Food for Thought

It’s the Women Pay the Taxes!

This new page has been inspired by personal communication from Professor Winnie Woodhull of UCSD (San Diego) who seeks her Haggerty ancestors, possibly from Swatragh in County Derry. She makes a number of very valid observations about areas that the website could usefully look at.

Winnie suggests that there is a need to explore more of the experience of Irish, and particularly Derry and Donegal folk (in many cases they are of the same stock) in ‘mainland’ cosmopolitan places such as Glasgow. The Glasgow area in the 1840s and 50s was a heterogeneous place ethnically and in terms of religion, with a mix of Catholics and Protestants. At first, they migrated seasonally, then they took up residence permanently as their tenancies were taken away.

A key benefit for Irish Catholics in Lowand Scotland was that there was less friction with Protestant Scots or anybody else, whereas in Liverpool during the same period there were savage battles between the English and the Irish. It would be of great interest to find more historical or anecdotal evidence of the pattern of seasonal migrations to Scotland, and the pattern of agricultural labour or the work as navvies. People who were lucky enough to have family letters or stories might be able to enlighten researchers who have limited material of that kind. GenWeb-type sites focussing on particular family names might also be able to provide insights into common patterns of migration and common occupations, rather than strictly on BMD records and the like.

Winnie, as an American, suggests that this could be a counter to the tendency on the part of some Americans to assume that they had noble ancestry. Many people leap to the conclusion that so-and-so is their ancestor based on almost no evidence. This may stem from a naive sort of narcissism, but also from the fact that Europe is associated with kings and aristocrats in the American imagination. Hence the enormous success in marketing images of coats-of-arms. What does one say to them?

Finally, Winnie makes the point that the semi-illiteracy of many ancestors confounds the attempts of later generations to search for their roots. She relates the anecdote about one miner in Pennsylvania who left the bureaucratic business to his wife and, on being questioned in an 1876 court case about how much he had paid in taxes that year, he indignantly retorted he had no idea as “it’s the woman pays the taxes!”


54 responses to “Food for Thought

  1. Eileen Breen

    September 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I was thinking again about O’Casey. Perhaps he didn’t have the emotional attachment to Ireland of those who fought in 1916. I don’t think he sympathized with Ireland’s fight for freedom, he was born in England and he seemed to socialize in Dublin. After he was ostracised by Yeats and Lady Gregory he lived in England. Mitchel who lived in the north at first seemed to sympathize with those who were affected by the penal laws but later chose to be on the other side.

    • Don MacFarlane

      September 23, 2013 at 6:23 am

      Being born somwhere else does not appear to make one less passionate about the Irish cause.

      Countess Markiewicz, a heroine of the 1916 Uprising, was born in London and she was an offshoot of the AngloIrish aristocracy, being a Gore-Booth from Sligo. No less a colonist for all that.

      Eamon de Valera,illegitimate son of a Cuban refugee, was born in New York and he became first President of Ireland after his role in the Easter Uprising.

  2. Eileen Breen

    September 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    I think O’Casey was saying for the people of Ireland not to be blinded by patriotism alone. He mocked them by showing people drinking to excess, singing and going off to the next battle just because they loved their homeland. I agree with you that the men of 1916 felt they were being oppressed and this must have seemed like an impossibility for them to win freedom for their people. Their patriotism gave the people the courage to stand up for their principles.

  3. Eileen Breen

    September 13, 2013 at 12:33 am

    While we were on hiatus, Mary and I watched the Dublin Trilogy by Sean O’Casey: “The Plough And The Stars”, “Juno And The Paycock” and “Shadow Of A Gunman.” All the videos are on UTUBE. Alfred Hitchcock was influenced by O’Casey and directed as his second film “The Plough And The Stars.” The films show the absurdity of war and that people should live for Ireland not die for it.

    O’Casey was in exile in England after Lady Gregory his mentor disagreed with his views and Yeats beat him up in the press. The plays suggested that the real heroes were the wives of the men who fought in the War for Ireland’s freedom in 1916. People were outraged that O’Casey would criticize the men who fought for Ireland. The first play The Plough And The Stars set the stage.

    The second play “Juno And The Paycock” caused people to riot. The third play,”The Shadow Of a Gunman” fueled O’Casey’s highly publicized criticism by Yeats and O’Casey’s mentor Lady Gregory. O’Casey’s defended himself in the press. He refused to speak to Lady Gregory again. A decision he would regret for the rest of his life. He lived in England for the remainder of his life.

    • Don MacFarlane

      September 21, 2013 at 8:24 am

      I don’t know if I would agree with John Casey, a working-class Protestant from North Dublin (Sean O’Casey was just an affectation), if he was saying nothing is worth fighting for.

      Oppression is just as soul-destroying as the prospect of losing one’s life, the main message of ‘The Sea is Wide’ and is the main reason people commit suicide. Wholesale disregard for human rights, whether considered oppression by those in power or not, falls into the same category.

      Lady Gregory is a bit of an enigma. If she opposed Casey’s views on the futility of war, how was it then that her only son died as a pilot fighting for the Brits in the First World War? If she opposed overthrow of colonists, how was it that she owned 6000 acres in Galway and her husband had been Governor of Ceylon, another British Colony? She sounds a bit like John Mitchel, another oddball. As for her title, she only gained that through marriage to a man 35 years older than herself (an oddity of the British Honours system as men marrying Dames or Baronesses remain plain Mister).

      O’Casey got the last laugh, if only posthumously. His plays are very popular but hers have faded into obscurity. I don’t know why Casey felt the need to suck up to the Anglo-Irish aristocrats like Gregory and Yeats anyhow. Yeats is another kettle of fish, drumming up support for rebels but his most famous poem has lines ‘Peace comes dropping slow’.

  4. Eileen Breen

    July 6, 2013 at 6:06 am

    If Phillip Duffy sponsored men to become citizens he probably ensured he had employees that would stick around. In the first census we found he may have sponsored at least twenty men.

    Lappan and Connor were at the end of his career when he was in his late 60s-70s. You had to file an Affidavit of Support. One had to own 5-10% of a company to ensure he could support someone or they could sue you for support. So maybe Duffy had his own company that was subcontracted to the C&P RR.

    Also the employee had to work in the US for a specified amount of time (about ten years). If the person became a citizen of US (it usually took about a further five years), he could have become financially stable or have died and the employer or sponsor was relieved of obligation.

    • Waxwing

      July 6, 2013 at 6:36 am

      I was puzzled about how few, indeed hardly any, of our waxwings applied to become citizens. My conclusion was that most people simply did not bother with the hassle as it was of no particular advantage to them?

      I was a bit dismayed, though not surprised, at the Lappan-Duffy connection. Obviously the old rogue had learnt nothing and he was still up to his old tricks, setting himself up as a supposed benefactor for unsuspecting Irish immigrants.

  5. Eileen Breen

    July 6, 2013 at 5:09 am

    FFT: The name Connor comes from Donegal. Maybe Corscaden, Connor and Lappan knew each other?

    • Waxwing

      July 6, 2013 at 6:31 am

      The name Lappan/Lappin did not come from Donegal. My thinking is that there was an informal social network, maybe even around a public house or speakeasy, and the rest was down to word of mouth.

  6. Eileen Breen

    July 5, 2013 at 12:04 am

    FFT: I went through PA Church Records 1708-1895 pages 1-73, St Anne’s RC Church, Port Richmond, Philadelphia, PA. I didn’t find Phillip Duffy, Peter Connor or Thomas Lappin.

    I did find:MDaniel Duffy: Section A: Grave 314. Mrs. Margery Duffy: 2/24/1899 and Edward Laysort? (hard to read) 9/26/1918. All on p. 40.

    Patrick Connor p.45, grave 398 5/14/1894. I also saw a Patrick Connor listed in 1830 census for Willistown, PA (On the same census where Phillip Duffy had twenty men plus his family listed). This entry had a man and a woman in their 30s and two children ? related to Peter Connor, laborer/contractor. Didn’t find Peter Connor or Thomas Lappin/ Lappan in this census

    John Duffy: Grave no 71, section I, Page 63 (Bodies moved to make way for the church): 11/16/1850. Also listed in this grave: child, Phillip Duffy age 9 months 8/5/1852, Thomas Duffy age 3 Yr 12/23/ ? (not listed), Mary Ann age 23 months 7/5/1858.

    Mrs Duffy, section B, p 49, 5/3/1894; Daniel Duffy, age 13, 5/31/1892

    • Eileen Breen

      July 5, 2013 at 12:05 am

      See post below for Peter Lappin St Anne’s RC Church

  7. Eileen Breen

    July 1, 2013 at 1:34 am

    Thomas Lappin b 1822 in Ireland was a stonemason. He is buried in plot number 279 at St Anne’s RC Church with his daughter Catherine. Phillip Duffy’s son is in plot no 208. Phillip is under the church, possibly.

    • Waxwing

      July 1, 2013 at 6:58 am

      But not buried with his wife?

      I was interested to see if Lappin would be turned up in Ancestry, given all the information that we had on him. My first stab at it produced a whole lot of Lappins but they failed to fit the bill, not helped by the fact we were given Lappan – even though I had ticked the box that permitted phonetic variations. Then the name of the spouse seemed to chop and change as well, also the birthdate (either 1832 or 1835).

      I remember I tried to tease out of the Watsons how much if any reliance they placed on Ancestry. All I got back was a non-answer, which sounded very evasive, and he (Bill) said he had a team of genealogical experts that tried every trick they knew and who visited sources here and there. I felt I wasn’t being given an answer I could get a handle on and I just left it at that.

      If I could get some clear evidence of errors in their record-hunting I would not hesitate to challenge Bill again (Frank is just an acolyte) but so far we don’t have that. Even one person whom they claim had disappeared would be enough. I already told them that Putetill, whom they have on their memorial, did not exist (he was Patchill) but they did not acknowledge this error. As I say, Bill was very shifty in Ardara, and I couldn’t get near Frank, but that is all we have.

      I haven’t given up on this as I am always like a dog with a bone. I will hit the local papers in September, armed with our fresh insights, to flesh this out a bit more. We have had enough brainstorming, so when I read the papers I will be doing so with a fisheye lens instead of a monocle as would otherwise have been the case.

      • Eileen Breen

        July 3, 2013 at 12:28 pm

        We need to find the ship Thomas Lappan/Lappin came to Philadelphia in 1847 ? Superior. I tried Ancestry and New Heritage sites. There was an entry for a Mary Lappan (Mary Lucille) AKA Lucy from Liverpool to Philadelphia (see her profile).

    • Eileen Breen

      July 5, 2013 at 1:19 am

      P 261 Philadelphia City directory: Daniel Duffy, plot 374 St Annes RC, lab, Margaretta St, (In St Anne’s RC),
      Francis Duffy tinsmith, 3151 Richmond,
      Mary Duffy wid of John, 2250 Pine,
      Mamie Duffy, Trimmings, 3328 Richmond,
      Louis and John Duffy, Drivers, 2509 Pine,
      Patrick Duffy lab 121 Pine, Patrick Duffy 2848 Salamon,
      Thomas Lappan Jr (Bricklayer) 2912 Salamon,
      Peter Connor lab, associate Phillip Duffy’s: 2219 Pine.
      There was a Patrick Connor, plot 398 p.45 St Anne’s RC listed in 1830 census and St Anne’s RC.
      Phillip Duffy’s son Phillip X. Duffy was a clerk when his father was working. Phillip Duffy lived near William and Richmond.
      Lappin’s lived several addresses on William St. and Salamon St

  8. Eileen Breen

    June 30, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    On the JS tree I made a page for Thomas Lappin b 1822. I can’t find the record that says P. Duffy sponsored him for naturalization. On the message boards the talk about Thomas Lappin. I put up a few records. 1 for a Thomas Lappin for Port Richmond, PA for a Thomas Lappin but the birth date is older but maybe it’s a relative. It would be interesting to find other people sponsored by P. Duffy.

  9. Eileen Breen

    June 30, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Thomas Lappan b 1823

    His parish was St Anne’s and perhaps this was the link between immigrants and Phillip Duffy. This was Duffy’s church (he’s buried under the church and his son is in the cemetery), as well as Rosanna Diamond’s family and their relatives, the Stinsons. Perhaps Lappan (Lappin) also lived in Duffy’s neighborhood.

    If Duffy made contacts with other recent immigrants in encouraging their relatives to come over, maybe Duffy promised them jobs?

  10. Eileen Breen

    June 26, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    FFT: Did we ever check to see if our waxwings working cross channel? Perhaps working in Liverpool prior to going to Philadelphia. Perhaps this is where the advertisements for work in America appeared? Maybe when you go to the library you could also check Liverpool papers?

  11. Don MacFarlane

    August 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Survivors of the brig Despatch, Isle aux Morts, Newfoundland

    That had living relatives reported in Griffiths Evaluation 1848


    John Nickson (Nixon) with wife – several from Drumragh
    Hugh Harper (Termanomongan) – John of Agharyan; James of Speerholme
    Smiley families (Donaghenry) – Robert of Coalisland
    McPartridge (McFetridge?) family – John of Carnkenny (Ardstraw)
    John Williamson (Leckpatrick) – John of Cloghcor
    McMonigle family (Leckpatrick) – James and Daniel (Cloghcor)
    Robert Gorman (Leckpatrick) – Thomas (Town Parks)
    Margaret Gordon (husband drowned) – James (Ballee)
    Alexander Kail (Kyle?) – numerous (Termanomongan)


    Noble Kilgrace – Robert and William (Urney)*
    James Williams (Burt) – Mary (Moville)*
    John Brown (Donaghmore) – Michael and Denis (Meenreagh)*
    Smullen family (Tulllaghabegley) – James (Falcarragh)*
    Anne Duncan (Taughboyne) – Cunningham (Bready)*
    Mary Mahaffy and nephews – several (Clonleigh)
    John Hamilton (Aughnish) – Robert
    Alexander Algeo – numerous of Clondahorky

    All those families were supporters of the Act of Union 1800 but by 1828 had had enough and decided to emigrate to North America. Another emigrant on the Despatch who was a Union supporter was Jaffles Smyth (Ardstraw)


    John and Robert Hull (Balteagh) – John (Drumsurn)
    Patrick McManus (Cumber) – John and William (Alla)

    • Dar Duncan

      February 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      Text is cut off in some sections of of this blog. You might need to reconfigure the page width.

      I’m curious about Anne DUNCAN (Taughboyne) who survived. Does your post indicate that Cunningham DUNCAN of Bready is her relative? What does the asterix at the end of the line indicate?


      • Waxwing

        February 22, 2013 at 9:57 pm

        Apologies for the late response to your query.

        In an attempt to locate possible folks that were left behind in Ireland I looked at the Griffiths Evaluation and I found only one Duncan in Taughboyne, namely Cunningham Duncan who was also tagged as connected to Bready? – presumably the much lesser known Bready in Donegal, not the one directly across the River Foyle in Tyrone near Strabane.

        This is something of a surprise as the surname Duncan has been in latter times fairly rife around that neck of the woods.

      • Dar Duncan

        February 22, 2013 at 11:40 pm

        I’m looking for DUNCANs from Donegal and Londonderry City who came to Quebec 1828-1831. Rebecca DUNCAN, of my family line, was married about 1825 in Ireland to John DOHERTY. This couple had 2 children baptized at the First Presbyterian Church in Derry, years 1826 & 1828. One of the Baptisms notes John DOHERTY was “from the St. Johnstown Congregation” which is the Taughboyne Parish. – That’s the reason I’m looking into Anne DUNCAN of the Brig Despatch.

        I have no other info on Anne DUNCAN. The ship was headed to Quebec. Being that the ship wrecked in 1828…I figure she had to be of major age. I see no other DUNCAN passenger on the ship list. I assume she is single. No mention of husband or children.

        There is a Cunningham DUNCAN death in the Ireland Civil Registrations Index.
        Registration District Londonderry, Jan – Mar 1893 at age 95 years.
        That puts his birth at 1798 and fits Cunningham DUNCAN of Griffith’s in Bready.
        I assume Anne DUNCAN might be his sister, not his daughter. I’m guessing she was born 1800-1810. – No positive proof.

        Concerning Cunningham DUNCAN on Griffith’s in Bready.
        Another source…
        “Duncan, C” (only the initial C) is listed as a pew holder 1882, St. Johnston (St. Johnstown) Presbyterian Church, Taughboyne Parish. – I believe this is Cunningham DUNCAN father of the children listed below.

        James, Robert, Cunningham (junior) & Margaret Jane DUNCAN, live in Bready & Tober, Taughboyne on 1901 & 1911 Census.

        Taughboyne Church of Ireland Graveyard – Headstone Inscriptions
        In Loving Memory of Cunningham Duncan [junior]
        Who died 21st February 1921
        Also his sister Margaret Jane
        Who died 8th December 1921
        And his brother Robert
        Who died 26th February 1924
        Also their brother James who died
        29th October 1916
        And his wife Jane who died
        24th November 1924

        Other DUNCANs in Taughboyne can be found on the Flax Growers List 1796
        (Two in Taughboyne.)
        Duncan George – Taughboyne, Donegal
        Duncan John – Taughboyne, Donegal
        Duncan James – Raphoe, Donegal
        Duncan John – Clonleigh, Donegal
        Duncan Robert – Leck, Donegal
        Duncan Thomas – Donagh, Donegal
        Duncan William – Donagh, Donegal
        Duncan William – Clonca, Donegal

      • Waxwing

        February 23, 2013 at 12:10 am

        The majority of the Duncans of Donegal, according to the censuses of the early 1900s, did not live in the Taughboyne vicinity around Lifford. They mostly lived in South Donegal or a bit further West. Of those that came from around Taughboyne, they were from its top north west part, in upperlands overlooking St Johnstone:

        Bready – Cunningham, who lived with Robert and a wife Margaret Jane. All were correctly identified by Dar in her post. There may be some confusion as to who was married to whom, according to the census. Certainly, there were two elderly males and one elderly female in the same house in 1911, with no one else. If Cunningham was married to Margaret Jane, then Robert was the spare male.

        Castlethird – William and Eleanor with son James (Presbyterian).
        Cross – John and wife Anne (Congregationalist).
        Tober – James and wife Jane, with son and grandson, both James (Presbyterian).

        All of these places are in immediate proximity of each other.

        From Dar’s research, it appears that no one else was buried with the Bready Cunninghams, so presumably that line ran out? I don’t know enough about burial customs to say whether there might be some other explanation, such as descendants being buried elsewhere.

        Taughboyne Parish is wedged between Lough Swilly and the River Foyle and it forms a triangle, bounded by Raphoe to the South, St Johnston to the North and Newtoncunningham to the West. These particular Duncans all lived within this sandwich and they were all most likely to have been Ulster-Scots planters.

  12. Don MacFarlane

    August 26, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Letters from Canada

    New Brunswick Courier on Cork 1827

    ” Grown boys almost totally naked; moving skeletons with patchwork rags meet me at every turn and make this land a harlequinade of beggary. To talk of emigration as a channel to remove this want and beggary is as sensible as talking about emptying the ocean with a teaspoon”

  13. Don MacFarlane

    July 5, 2012 at 5:38 am

    from An Leabhar Aifrinn (The Prayer Book)

    Comment: On the written page, Irish is almost indistinguishable from Scottish Gaelic. It is only when Irish is spoken that it becomes almost incomprehensible as a language to a Highland Scot.

    * Unfamiliar words that have not found their way into Scottish Gaelic.

    The first few lines are translated by me into English to illustrate. English versions of the remainder of the lines will be well-known and already committed to memory by all good Catholics and Anglicans; probably not by Presbyterians.

    An Chré (The Creed)

    Creidim in aon Dia amháin (I believe in one God)
    An tAthair uilechumhachtach (The Father All-Mighty)
    a rinne neamh agus talamh (Who made Heaven and Earth)
    agus an uile ní sofheicthe* agus dofheicthe (and all that is made and unmade)
    agus in aon Tiarna amháin,
    Íosa Críost, Aon-Mhac Dé,
    an té a rugadh ón Athair
    sula raibh aon saol ann,
    Dia ó Dhia, solas ó sholas
    fíorDhia ó fhíorDhia;
    an té a gineadh agus nach ndearnadh*,
    agus atá d’aon substaint leis an Athair;
    is tríd a rinneadh an uile ní.
    Ar ár son-na an cine daonna,
    agus ar son ár slánaithe,
    thuirling* sé ó neamh.
    Ionchollaíodh* le cumhacht an Spioraid Naoimh é
    i mbroinn na Maighdine Muire
    agus ghlac sé nádúr daonna.
    Céasadh* ar an gcrois é freisin* ar ár son;
    d’fhulaing sé páis faoi Phontius Píoláit
    agus adhlacadh é.
    D’aiséirigh an treas lá
    de réir na scrioptúr;
    chuaigh suas ar neamh;
    tá ina shuí ar dheis an Athar.
    Tiocfaidh sé an athuair faoi ghlóir
    le breithiúnas a thabhairt
    ar bheo agus ar mhairbh,
    agus ní bheidh deireadh lena ríocht.
    Creidim sa Spiorad Naomh,
    Tiarna agus bronntóir* na beatha,
    an té a ghluaiseann ón Athair agus ón Mac.
    Tugtar dó adhradh agus glóir
    mar aon leis an Athair agus leis an Mac;
    is é a labhair trí na fáithe*.
    Creidim san aon Eaglais
    naofa, chaitliceach, aspalda*
    Adhmhaim* an t-aon bhaisteadh amháin
    chun maithiúnas na bpeacaí.
    Agus táim ag súil le haiséirí na marbh
    agus le beatha an tsaoil atá le teacht.


  14. Don MacFarlane

    June 22, 2012 at 8:09 am

    To mark Eileen’s Travels into Clare and Back

  15. Don MacFarlane

    April 22, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Here is puzzler for you! Check out Isaac Butt, the barrister who defended the Young Irelanders, and compare his ideology and personal habits with those of John Mitchel.

    Particularly note from this quotation Butt’s reference to the dangers of Jacobinism pervading Irish society if the Establishment were to turn against Irish Protestants as well as Catholics – perhaps a clue to one difference between Butt and Mitchel? To be fair to Butt, this particular piece of oratory was delivered by Butt as a younger man before he had changed his political colours.

    Butt was a contemporary of Mitchel and he is commemorated still in Donegal today whereas Mitchel has become almost like a mere footnote in history. Butt put into practise, as MP in Westminster (what Mitchel merely aspired to) and as barrister, his version of nationalism which he as an Anglican thought to be the middle road. He was the living embodiment of the rather course expression ‘better to have the camel in the tent pissing out, than to have it outside the tent pissing in’!

    The Irish, like Aussies and unlike Americans (unless you count the love for Martin Luther King and JFK who are also alleged to have been womanisers) seem to like their leaders to be a mixture of saint and sinner. Butt is said to have often been heckled at political meetings by women who accused him of having fathered their children!

    • celticknot226

      April 23, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Don

      On the question of how John Mitchel and Isaac Butt differed in their morality, passion and ideology, Mr Mitchel was an activist, solicitor, political journalist and a spokesperson for the southern cause in America. In his formative years he presented a speech before his father’s congregation that there should be a Catholic on the ballot in an election. His family was Protestant and his father, the reverend of the parish, disagreed. I think this was the catalyst, not the emotional issue of the famine, that he liked to manipulate people by using the written, verbal and occasional violence to “justify” the ends to a means.

      First, he debated issues regarding the famine and how England should change their opinions. He criticized the courts, judges and the government. He also debated use of force vs non-violence. When he escaped from Australia to Southern US he did not use slavery and abolition as his cause. He felt the US and Ireland had unjust governments who used agriculture and finances to manipulate its people. The issue that he feared was Jacobism (extreme viewpoints to support a revolution) as well as the issues of slavery and war. He even had three of his sons participate in the experiment that a cause could be fought for by the use of a three-pronged approach using verbal, written and physical means to justify an end.

      I don’t feel he was passionate about a cause on an emotional level. In that these issues meant something to him, he used the Irish people and the African slave like pawns on a chessboard in a scheme to argue a point and then see what happened with no consideration as to the outcome. He used the same tactics that the Establishment used to manipulate the Scottish people. I haven’t read the book ‘One Cause Too Many’ but I don’t feel he ever fought for a cause. He fought to scheme and manipulate without considering it’s consequence.

      Isaac Butt in contrast was a barrister who fought passionately for human rights for the Irish people. His cause was to benefit humanity, in contrast to Mr Mitchel’s indifference to human dignity and welfare for the sake of an argument. Butt advocated non-violence, unlike Mitchel. He used eloquent written and verbal pleas to the English government to repeal laws that prevented Ireland’s citizens from having any human rights. The citizens of Ireland immortalized him as a founding father of Ireland and advocate for change and human rights. Mitchel in contrast was remembered more for how he used his ability to speak and write to delay the issue of human rights in Ireland and in Southern America.

  16. celticknot226

    April 18, 2012 at 1:24 am

    A thought on Irish coal miners’ immigration from Ireland to USA.

    The Molly Maquires, thw secret society, originated from Donegal. The RC non-landowner Molly Maquires fought with Protestant landowners over the aggressive use of land. Perhaps the memory of the Ulster Plantaion in 1600s fuelled their resistance movement. Historian Kevin Kenny states that in 1870 post-Civil War in USA there is evidence that Molly Maquires were miners from Donegal, Ireland and other areas in Northern Ireland. They belonged to a miner’s union,the Working Men’s Benevolent Association (Peaceful), and allegedly the Ancient Order Of Hibernians.

    Mr Kenny states “The Pinkerton Agency hired to investigate the correlation of M.M. membership in Working Man’s Benevolent Association, AOH and corresponding areas in Ireland from which these irish immigrates came. The violent areas of Ireland correspond to the areas of violence in the Pennsylvania coalfields”. The Trade Union, WBA, was owned by Lancashire Protestant men who opposed to the violence of the M.M. All the miners belonged to it including M.Ms. The Pinkerton agency concluded that although the WBA was peaceful, the incidents in which miners were killed (over 50 murders) was because the miners went against the beliefs or rules of the WBA.

    The WBA was not convicted in any of the murders. The investigation determined the murders were the work of the M.M.s. There are movies, music and over 70 articles and books on the subject of the coal miners and the infamous Molly Maquire’s. Is this Irish pride VS capturing of the american imagination?

  17. celticknot226

    April 15, 2012 at 1:23 am

    In my city in Massachusetts my father found a sign that appeared in mills and shops from mid 1800s that read “Irish Need Not Apply”. My city was called Ireland Parish at this time and was later changed. The Irish immigrated here as skilled workers from 1850-1900s. The irish dug the canals and worked in the linen and paper mills.I read somewhere that as the Irish began to continue in their education they began to accumulate wealth and rose in the political, social and economic circles. Without an education the Irish would remain in poverty.

    In my area we had Irish pipers since about 1850 and parades celebrating the Irish for about fifty years. We also have a few schools of Irish dance and now have an Irish restaurant and a pub. In my city, The Boston Company from Boston recruited skilled workers from Europe to work in the mills and “stole” the latest technology from Europe for manufacturing linen and paper. Perhaps the owners of the mines in Pennsylvania recruited skilled workers or found a cheaper way of paying their employees in the mines by using Irish labor. The Irish were not paid as well as other workers. The Irish music made it’s way to Appalachia and further down in the South.

    A final thought,the Irish fought in the Civil War on both sides.

    • winnie50

      April 15, 2012 at 6:39 am

      Yes, I was surprised to learn that this year’s was the 251st St. Patrick’s Day parade in NYC. Until today, I didn’t know the celebrations dated back that far. And I think you’re right that many of the Irish working people WERE skilled, even though they were officially regarded–and paid–as if they were unskilled. Many of the Irish immigrants to North America in the 19th c. had already made the transition from traditional agrarian life to industrial life, which is one reason the major industries were eager to recruit them.

      The industrial revolution didn’t really take off in the US until after the Civil War, so it was advantageous to recruit Europeans who had experience as industrial laborers. Another reason for recruiting Europeans is that there was a perpetual shortage of workers in our vast, underpopulated country, so all comers were welcome, as long as they were willing to submit to hyper-exploitation.

      The industrialists’ main worry regarding European workingmen was that they were well acquainted with labor organizations and had no trouble grasping the concept of class struggle. In fact, Marx’s theory of class struggle drew heavily on the things he and Engels learned from British and German workers, who were analyzing and devising responses to their desperate situation.

      BTW, like you I am deeply moved by the efforts of our Irish great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers (a pregnancy every year and demanding domestic responsibilities) to survive and reinvent themselves in a very harsh world.

  18. celticknot226

    April 14, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Thank you for the video of the miners. I know some of my Derry relatives may have worked in the mines in Glasgow according to one of the censuses. I’m grateful for any insight into how hard they worked to support their families while working long hours.

    I don’t feel I need to figure out if I was related to the O’Cahans. It’s just that I find this period in history fascinating and I was curious what happened after the transplantation to the people of County Derry and how they dealt with their lives. As a nurse I find the social impact of the political, cultural, economic and health of this time period helps me to better understand what my Great Grandfather and his parents endured and why maybe they came to America and left their families behind.

    I think my family changed their name back to O’Kane as Winnie said to keep their Irish heritage and pride, long suppressed during the early 1800s. I did get the book by Angelique Day and it looks like County Derry must have been a difficult place to live in during early 1800s on many levels.

    I read that it takes three generations to make a man and I thank my relatives who made such sacrifices for the blessings I have received.

    • Don MacFarlane

      April 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm

      Reply to Celticknot

      A couple of additional thoughts and posers emanating from this discussion:

      Irish were, during this period and well into the twentieth century, personae non grata on the UK mainland and they would have kept a low profile rather than emphasise their Irishness. If it is the case the Irish were doing the reverse in the US and Canada, that is an interesting sociocultural phenomenon worthy of a closer look and of explanation. Celeste Ray points out in her book on Transatlantic Scots that Scots descendants in the US and Canada similarly emphasised their Scottishness by adopting Highland manners and dress, even though they were not in the slightest Highland viz. in many cases they were Lowland Scots or Scots-Irish.

      Also, the Irish in Scotland were mainly above-ground labourers eg field or road, that is to say unless Prof Tom Devine has missed something in his detailed research. It is also strange that Irish workers in the Lanarkshire mines (not Glasgow, as there were no coalmines there) might have chosen to emigrate just to end up in coal mines in Pennsylvania or elsewhere in the US. Could this be true?

      • winnie50

        April 15, 2012 at 1:16 am

        Regarding Irish emigrants and mining, there may be a difference in the work performed by pre-famine and post-famine emigrants to Scotland. I haven’t read all of Devine so I’m not sure of the period he is referring to. In any case, yes, it’s very plausible that more Irish worked as navvies than as miners. Nonetheless, there were clearly enough Irish miners in Scotland to attract recruiters from the US coal companies for a good period of time in the 19th c., according to Laslett (a US labor historian) in Colliers across the Sea.

        It does seem strange, from a certain perspective, that so many Irish would opt to stay in the mining industry after emigrating to the US. But I think the coal company recruiters often required that prospective emigrants sign a contract, in exchange for which the coal companies would pay their trans-Atlantic passage and other travel costs, which they probably could not afford to pay themselves; historians seem to agree that most 19th c. Irish emigrants to England and Scotland were too poor to afford the passage to America. It was well known that the wages in the North America were significantly higher than in the UK, and that the US offered at least the possibility of upward mobility, unlike Britain at the time.

        Also, it takes years to learn to mine underground, as opposed to doing above-ground mine work such as loading coal into railway cars. Thus the skilled Irish miners would have been promised higher wages than unskilled workers, and they probably jumped at the chance to earn them. Moreover, mining was the devil they knew.

        Concerning early 20th c. manifestations of “Irish pride,” they depended very much on a critical mass of Irish in a given place, such as the Irish settlement in O’Neill, Nebraska, founded by the Irish-born US Civil War General John O’Neill around 1870. Of course the greatest concentrations of Irish were in New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston, where Irish politicians soon mastered the thoroughly corrupt political system of the day and made it work for them. For example, they garnered the support of working-class Irish voters by promising them municipal jobs; hence the stereotype of the Irish policeman.

        The Irish politicians were eventually able to establish highly effective political machines that endured for decades, notably the infamous Tammany Hall in NY and the Daley machine in Chicago, which staged massive St. Patrick’s Day parades. In spite of their political success and the growing numbers of “respectable”middle-class Irish, however, prejudice persisted for a long time, as was evident in the controversy surrounding JFK’s candidacy in the 1960 Presidential election.

        Scots on the other hand, as well as the self-appointed Scotch-Irish, had always been accepted because most were Protestant and spoke English. Hence the kitschy Highland gear to mark their heritage. Naturally, Scottish workingmen and women were subject to class prejudice, but they were never regarded as subhuman, as the Irish were in the 19th c. US. On the other hand, the “hillbillies” of Appalachia are objects of ridicule to this day. However, this has nothing to do with their Scotch-Irish heritage; instead it stems from their association with the US South, their abject poverty, their geographical isolation, and their attendant “backwardness,”immortalized in the legend of the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

        Today’s famous mountain men, such as the country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, earnestly argue against these prejudices, pointing out that the Hatfield-McCoy dispute was a political and economic one pertaining to exploitation by the mining industry, rather than a protracted “so’s-your-mama” spat over some trivial matter. It’s true that the two factions were armed and dangerous and that they shot at each other for years on end. But again, this was due to substantive political differences as well as a need, on the part of both factions, to defend themselves against the paramilitary “security” forces hired by the mine bosses “to protect their private property.”

        In the mining industry hierarchy, Scots came in third, after the English and Welsh, as candidates for positions as superintendants and foremen, because their Protestantism jibed with the New Englanders’ nativist bias. The Irish were next (though they were never in positions of the highest responsibility), because they too spoke English and were from Northwestern Europe. Although their Catholicism was scorned by the Protestant majority, the Irish were less unwelcome than their Catholic counterparts from Southern and Eastern Europe, who began arriving in the US in large numbers in the 1870s and were legion in the mining industry–Italians, Poles, Slovaks, and many others.

      • Mary Cornell

        April 16, 2012 at 4:16 am

        I have been reading with great interest the dialogues taking place over the last couple of weeks and wanted to respond, Don, to the first part of your last commentary. It is true that the Irish in the US and Canada seem to emphasize their “Irishness.” I cannot help but wonder if this was an attempt to regain the Irish identity that was taken from them, along with their land, during thehorrendous rule of the English. Could not then the Irish diaspara be the only way in which the native Irish could hold onto their identity and culture. They certainly could not do so in Ireland at the time what with the ban on every aspect of their Irish culture. Looking at it from a very narrow hindsight, this may have been one of the only ways that the culture be preserved had something cataclysmic happened to those Irish in Ireland.

        More food for thought to put on the table, Celticknot’s idea of a literary club reminded me of my old tattered copy of Leon Uris’ “Trinity.” The characters in this masterly written piece of fiction speak to the losses that are discussed in these commentaries. For the character of Thomas Larkin, it was the hopelessness of the loss of the Irish culture and for his son Conor Larkin, it was the burning desire to keep the Irish culture alive. Though fiction, Uris seems to have captured the tremendous losses the Irish endured at the hands of the English.

        Finally, though we all wish that we have been descended from Brian Boru, it should be a comfort to know that all we need be is Irish.

  19. Don MacFarlane

    April 14, 2012 at 8:35 am

    You might be interested in this collection of old photos of (allegedly) Scots-Irish miners and settlers in the Appalachians:

  20. celticknot226

    April 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I guess I’m thinking that the clans in Ireland lived in close proximity to where relatives of these clans may be still today? When I first started doing my ancestry on-line there were many sites that wanted researchers to do their DNA. Also, someone mentioned finding the family crest and to try to find relatives that linked them to a prominent member of a clan like Niall of the Nine Hostages. I then wondered did I need to do all of this or just restrict myself to learning about my more proximal ancestral family and the history of where they lived.

    I think it is right that after there were no more clans or Kings of Ireland (major or minor) that people dispersed throughout Ireland and the rest of the world. I’m not sure why everyone wants to be related to a king or clan anyway. In my own family the name changed from Kane back to O’Kane so I was curious why that was and if they were trying to link themselves back to the O’Cahan clan. I may never know why, but this site has taught me a lot about Ireland’s history.

    • Don MacFarlane

      April 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      The O’Cahans (O’Kanes) were not just any old clan. Like the O’Neills whom they served, O’Cahans had close links with the Gallowglasses from the Scottish Islands (the Hebrides) – Sir Guy O’Cahan’s daughter married one of the Lords of the Isles (a Clanranald MacDonald) and Chief Turlough O’Neill was married to the daughter of the Duke of Argyll.

      So it would appear that the Irish chiefs were becoming a force to be reckoned with and that should not be forgotten (there is more of this history on the front page of this website). The MacDonalds and the Campbells (Argyllshire) were mortal enemies who fought each other over control of the western seaboard of Scotland, with the Campbells eventually winning out. What the O’Neills and O’Kanes were thinking about getting mixed up with both those lots of rogues (I can say this with impunity, being a MacDonald myself!) is anybody’s guess?

      The McCloskeys served the O’Cahans also, so the fortunes of these three clans were closely bound up together. All of this history of the time of the Gallowglasses, then subsequently the Flight of the Earls – really the history of the native Irish clans – has been sadly neglected but has had a recent surge of interest and revival.

      The whole system disintegrated with the Ulster Plantation and the Anglo-Irish ascendancy – there is a museum recently opened in Derry and dedicated to all of that which should be well worth a visit. Once you are over you will find out a lot more,plus the other libraries already mentioned will fill in more detail. In the meantime, you can chew over these potted histories I stumbled across –

      From this you can see that there were different periods of intense internecine rivalry, including the reports from the Annals that the O’Kane chiefship was almost wiped out by de Courcy around the year 1207. The O’Cahan chiefship finally came to an end in 1626, to pave the way for the Ulster Plantation of County Derry, when Sir Domhnall O’Cahan died in the Tower of London where he had been kept captive on trumped up charges.

      These ancient connections and rivalries in the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland and Northern Ireland (Dalriada) are still commemorated in Gaelic song today as in this lament by Capercaillie for Seathan, son of a King of Ireland.

      • winnie50

        April 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

        Hey Don

        I’ve been reading Cormac O’Grada and Tom Devine and finding both of them terrific. On YouTube, I also listened to a one-hour lecture given by Devine in New Zealand on the subject of his book on the Lowland Clearances. He’s smart, and funny, too. I must say though that at times I would have welcomed subtitles! I REALLY had to pay close attention, and even then found myself replaying parts of the video. Does he have a Highland accent? Although it was a bit challenging for me to understand, it was much more comprehensible to me than the speech of the Scottish working class youths in movies like Trainspotting, or for that matter the speech of the Irish of Scottish descent in the southern part of Antrim. When I stopped for gas there and bought a Coke, I had absolutely no idea what the stereotypically red-haired guy at the cash register was saying to me! Fortunately he was irrepressibly cheery and didn’t take offense. I felt like an idiot.

    • winnie50

      April 13, 2012 at 11:49 pm

      Reply to Celticknot

      Records become increasingly sparse as you go back in time, and they generally pertain to the powerful, landed elites whose private papers you’d have to examine in Belfast, in a county library, or possibly in a private collection.

      Online, I don’t think it’s likely that any Kanes were high in the clan hierarchy. A random Patrick Kane could apply to tens or hundreds of men, of various ranks, who may or may not be related to you. Surnames were fixed in Ireland by the 13th century, so a lot of Kanes had been spawned by the early 17th c., not to mention the 19th!

      Your question seemed mainly concerned with the whereabouts of members of the O’Cahan clan in the three centuries separating the Flight from your great grandfather’s emigration to Massachusetts. Did the whole clan go? Very unlikely, even though the system of land ownership changed (in Ireland, as well as in the Scottish Highlands) and with it, the relationship of a chieftain or a lord to his subordinates. Did the clan members of modest means continue to cultivate runrigs or did they move to the seashores to fish or harvest kelp[North Antrim]? Did they live in Canada for some years before making their way to Massachusetts, as many Irish did?

      You may be a direct descendant of an O’Cahan chieftain, but odds are that you are not. Nonetheless, the task of tracing your family history is an intriguing pursuit, well worth the trouble, if you’re willing to resist the temptation to jump to conclusions.

      On the matter of your family restoring the O’ in O’Kane, I’ve seen instances of this in early 20th c. Pennsylvania. Maybe the Irish civil war and the eventual establishment of the Irish Free State stirred feelings of nationalist pride in people who had been treated with contempt in the 19th c. US. Once the Irish and Irish Americans were on the road to respectability and had acquired a fair measure of political clout, they may have wanted to reclaim the markers of Irishness that they had dropped in decades past, whether out of convenience, embarrassment, or helplessness (if they were illiterate) in the face of a bureaucrat’s way of pronouncing or spelling their name at Castle Garden, Ellis Island, Boston, or Halifax.

      BTW, in the US, were the Irish called “the Micks” because Mick was a nickname for the common name Michael? Or did it refer to the Mc prefix to so many Irish surnames?

  21. winnie50

    April 12, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Celticknot, Don has asked me to troubleshoot in his place, at least in part. Here I’m responding to your query on the GenWeb site which I don’t have access to for some reason. I’m not sure I understand your question about the O’Cahans, since so much had changed between the fall of the clans/the Ulster plantation and the 19th c., when the O’Cahan clan no longer existed as such. Also, people with that name would have been distributed, to a limited extent at least, across social classes, so there would be many different historical trajectories, including the one you mention involving emigration to Glasgow.

  22. celticknot226

    April 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Hi! Winnie

    If you type in Google: ‘Coal miners travelling from Ireland to Scotland’, a few choices come up: two mining museums and a book someone wrote on the subject. The articles had photos. Perhaps you could also write to the historians who wrote the articles. I did this for something I was researching on another subject.

    Editorial Comment:
    There is indeed a SCRAN document that gives a few pointers. Depending on the mood you find him in, Prof. Tom Devine could also be knowledgeable but in his book, Clearance and Improvement, he yields to Professor Cormac O’Grada of University College Dublin (email as a greater authority. Prof Devine makes particular mention of the 1836 Select Committee on the the Conditions of the Irish Poor during that period and there is also the 1842 Commission Enquiry into the conditions in mines in the West of Scotland.

  23. Don MacFarlane

    April 2, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Apologies if anything got mislaid. Once anything is deleted, inadvertently or otherwise, there is no mechanism to recover it. My memory of it is that it was an email – which has now formed the bones of the header for the Folkways page – and I take the liberty of enclosing the rest of it here. Anything within it meant as a private communication can be deleted but it seems fine to me:

    I’m hoping you’re still answering questions about ancestry in Derry, as I’ve very much enjoyed your responses to others’ queries. I’m a professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego, looking for information about my great-grandfather, James J. Haggerty. (Based on other male names in the family, I think the middle initial “J” stands for Joseph or, less felicitously, John.) He was born in 1835 in what was to become Northern Ireland. Because of his surname, as well as some emigration patterns described below, I’m guessing he was probably born in Derry or Tyrone. He and his family, Roman Catholic Irish speakers, were poor and illiterate, although James J. does seem to have learned to read (but not to write) at some point in his life.

    The earliest reference I’ve found regarding my Haggerty ancestors is in the 1841 census of Scotland, which indicates that they were living in Campsie, Stirlingshire. In Scotland’s 1851 census, most of them show up in Dalmellington, Ayrshire. According to the census data, they were all Irish-born. The boys were working as ironstone miners in both 1841 and 1851. (Scottish BMD records suggest that, like many Irish miners’ families, the Haggertys moved frequently and worked in several different counties of Scotland.) The family name was often spelled Higgerty or Higarty in Scotland, and Haggerty or Hagerty once they had settled in the US in the 1840s and 50s.

    The head of the Haggerty household, James J.’s mother Agnes, was widowed by 1841. Unfortunately, I don’t know her deceased husband’s first name, but for what it’s worth, both James J. and another of Agnes’ sons named their first son James and their second son Michael. Here are the names of the Haggertys listed in 1841 as well as their approximate birth dates: Agnes b. 1795; Ellen b. 1820; Patrick b. 1826; Connell (aka Cornelius) b. 1827; Margaret b. 1828; Hugh b. 1829; Ann b. 1831; James J. b. 1835; and Mary b. 1837.

    By 1851 James J.’s sister, Ann Haggerty, had married Alexander McMullen (an Irishman, specific birth place unknown) and had had 4 children with him in Scotland, the first of whom, named James, died at birth. The McMullens moved with James J. and other Haggertys to the US in the mid-1850s. (In the 1900 US census, Ann Haggerty McMullen said she had arrived in the US in 1856.)

    Connell Haggerty, who does not appear in the 1851 Scotland census, seems to have gone to the US some years earlier, in the late 1840s. Evidence for this appears in the proceedings of *Nutting vs Reilly,* a legal dispute regarding electoral fraud in a Pennsylvania contest for a seat in the nation’s House of Representatives. These proceedings contain testimony given in 1876 by Connell Haggerty, who said he had been in the US for some 30 years at that time. Either in Ireland or in the US, Connell married an Irishwoman named Margaret (b. 1835, maiden name unknown). Their first child, Mary, was born in Pennsylvania in 1854.

    From the 1850s to the 1910s, the Haggerty family was in the anthracite region of Northeastern Pennsylvania, where the Haggerty men all worked as coal miners. Specifically, they lived in Schuylkill County, where the labor activism was greater than in any other part of the country in the 1860s and 70s. The Molly Maguire trials and hangings were conducted there (as well as in two adjacent counties) in the 1870s. According to historian Kevin Kenney, most Irish working people in the area came from North Central Ireland. There were many from Donegal and Derry, and there are towns in the area called Colerain, Conyngham, and Tyrone. Some of the most common Irish names in my family’s area of Schuylkill County were Boyle, Gallagher, Sweeney, O’Donnell, Dougherty, Kane, McCann, McFadden, and McNeilis.

    In the 1930 US census, James J. Haggerty’s son Hugh, an Irish-identified politico and United Mine Workers enthusiast who was still living in Schuylkill County, said that his deceased father was born in Northern Ireland. (In 1930, every Irish American family in Hugh’s little town, McAdoo, specified “Northern Ireland” or the “Irish Free State.”) However, the census form names only the country, not the county or town James J. Haggerty was from. Alas, there are no known family letters, albums, or other sources of information to draw on, and everyone who might have been able to enlighten me is long dead. The earliest relevant church records in Pennsylvania have been destroyed by fire or flood, and the State of Pennsylvania didn’t start keeping BMD records until 1906. Naturalization records name only the country of origin, and local historical societies don’t have much helpful material. When I’ve retired, I’ll spend time in the state archives and relevant libraries, searching local newspapers for a death notice that might reveal the secret–which will then give me an excuse to spend six months in Ireland poking around. But in the meantime, I’m up against a wall.

    According to *Colliers across the Sea,* a study of 19th c. Irish/Scottish-US labor history, US coal companies routinely sent recruiters to Scotland to lure experienced miners to Pennsylvania. This could partially explain my family’s move from Scotland to Pennsylvania, although there were undoubtedly other factors as well, notably economic troubles in Scotland, the myriad Irish famine immigrants arriving there in the late 1840s, and the concomitant revival of Scottish hostility to the Irish Catholic poor.

    I know there was a long history of Irish seasonal migration to England and Scotland in connection with agricultural labor and the construction of canals and railroads. So a possible Haggerty family pattern of seasonal migration, combined with the severe economic hardships of the 1830s and the dwindling number of available tenancies, may have prompted my family’s semi-permanent move to Scotland. I’m systematically making my way through the 1830s Memoirs (Ordnance Surveys), but so far have found nothing that’s clearly relevant to my family in the volumes on Derry (and Donegal, where the Haggerty/Hegarty name is so common). This isn’t surprising though, as most Memoirs refer only to the general phenomenon of seasonal migration, the townlands affected by it, and sometimes the number of migrants, without naming individuals.

    That neither James J. Haggerty nor his brother Connell knew how to read or write suggests that they had little or no opportunity to attend the national schools in Ireland or Scotland (or the Irish hedge schools), even during the winter months when they were young. Alternatively, their parents may have discouraged attendance at the national school due to the protestant bent of the teachings and the ethnic and class prejudices of many British teachers and students.

    Another point is that despite their knowledge of English, all my Haggerty family members remained lifelong Irish speakers, perhaps partly due to their exile in Scotland, and later in Pennsylvania. There were so many Irish-speaking working people in Schuylkill County in the latter half of the 19th c.–20,000 of them–that the local authorities considered outlawing the use of Irish in public, due to middle-class Protestants’ outrage that the Irish rabble could routinely conduct all business in their native language.

    This doesn’t jibe with the social histories I’ve read, eg by Kirby Miller, a leading US historian of Ireland and Irish emigration to the US. Miller claims that by the 1850s, because of the national school system, a majority of Irish children had lost their native fluency in Irish, yet were not able to stay in school long enough to fully master English, with the alienating result that an entire generation of Irish people had no “native” language at all. At the same time, Miller says, by virtue of losing their ability to appreciate the nuances and idiomatic expressions of the Irish language, children lost touch with their nation’s rich cultural heritage, which dated from the time of the bards and found expression in poetry, stories, and songs that continued to circulate among native speakers of Irish until the colonial education system finally succeeded in making English prevail almost everywhere on the island.

    So if Miller is right, it’s interesting that in my family and many others in the US context (including a fair number of those who arrived between 1880 and 1914), Irish remained the lingua franca for a very long time. In my family’s case, to be sure, there seems to have been little or no exposure to the British national school system. Still, they continued to speak Irish despite their origins in Ulster, their long stay in Scotland, and their many decades in Pennsylvania. No doubt my ancestors’ ongoing (though gradually diminishing) educational deficit played a role here. But there had to be more to it than that, whether it be a show of patriotism or a means of protection from xenophobic American nativists.

    In fact, I’m guessing that communication in Irish offered Irish working people a vital means of cultural identification and social affirmation during the cruelest phases of the industrial era, in what for them was a foreign and often unfriendly country. My other Irish grandfather, Thomas Frain, a Sligo man who had spent 30+ years working as a docker in England before going to the coal fields of Western Pennsylvania in 1913, spoke Irish in Westmoreland County until he died there in 1934. The Irish language must have provided some comfort to a man who was born in the wake of Black ’47, died in the midst of the Great Depression, and lived a hard life during every one of the intervening 80 years.

  24. Don MacFarlane

    March 25, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    You could do worse for starters than get a copy of the Tamlaght O’Crilly Volume of the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland (Parishes of Londonderry 1833-1835), Editors Angelique Day and Patrick McWilliams, to give you a flavour of the times your ancestors were all living in. In it you will find details on – Situation of the People, Habits, Traditions, Songs and Poems, Legends, Manuscripts, Paupers, Begging, Occupations, Charity, Education, Schools, Customs and Mannersappearance of People, Illicit Stills, Migration, Drunkenness and Immorality.

  25. Mary Cornell

    March 18, 2012 at 3:20 am

    I agree with Professor Woodhull that the illiteracy of our Irish ancestors makes it very difficult in our searches into our past. I would like to add, too, that the distrust of anything “government” in their Irish homeland is also carried over to their new country. This seems to be especially true for the poor or labor classes. In my search for my ancestors, I have found that they very rarely registered their names with any government agency and I even have one Irish ancestor who tried to start his own religion (non-profit) so that he would not have to pay taxes to the “thieves.”


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