting at civic, community and religious level for some time. I made clear that it was a high-risk strategy but that we had
commitments from John Hume, the Irish government and Irish America was willing to play its part. We could set in place a process which created the conditions for a just and lasting peace and from there build a pathway o a new all-Ireland republic of equals. A formal proposal was put to the meeting and the IRA's army council voted to give the process a chance. At 11am on August 31st, the IRA announced "a complete cessation of military operations". As hundreds of people arrived for an impromptu rally at Sinn Fein's offices in Belfast cheering their approval, I was struck by the awesome responsibility of it, with the hopes and aspirations of so many pinned on us delivering.
 The IRA cessation opened up the space for the development of the peace process. Enormous changes have come as a result of that decision by the IRA leadership. It was quickly followed by the loyalist ceasefire. It has had profound effects on politics in Ireland and in the relationship between Ireland and Britain. People rightly remember the great political highs of the past two decades, be it the achievement of the Good Friday agreement, the St
Andrews and Hillsborough agreements, the decision of Ian Paisley to share power or the decision by the IRA to leave the stage.
 However, none of these or the other fundamental, political, social and constitutional changes which have been effected would have been possible without the difficult and risk-laden work undertaken by Albert Reynolds, Fathers Alec Reid and Des Wilson, John Hume, the Sinn Fein leadership and others such as Martin Mansergh, Sean O’Huiginn, Niall O'Dowd, Ken Newell and Harold Good in the years before the 1994 cessation.
 Twenty years on there is an urgent need for the British and Irish
governments to tackle outstanding issues bedevilling the political
process in the North and which threaten the progress that has been made.

 The Taoiseach would do well to emulate the approach adopted by the late Albert Reynolds.           


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Celtic Corner - June 2014


Last month’s news letter concerning the arrest of Sinn Fein’s President Gerry Adams was a huge effort by British Unionest in the North of Ireland and the political parties in the south of Ireland to derail the National &^ European Election in Ireland, a huge failure. Sinn Fein is now the most popular party in Ireland, North and South. However, still in the North of Ireland, the peace process is plagued by the past.

When Gerry Adams sets foot in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday for a two-day visit, don’t be surprised if he has a spring in his step and a smile on his face. And why not? Within the last few days, Sinn Fein, the political party he leads, cemented its status as one of Northern Ireland’s largest parties with strong results in local and European Parliament elections. Moreover, Sinn Fein – which not many years ago was the political arm of the now disbanded and disarmed Irish Republican Army – surged in the polls south of the border, too, and is now a major political force in the Republic of Ireland.

Nevertheless, Adams’ trip to the U.S. is no victory lap. Instead, Adams – who earlier this month was arrested by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and questioned for four days over his alleged involvement in a 1972 IRA murder – says he will warn American officials that the 1998 U.S.-brokered Good Friday Agreement, which brought to an end 30 years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, faces turbulent times. Adams claims “powerful elements” on both sides of the Roman Catholic-Protestant divide in the province “want to derail the (peace) process and build obstacles to it.”

"Every effort must be made to highlight the problems that currently exist and to chart a way through these dangers. His visit to Washington next week is to highlight these issues and concerns and to seek a renewed focus and support for the peace process and the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Adams, 65, denies any involvement in the murder, and he was ultimately released without charge. But the incident – which indeed had the potential of torpedoing the process – put into bold relief the fact that, 16 years on from the Good Friday accord, peace in Northern Ireland remains a fragile thing. To be sure, few in either community want to return to the bad old days of the Troubles, which claimed 3,600 lives. But as Adams’ arrest underscores, Ulster has not yet found a way to put to rest the ghosts from its bloody past, and simmering resentments could still boil over and push the province back into violence. 

“The peace process is not in jeopardy right away,” explains Adrian Guelke, a professor emeritus of comparative politics at Queen’s University Belfast. “But if there were a major blow, if say, Adams were convicted (of a crime), it could be an incitement.”

An academic project at Boston College led to Adams’ arrest. Its Belfast Project is an oral history of the Troubles, and it contains dozens of firsthand accounts of violence from IRA and loyalist paramilitary members. The archive of tapes and transcripts was not supposed to be released until all those interviewed were dead. But the Northern Ireland police successfully used a clause in a British-U.S. treaty to win a legal challenge to gain access to a portion of the archive: statements made regarding the execution 42 years ago of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who was murdered by the IRA on the false assumption she was an informer. Two IRA members, both now dead, told the researchers that Adams had ordered the McConville murder.

During Adams’ confinement, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, the Northern Ireland deputy first minister, claimed there was a “dark side” within the Police Service of Northern Ireland that was willing to work with anti-peace process republicans bent on upending the accord. He warned that Sinn Fein might reconsider its support for the police force. But had that happened, says Richard Wilford, a Queen’s University politics professor, Sinn Fein’s Protestant, power-sharing partner in government, the Democratic Unionist Party, would have forced a no-confidence vote against Sinn Fein, because the 2007 agreement that allowed for a cross-party-led Northern Ireland Assembly hinged on support for the Northern Ireland police. 

That would have brought the whole thing to a juddering halt,” Wilford says. “It would have been a real crisis.” 

Since his release, however, Adams has restated his party’s support for the police force.

Although it’s unlikely that Adams will be prosecuted over claims made about him unearthed from the project accounts, the trove of material collected by its academics might be used in other investigations. Both the Police Service of Northern Ireland and NBC News have filed new subpoenas asking that all of the project’s material be unsealed.

 “There are all kinds of victims’ groups demanding their day in court,” Guelke says. Given all those pressures, it’s certainly possible that some former senior IRA members, loyalist paramilitary fighters or British troops could still face prosecution for legacy crimes. But if any one of them were tried, Wilford says, “it could produce a seismic event. They’re all highly risky, politically.”

The solution, some believe – including Peter Hain, the former Northern Ireland secretary, and John Larkin, the province’s attorney general – is amnesty. 

“You would get a massive outcry from victims on both sides, but it still needs to be done,” Guelke insists. Amnesty proponents argue that justice is a necessary casualty in efforts to bring peace to conflict-torn societies, because high-profile trials could rekindle old hatreds and spark violent protests. When South Africa finally ended 43 years of apartheid in 1991 no one was prosecuted for hate crimes, but it eventually established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that allowed both victims and perpetrators of violence to speak freely of their experiences. 

The commission, Guelke says, “was not an alternative to amnesty, it was a mechanism for amnesty.” 

But Wilford claims amnesty is a non-starter because it’s opposed by so many on both sides of the sectarian divide. Late last year, talks led by American diplomat Richard Haass to deal with the province’s legacy issues, including Protestant marches and flags, tried to broach an agreement on limited immunity, but the effort failed to get cross-party support. Says Wilford: “There’s no chance for amnesty whatsoever.”

Which means that past crimes could still wreak havoc on Northern Ireland’s future peace.

If you want the Peace Process to continue, keep putting pressure on our politicians to understand we the Irish care and we vote.

Thanks for reading what is going on in Ireland.

Frank Darcy

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Celtic Corner - May 2014

Ireland, yesterday’s fight never ends. One Ireland never two, as simple as that. Anyway that is what Dad always said.
We fought them in 1916, 10 great patriots gave their lives in 1981, you remember Bobby Sands and the Hunger Strikers. We have made great strides for peace in the North. Now the cowards strike again. They arrest Jerry Adams, another great patriot. Here is the story.
Adams arrest linked to Sinn Fein electoral strength
Sinn Fein's Six-County Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness has said that the arrest of party leader Gerry Adams by the PSNI last night was politically motivated.
Mr. Adams spent last night at the PSNI's main interrogation centre and is continuing to be questioned there.
Mr Adams was first contacted by the PSNI on Tuesday and had volunteered to help the investigation into the 1972 death of informer Jean McConville, Sinn Fein said.  He presented himself at 8pm last night and within an hour the PSNI announced that a "65 year old man" had been arrested in the case.
Reports have indicated he is being questioned under the Terrorism Act 2000 and can be held by the PSNI for 48 hours without recourse to the course.
Unionists reveled in the development but demanded the Sinn Fein leader face charged. Late last night, celebrating loyalists erected a large British Union Jack outside the police base in Antrim town.
Mr McGuinness said Mr Adams was "the single most important person" in the peace process. “In that context I view his arrest as a deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of the elections due to take place all over this island in three weeks," he said. “That raises very serious questions about the agenda of those responsible. There are people on the dark side of policing and this is an attempt to flex their muscles."
A recent poll showed Sinn Fein is on the brink of becoming the largest party in both parts of Ireland in elections being held separately in both jurisdictions later this month.
The Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald blamed "old guard
elements" within the PSNI and unionism were working against the party. She said it was wrong to suggest that Adams was a suspect in the inquiry, saying that he had volunteered to travel north to help the investigation. Ms. McDonald said there were people who viewed the growing strength of Sinn Fein with "very considerable alarm" and that there are people "who would wish to do things to stop that" ahead of the elections on May 23rd.
Asked if the arrest had damaged the PSNI's credibility and the peace process, she said that the PSNI have "questions to answer" but added that the peace process is "fairly robust".
The arrest of Mr Adams is being reported in the mainstream media in the 26 Counties as a major setback for the party's chances of a historic breakthrough in the local and European elections there.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny denied charges of political interference, saying that parties in the 26 Counties had "absolutely no connection with this at all"

Your Corres Secretary                                                              President

Frank Darcy                                                                              Ken Egan

Monday, April 7, 2014

Celtic Corner - April 2014

March is always for St. Patrick. April is for the Rising. On Easter Sunday in Newark, a group of men & women commemorate the 1916 Easter Rebellion with a march from Military Park to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Frank & Kathie Darcy are honored to carry the banner in the march. A mass is celebrated in Irish Traditions and the Proclamation is read.
          98 years ago, on Easter Sunday, 1916, there were two conferences in Dublin: one, where the feeling was that because of the countermand issued by the Volunteer’s Chief of Staff, there could be no Rising; the other was held in Liberty Hall by the Volunteer and Citizen Army leaders.
          Monday morning dawned; like all other Irish Risings this one was to be inadequately prepared. But these men were prepared to die, not for an island, but for a nation; a nation with a culture of its own, based on its own language, its own heritage and perhaps most important for”…the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland.”
The great achievement of the 1916 Rising was that it brought about a change in the attitude of public opinion. For although doomed to failure, it was a challenge to conscience and to courage; that Ireland was the first country in the 20th century to gain its own independence is evidence of this.
The story of the Irish Uprising is one of intense dedication, of unvanquished belief in the rightness of the cause, of hopes, of almost blind fidelity with no chance of compromise to but one goal: a free and independent Ireland. This was the common faith of the leaders.
Fearing that disaster was imminent, Eoin MacNeill attempted to call off the maneuvers in an announcement made public Easter morning. The countermanding order was considerable effective: only 1200 or so men turned out to parade.
          Little attention was paid to the marching of the Citizen Army and Volunteers on Easter Monday. By the time the populace was aware that the “invasions” into public buildings were no longer the mock attacks they had become accustomed to, The G.P.O. had been occupied by forces of the Republic. Later in that day a new tri color flag was hoisted over the Post Office, while on its steps, Padraic Pearse read the official proclamation claiming authority for the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic.
          As Republicans fortified the occupied buildings and improvised barricades, the British in Dublin called for military reinforcement.
          By the second day of the Rising, British artillery was being brought into action. Meanwhile, small groups of Irish Volunteers from the county were coming to Dublin to join their comrades. They were shortly to find it impossible to make contact with Republican positions.
During the week that followed, position after position held by Republicans was given up to the British. Connolly was wounded, the Post Office burning, and on Friday morning Pearse issued a statement renouncing hope of military success.
And of course we know the ending, the heroes, the Patriots were executed. And we know that the ending as the Brits fought thinking it was the end, when it was only the beginning. The Irish after six more years of rebellion, independence for 26 counties was ultimately won. Finally after one hundred years, we may see peace & freedom in our last 6 counties of Ulster. Maybe at last a United Ireland.
          As dad always said “only one Ireland, not two”

Cáisc shona duit
Happy Easter

Your Corres Secretary                          President
Frank Darcy                                      Ken Egan

Monday, March 17, 2014

Celtic Corner - March 2014

Celtic Corner
Saint Patrick's Day Traditions
     The tradition of wearing Shamrock to celebrate Saint Patrick seems to date from the seventeenth or eighteenth century. This was a very turbulent time in Irish history. The suppression of the Gaelic way of life by the ruling British invaders resulted in many aspects of the Catholic religion in Ireland being forced underground. Strict laws were enforced which prevented the Catholic population from attending schools so 'hedge-schools' were operated in secret.
     These were schools run outdoors in secluded places (sometimes literally 'under a hedge!). The teaching of religion was also forbidden so it is only to be expected that teachers would use naturally available resources to inform their pupils. Thus the Shamrock plant was used to illustrate the message of the Christian Holy Trinity.
     Saint Patrick was credited with using the Shamrock in such a manner so the wearing of the Shamrock by the oppressed Catholic population became a means of demonstrating their defiance to the ruling British class. It also imbued a sense of kinship among
the native Gaelic people, differentiating them from their oppressors.
     Wearing a clump of Shamrock is now a firmly established tradition throughout the world to celebrate not just Saint Patrick but Ireland itself. The Shamrock symbol is widely used by businesses seeking to associate with Ireland and, along with the Harp, is perhaps the single most recognizable symbol of Ireland. It is a shame though that the Shamrock is not a blue plant as the color originally associated with Saint Patrick was blue!
     Saint Patrick's Day is unique in that it is celebrated worldwide. It is most unusual that a country has such an international celebration and is really evidence of the generational effects of emigration that has afflicted Ireland for centuries. After the 1845 to 1849 Irish Famine emigration soared with as many as a million native Irish leaving their homes in the decades after the famine to settle in places like Boston, New York, Newfoundland, Perth, Sydney and beyond. The US Census Bureau now reports that 34 Million US Citizens claim Irish descent. Most emigrants like to commemorate their heritage and thus the Saint Patrick's Day Parade came into being.
     The earliest record of a Saint Patrick's Day Parade was in the year 1762 when Irish soldiers serving in the British Army held a Parade in New York City. Earlier records suggest that the day was celebrated by the Irish in Ireland as early as the ninth and tenth centuries.
     Again, this was a very difficult time in Irish history with Viking raiders terrorizing the native Gaelic population. It is thus no surprise then that in times of strife the local population would turn to religion and to a commemoration of their own heritage and individuality - a practice that has been repeated by populations of troubled places since the dawn of time. The New York Parade is now the longest running civilian Parade in the world with as many as three Million spectators watching the Parade of over 150,000 participants.
     The first official Parade in Ireland was in 1931. The 1901 law that copper-fastened March 17th as an Irish national holiday was later amended to insist that public houses close down on the day. This restriction was later lifted in the 1970's. In the mid 1990's the Irish Government really started to promote the event when it changed from a single day's Parade into a 5-day festival attracting as many as a million visitors into the country. Parades are now held in just about every major city in the world with the biggest in several US cities reaching epic proportions.
     The use of the color green reached new heights (or plunged new depths!) when in 1962 the city of Chicago decided to dye part of the Chicago River green. Since then the campaign to have just about every possible landmark turned green for the day has taken off in earnest and in recent years has included the Irish Parliament building, the Sydney Opera House, the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls and even the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt!
     The Irish association with drinking is well known and not always positive. Fortunately there are plenty of examples of the appropriate use of alcohol and Saint Patrick's Day is one of them. It is a widely held tradition in Ireland that beer or whiskey can be taken on Saint Patrick's Day although native Irish pub-goers can only look on aghast as visitors top the heads of their creamy pint of Guinness with a green Shamrock. Sacrilege! It is estimated that as many as 13 Million pints of Guinness are consumed on Saint Patrick's Day, up from the usual 5.5 Million per day!
     The tradition of dressing up in Irish outfits is not just confined to participants in Parades. Jovial creatures of Irish origin the world over use the opportunity of Saint Patrick's Day to dress up as Leprechaun or even as Saint Patrick himself. Kids love to wear the big green, white and orange hats and receive sweets thrown to them by similarly clad operators of the various Parade floats.
     Corned beef and cabbage is as traditional an Irish meal as you will ever find and it is often hauled out for Saint Patrick's Day. Traditional Irish music in the background and a family gathering are other Irish Saint Patrick's Day traditions that have been going on for centuries.

Correspondence Secretary                                              President
Frank Darcy                                                                  Ken Egan

Friday, February 14, 2014

Celtic Corner - February 2014

The Irish Builders of Canals and Pubs of Old

Some Irish came to New Jersey as unknowns and remained so, the forgotten chosen ones. They began arriving as early as the 1600’s, landing in South Jersey to escape two vicious wars in that century in their homeland. They were small groups searching perhaps for the Land of the Young, Tir na Og, where, in their dreams, they might find a place where sorrow, decay and death are gone. But they left us no memory of their Irish myths and no record of their presence, save a rare place name. Others came in the 1700’s, this time often as single men hired as teachers or indentured servants. But the largest group of unknown Irish immigrants to New Jersey came to build two canals, first the Morris and then the Delaware & Raritan (D&R).
The Morris Canal came first, with digging starting in 1825. The 102 mile canal from Phillipsburg to Jersey City was completed to Newark in 1831 and then to Jersey City in 1836. When it was finished, the incredibly successful Morris overcame more elevation changes than any canal in the world. At its peak, in 1866, the Morris Canal carried almost a million tons, including half a million tons of coal. When the railroad leased the canal land in 1871 (for ninety-nine years) along the waterfront, the Morris was soon doomed, and by 1924 it had become totally obsolete and was drained. The majority of the canal became sewers, water lines and even the Newark City Subway. Today, there are small parks in seven localities, but not much else marks its existence.
All experts, without exception, agree that it was the Irish who built the canal. They were most often recruited by subscription in Ireland and often in gangs in America. Newark’s Irish population soared for the first, but not the last, time with workers looking for work on the Morris. The work itself was, as the late, great, Irish American historian Dennis Clark said, “arduous beyond belief…so grueling and dangerous was the work that Irishmen, considered less valuable than Negro slaves, were used at times in preference to and investment of black labor.” This adds credence to the famous black slave quote from Jamaica a century earlier: ‘If there were no Negroes, Irish would be Negroes of the world.” How many left homes and families in Newark(or Dublin) for months or years for less than a dollar a day is forever unknown, but there are plenty of small cemeteries like the one on Old Mine Road in Netcong that silently testify to the presence and death of the Irish along the route.
The D&R soon followed, with merchants eager to emulate the Morris but with goods traveling between the Philadelphia market, through Trenton and New Brunswick to New York. The D&R was forty four miles and digging began in 1830 before it opened in 1834. As with the Morris, 1866 was a big year, with the canal carrying more weight in goods than the more famous Erie Canal ever carried in any year. But the railroad again intruded and by 1893 the D&R had stopped being profitable. It officially closed in 1932.
Once again, it was the Irish navies who dug the canal. Though early Americans were no strangers to hard work, the digging of the canals by hand with axe, pick and shovel was a different ballgame. It was so brutal that workers were often recruited from Ireland; even the hardy Americans and Irish Americans wanted little of the opportunity. It was, as the Irish born Philadelphia newspaperman Matthew Carey said in 1831, “ungodly and unholy employment.” Hundreds more died, all lost to history, from cholera, typhus and broken hearts. Especially in 1832, when a cholera epidemic struck the D&R-in particular, the Princeton area-few of the hundreds of dead Irishmen had family in this country, and they were silently buried in or at the edge of the canal itself. Bull Island, just north of Stockton on the Delaware has a reputed large mass grave of Irish. In Griggstown, there is wonderful remembrance to twelve Irish canal workers’ graves, discovered only a decade ago and kept up by a local AOH. In New Orleans, the number of twenty thousand canal dead, mostly Irish, is seldom disputed.
In the encyclopedia of New Jersey, there is not a mention of the Irish in entries of either canal, and in the entry for the Irish, there is the following one sentence notation: “Irish labor was largely responsible for the building of the Morris Canal in the 1820’s and the D&R in the 1830’s.” The wonderful encyclopedia, long awaited, ended with the patronizing statement, “Precisely as industrialization gathered speed in New Jersey, a ready supply of Irish brawn-and sometimes brain-arrived to help it along.”
Today, though there is not much left of the canals, a day tripper can still follow the terrain carefully and glean an awful lot of lost New Jersey memories. The Morris is more difficult because of roads and construction, but the Morris Canal Society has done wonderful work reconstruction its history. The D&R is shorter, more flat and bucolic as it wends its way through a much less populated area of central New Jersey. Speckled throughout both canal routes, from Phillipsburg to Jersey City and Trenton to New Brunswick, are remnants of places the Irish are famous for- pubs.
It was in such places that the navies, pole men, lock supervisors and their families would congregate as they have for centuries, both here and in Ireland. In Irish conclaves, both past and present, the visitor can find along the route of the canal pubs where known and unknown Irish spent precious time. Wharton, Paterson, Newark and Jersey City all had Irish pubs along the Morris Canal, and Trenton, Princeton and New Brunswick pulled many a pint. These are not “plastic paddy” pubs, with green beer in plastic cups or cold Guinness and “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” on the box; there are no Notre Dame banners either. Pubs that don’t have to scream out “Irish!” just are.
We’re talking about an old time Irish pub. A bit dark and dusty, with country or local athletic banners, a pool table and a cacophony of conversations. Drowning out the TV-if there is a TV. A bartender without cufflinks, an occasional crooked table and a like pol sitting at it and history, with framed newspaper articles and black and white photos with stories to match. There are not many left, and soon they will go the way, not of the buffalo, but of the canal. But finding such a place is as joyful as walking along the D&R in Rocky Hill on a spring morning or resting along the Morris Canal at Waterloo Village in summer.
Jersey City has Dorian’s and Brennan’s in Grenville; tiny Wharton has the Irish Rose and the Trinity Pub, New Brunswick has McCormick’s; Elizabeth, Nugent’s and Newark, the indomitable McGovern’s. But the one with a feel for the most history is arguable Billy Brigg’s Tir Na Og in Trenton. One corner in a back alcove gives an idea of how much Billy understands about Irish and Irish New Jersey history. Sure, it has the obligatory 1916 proclamation, pictures of Pearse and Collins (not too many Irish American pubs are Dev fans) and other wonderful items, but in one small corner are eight Irishmen with New Jersey ties.
Wolfe Tone is there and for two years this unforgettable nationalist lived in Princeton. Tone left New Jersey in 1796 but he left behind his wife, who was just as committed to his ideals as anyone in Ireland. Wolfe Tone, buried in Bodenstown, County Kildare, also left a son in New Jersey, William, who was born in 1791.
James Connolly is there too. Connolly and his poverty stricken family lived for several years in Newark while he worked at the Singer Sewing Machine factory in Elizabeth. In September 1903, Connolly immigrated to America, where he worked as an insurance collector. Later he would be fired from Singer’s as a communist agitator.
James Turner is below Connolly, but not because he was less a patriot. Turner was an attorney from Jersey City, who arrived in the United States in 1849 and became a lawyer in 1859, just prior to the Civil War. Turner, as did many Jersey guys, joined the Eighty- eight Regiment, which became part of the Fighting Sixty- ninth Irish Brigade. In addition to being a fighting soldier, turner, son of a County Louth man, was also a renowned writer during the war. Turner became a captain with the Irish Brigade in 1864. He was shot in the head and killed at the Battle of the Wilderness. He was buried in Jersey City and left a wife and child.
John Devoy was a Billy Briggs type guy. Devoy spent much time in New Jersey and died in Atlantic City. It was September 29, 1928 and the grand old fighter was eighty seven. After a funeral mass in New York, he was interred back in the mother country. A recent biography of Devoy by Terry Golway, Irish Rebel, proves him to be one of the most indomitable figures of his age and though he was not a major New Jersey figure, he belongs on Billy Brigg’s wall and every other one that claims to be Irish.

Even when they have nothing,
The Irish emit a kind of happiness and joy

Correspondence Secretary                                              President
Frank Darcy                                                                    Ken Egan