Irish American Historical Event Content – Proposed

When failure after failure of potatoe crop took place during the years 1845-1851 mass starvation saw numbers to this date unquantified leaving Irelands shores for America. No other crops were affected such as oats, wheat and barley, however these were considered cash crops and continued to be exported throughout the worst years of famine. The Irish population was over 8,200,000 in 1841 (official British government census, its possible another 1-2,000,000 were not recorded living in more remote areas) it had reached 2,900,000 (plus 1,000,000 in Northern Ireland) by 1911.

The vast majority went to America, those who survived the journey  did so in a destitute and weakened state with little or no means of getting beyond the port of arrival which was mostly New York. Many Irish lived at first in ghetto like areas like the Five Points, Hell’s Kitchen, Irishtown Brooklyn getting work as navvies in Brooklyn’s navy yards. Of all the migrant populations arriving in New York, the first person to be processed at the new immigration station at Ellis Island (in 1892) was an Irish girl, Annie Moore.

Tammany Hall 1914

Uneducated, largely unskilled and for the most part previously rural, and escaping appalling conditions under the ministrations of successive British monarchs, there was a deep mistrust of authority. In time and with the vote what was seen as an encumberance by the encumbent, our mere numbers, it became a great asset as we voted for politicians looking out for Irish interests. Tamany Hall was a centre of much Irish lobbying from this time, it was active hands on, helping in a variety of practical ways in securing jobs for new arrivals, and providing hand outs of food baskets to those who needed them. Irish never lost hope for friends and family they had become estranged from on the journey spending $100,000s on innumerable newspaper adverts looking for them.

Song, No Irish Need Apply

Prejudice toward Irish was commonplace, where work was found it was mostly in the form of manual labour. Irish played a large role in developing the American rail network; the Irish experience is highlighted in the Song Paddy Worked on the Railway, several versions of Paddy Worked on the Railway exist, one traces back to the 1850s.  The Columbia Philadelphia Railway Line was a notable Irish employer; up to 50 Irish died in one company under the employ of Foreman Duffy; bodies were found displaying signs of assault without indications of illness, its not known if these were killed from prejudice or a genuine fear of the further spread of disease.3_23__9_23_Paddy-works-on-the-railway-Irish-railway-workers-600

The American Civil War occurs some 13 years after the famine. The Irish participation in the American Civil War is remembered with terms like dedicated and courageous, this valour has been attributed both to our identification with the anti slavery sentiment and to the opportunity to fight English regiments on a level playing field, some deeply pertinent statistics suggest that our commitment to those still suffering at home was our primary motivator. According to the 1907 book by John O’Rourke in 1907, The Great Famine, we sent £1,000,000 home annually to friends and family for decades after 1845, mostly from America. The figures were established through official banking channels and didn’t show the amounts changing hands from homecoming friends and family or through the post. The Irish Exchequer included Emigrant Remittances in its National Income Estimations up to the 1960s.

The performance will include SONGS recounting the American Civil War experience include Dixieland, The Minstrel Boy, Paddy’s Lament and READING, letters to an Irish soldiers wife.

irish in us civil war

Irish Brigade, 69th New York Militia

Organised

Regiment

Officers KIA/DoW

Enlisted KIA/DoW

Officers DoD/Other

Enlisted DoD/Other

Total Deaths

June

 1861

9th Massachusetts

15

194

3

66

278

December

1861

28th Massachusetts

15

235

1

136

387

September 1861

9th Connecticut

0

10

3

240

253

June

 1861

37th New York

5

69

1

37

112

August

1861

63rd New York

15

141

1

92

249

September

1861

69th New York

13

246

0

142

401

September

1861

88th New York

15

136

3

69

223

November

1862

155th New York

9

105

2

71

187

November

1862

164th New York

10

106

3

126

245

October

1862

170th New York

10

119

2

96

227

October

1862

175th New York

2

12

3

117

134

November 1862

182nd New York

8

65

0

53

126

August

1861

69th Pennsylvania

12

166

3

107

288

August

1862

116th Pennsylvania

8

137

1

88

234

June

 1861

10th Ohio

3

86

2

77

168

October

1861

35th Indiana

5

82

0

164

251

June

 1861

23rd Illinois

4

50

2

93

149

August

1862

90th Illinois

2

58

1

87

148

March

 1862

17th Wisconsin

0

41

0

228

269

June

1861

7th Missouri

4

52

2

128

186

September

1862

30th Missouri

2

10

1

280

293

TOTAL

 

157

2120

34

2497

4808

Irish battalion deaths, from www.irishamericancivilwar.com

Oisin performing Finnegans Wake outside Nancys Hand near Phoenix Park

1890s song, Sweet Rosie O’Grady, written by Maud Nugent from Brooklyn heralded a shift toward American assimilation for the Irish population. Irish Eyes are Smiling and If You’re Irish Come into the Parlour soon followed.

sweet-rosie  irish-eyes  if-youre-irish

O'Connell Budweiser America

American Budweiser Advert featuring Daniel O’Connell in 1914.

Irish Americans went on to play a huge role on the Silver Screen.

maureen_o_sullivan   bing-crosby     gene-kelly

james_cagney    maureen-ohara     spencer_tracy_state_of_the_union

This event aims to recount the Irish story as it relates to America through songs that chronicled the day to day and also the dramatic times culminating in the Irish Revolution in 1916. While events were unfolding in Ireland, the success of songs like Sweet Rosie O’Grady written in 1896 by Maud Nugent from Brooklyn heralded for the first time our assimilation in the New World.

John McCormack, 1916

hippodrome      mccormack

John McCormack performed at the New York Hippodrome (demolished in the 1940s) Sunday 30th April, 6 days after Easter Monday. His programme for the night listed 4 Irish songs including The Irish Emigrant. McCormack had 6 songs in US Billboards in 1916.

Beautiful Isle of Somewhere, No. 4 – Apr 1916 (4 weeks)
Tales of Hoffman: Barcolle, No. 3 – Sep 1916 (5 weeks)
The Cradle Song, No. 3 – Nov 1916 (5 weeks)
The Old Refrain, No. 2 – May 1916 (6 weeks)
The Sunshine of Your Smile, No. 1 – Dec 1916 (7 weeks)
Somewhere a Voice is Calling, No. 1 – Jan 1916 (9 weeks)
A Little Bit of Heaven, No. 9 – May 1916 (1 week)

McCormack was born in Athlone, County Westmeath in 1884, the fourth of eleven children of parents, Andrew and Hannah McCormack. He had been a member of the Palestrina Choir in the 1900s, the picture taken from 1904 may show McCormack in the back row, to the left of centre. Event Organiser, Oisin also performed in the Palestrina Choir, his grandfather Willie Costello was a boy soprano with two of his brothers Louis and Paddy, winning silver and bronze medals in the 1919 and 1920 Feis Ceoils.

mccormack-palestrina

In 1903 Mc Cormack competed in and won Gold in the Feis Ceoil. The Feis was one of a number of organisations with their beginnings in the 1890s; the GAA, the Palestrina Choir and the Abbey Theatre also had their beginnings at this time, this became known as the Gaelic Revival.

In the 1880s Charles Stewart Parnell played a part in the beginnings of the GAA, the first game having been played on his Estate. His Homestead’s Speech in County Clare helped bring real change to the Land issue through shunning (which later became known as boycotting). Parnell is remembered in the song Avondale.

charles-stewart-parnell

1867 Fenian Rebellion mentioned by Padraig Pearse in his 1915 Speech at the graveside of O’Donovan Rossa, the song the Bold Fenian Men, Glory O recalls 1867.

1847 Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator died, two years into the mass loss of life known as the Great Famine. His last Monster Meeting was likely in 1843 in Baltinglas Wicklow, in his speech he once again pleads for continued restraint and absolute peaceable congregating. The image shows O’Connell overseeing a Monster Rally,100-200,000 and up to 1,000,000 would attend these.  O’Connell was imprisoned in 1844 but was released after some months, he died in 1847, probably from a broken hearta as he watched the same mouths roaring in appreciation for his peacable and empowering words dying needlessly partly due to the continued export of life saving crops such as oats and barley.

MonsterMeeting O'Connell

1845 Famine, 1845-48 saw massive loss of life at the same time thousands of tonnes of foodstuffs were being exported under protected guard, this took place in some of the areas worst affected by famine. Firsthand accounts of the deprivation and suffering in these times, known in Irish as droch saol, hard times, can be found in the writings of American author Asenath Nicholson, taken from her journals written during time spent in Ireland through 1845-7. The Irish population fell from over 8,000,000 to below 4,000,000 from 1841 to 1911.

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