100 Things You Didn’t Know About Ireland, filled with little known Irish history, is soon to be released May 1st. Over thirty four million Irish Americans live in the U.S alone, more than 7 times the population of Ireland. Do you wish you knew more about your Irish ancestors? Do you have anyone to ask? Have your aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents passed on? Were you told ‘be proud you are Irish’ but not sure of what you should be proud of? Do you know anything else in Irish history beyond the history of the Famine,corned beef and cabbage and St Patrick’s Day? Are your relatives dead or were you told not to ask questions about the past? Do you live in Ireland but know next to nothing about Irish history? Then 100 Things You Didn’t Know about Ireland is for you. Continue reading
St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland is shrouded in so many fantastical stories that one wonders if he was a man at all. The real Patrick was a simple human being who was kind, gentle, courageous, and confident in his beliefs. True, he was larger than life but not the way most people think.
Maewyn Succat is the name given at birth to the man we know as Patrick of Ireland around the end of the 4th century. Most likely, he was born in Britain and the son of a Roman deacon named Calpornius who was also a tax collector. His grandfather was Potius during the reign of Constantine the Great, first Christian emperor of the Romans so it is easy to see how Patrick would be influenced in ‘the family business’ from an early age on. As one of Roman nobility, a station of honor and privilege, Patrick would have had hereditary privileges as well. His father would have had high hopes for his son, knowing he could one day rule over his less fortunate countrymen. Continue reading
In Ireland, St. Patrick had nothing to do with Irish history. It was a Catholic holy day of obligation. Patrick, the boy slave who became a saint and bishop, wasn’t even Irish, yet St. Patrick’s Day is all about Ireland and its culture. Why is it so huge in the United States?
It’s true the Irish have made contributions to the America, almost since our country’s inception, but did you know when Christopher Columbus made his claim to the New World the first one of his crew to step on North American soil was an Irishman by the name of Patrick Maguire?
Henry Ford’s father, William Ford, immigrated to the United States in 1847, an era in history referred to as “the Great Hunger”. One of Ford’s most successful cars, the Fairlane, was named for his Irish heritage. On the last night in Ireland, his then twenty one year old father and family spent the night in a cottage in Fair Lane, off Fair Hill in County Cork. William’s mother, Thomasina, is listed as being born in one of those cottages. Unfortunately like many of the Irish seeking a better life in America, she did not survive her journey and died in the crossing from Ireland to the United States. Her grandson Henry is credited with revolutionizing industry by creating the first mass produced automobile.
As America grew, she needed strong men to build bridges, canals and railroads. Many Irishmen threw themselves into this back-breaking work. Some paid with their lives in one of the most dangerous of occupations of the time, railroad worker. A common expression of the day was “an Irishman is buried under every tie.”
Irish soldiers fought alongside Americans in the Revolutionary War, both sides of the Civil War, indeed in every war of the United States.
In 1780, George Washington commanded Irish soldiers in the War of Independence. In gratitude for their service, he granted them a holiday on March 17th.. This became known as The St. Patrick’s Day Encampment. So George Washington, who was English, invented St. Patrick’s Day.
When the Declaration of Independence was signed, eight men were of Irish descent. Matthew Thornton, George Taylor and James Smith were born in Ireland and George Read, Thomas McKean, Thomas Lynch Jr. Edward Rutledge and Charles Carroll were sons or grandsons of Irish immigrants. The Irish American secretary Charles Thompson also signed.
Irish Americans also signed the Constitution of the United States.
The Irish Brigade, so called the “Fighting 69th” fought in the Civil War in some of the bloodiest battles ever fought. They never gave up their tattered flag, leading Abraham Lincoln to visit General Thomas Francis Meagher, known as “Meager of the Sword” and kiss the Second Colors in appreciation.
Both Meager and Patrick Kennedy, (great grandfather of President, John F. Kennedy) were from County Waterford. John F. Kennedy also served in the military before becoming president.
And speaking of presidents, ten of our U. S presidents had Irish roots. They are Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, John F Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.
While it’s true St. Patrick’s Day may be a beer drinking, parade walking, shamrock float and balloon festival, we cannot forget the Irish Americans who helped build America and in the Gaelic words of the Irish Fusiliers of 1798 and many Irish Brigades after them, “Faugh A Ballagh.” In English it means, “Clear the Way,” for that is what they did for all of us.