Project Crossmaglen, Pittsburgh

Our friends from Crossmaglen spoke about the tourism opportunities in South Armagh recently in front of a standing room only crowd in Pittsburgh, PA. Large portions of the group were Hibernians from both Pennsylvania and Ohio. Many in attendance stayed in the Cross Square Hotel during the recent FFAI Christmas Appeal tour. This is the third such trip for Project Crossmaglen, which has been largely ignored by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. With the help of Sean Pender, FFAI Chairman and Dan Dennehy, Immigration Chairman, they were able to schedule a joint presentation for New York and New Jersey Hibernians as well. When planning your next trip please keep in mind Crossmaglen, which has its first new hotel in over 100 years.

AOH Celebrating Quartoseptcentennial

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy your 175th coin by downloading this form.

Historical Happenings

Congratulations to President Boyle for his article on Irish Slavery in our last issue.  We should all do our best to educate people to the trials and tribulations, as well as the glories of our predecessors.  The great thing about this article is the interest it inspired.  We received one e-mail from a history professor in Oklahoma who wrote that Shay had mixed up the two Kings James.  The professor noted that James I was really the one who started Irish slavery while James II was the last Catholic King of England and asked for a correction to rescue James II from being an enslaver of Roman Catholics.  We also received an e-mail from a respected historian in Brooklyn that the article looks to be plagiarized from the author, John Martin and the author should have received more credit. We also received several e-mails asking for sources where they could learn more about the subject.  All these e-mails were welcome since it gave us the chance to respond.  First of all, the Kings James are easy to mix up for while James I was, in fact, the one who began  selling the Irish into slavery, it was Cromwell who increased it and James II who kept it going!  In truth, before he was even King, James II was the Duke of York and head of the Stuart family’s Royal African Company which, between 1680 and 1688, sent 249 shiploads of 60,000 slaves to the Indies and American Colonies, more than 14,000 of whom died in passage.  Few realize that for 100 years after the post-Cromwell restoration of the Crown, during the reigns of King Charles II as well as James II, there were more Irish sold as slaves than Africans.  As for the source of the information, Shay credits the Cape May, NJ AOH meeting and he does refer to the book by John Martin urging the reader to look further into the subject.  It should be noted here that the article by John Martin appears in many places on the internet from a Rastafarian News blog to Irish American web sites and not always properly credited.  However, it’s in Martin’s article that we find that, The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World.  His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies.  Factually, in 1625 James II hadn’t even been born yet, and I’m sure that Mr. Martin mixed up the James boys as well.  However, when James II became King in 1685, he had already profited from selling Irish and was unable to overrule his Puritan Parliament.  But our President is right, more people should learn this little-known part of our history.  A good place to begin is with the book, To Hell or Barbados, The Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland by Sean O’Callaghan which is available on Amazon.com.

Back in the September 2007 Hibernian Digest, we told the story of 57 young Irishmen who reportedly died of cholera while working on a railroad spur about 20 miles west of Philadelphia and ended up in a mass grave hastily dug beside the tracks.  In that article we speculated that anti-Irish sentiment at the time may have resulted in a more violent end for these young men and that only the location and examination of the remains would verify that.  A shin bone, found in 2009, convinced diggers that they were at the proper location and exploration continued.   After several years of fruitlessly scouring the area for the men’s final resting place, seven sets of remains have been uncovered and the latest bodies do show signs of a violent end. On 20 August, Lori Murphy reported on Irishphiladelphia.com an update to the story and in the August 24 edition of the Irish Echo, our friend Ray O’Hanlon featured the news under a banner headline IT WAS MURDER!  According to Ms Murphy, two skulls unearthed at a probable mass grave near Philadelphia this month showed signs of violence, including a possible bullet hole. Another pair of skulls found earlier at the woodsy site also displayed traumas, seeming to confirm the suspicions of two historians leading the archaeological dig.  Professor Watson, chairman of the history department at nearby Immaculata University who has been digging for nearly a decade with his twin brother Frank to unravel the 178-year-old mystery said, This was much more than a cholera epidemic.  He told the Echo, their skulls show signs of a violent death.  The men suffered very bad blows to the head while one of the skulls had what appears to be a bullet hole. Anti-Irish nativist sentiment made 19th-century America a hostile place for these workers, who lived in a shanty in the woods while laying track.  It is now believed that when some of the workers fell ill, they sent for help and a group of nuns came to administer to them.  Meanwhile when word got out that some of the workers had cholera, anti-Irish prejudice and fear of the disease prompted an attack by nativist vigilantes.  That theory is now supported by the recovered remains.  Janet Monge, an anthropologist working on the project, said, I don’t think we need to be so hesitant in coming to the conclusion now that violence was the cause of death and not cholera, although these men might have had cholera in addition. She added, Last year, when we only had two skulls to examine, I was a bit hesitant in claiming that we were looking at traumatic death, but this year, in every specimen that we examine, it really seems to indicate that they were victims of blunt-force trauma around the time of death.  Check out Duffy’s Cut on the internet for more information – it’s a remarkable story!  And we agree with our friend Ray, it was murder!

Another remarkable story has just been released by Harolyn Enis in her book When Ireland Fell Silent.  As a historian, I rarely, if ever, read fiction.  The only exception is books by Morgan Llyewelyn who creates a fictional person or persons to live out and tell the story behind historical events as did John Steinbeck in Grapes of Wrath.  Well, we have another like author in Harolyn Enis.  I was drawn to her book by its subject – the Great Hunger.  As a student of that subject for many years and having written and lectured extensively on it myself, I thought to do  a critical analysis and expose another revisionist historian who minimizes the catastrophe and calls it a famine rather than the genocide that it was.  Surprise of surprises, I found that I couldn’t put the book down.  It is not only factual in every detail, but her style of writing put me in the cottage beside the Reilly family that she created to take us through the horrors of hunger.  I even welled up tears at her telling of the American Wake.  More than the formal  facts format of most histories, you will find this one easy to read and, more important, easy to comprehend, even though it will never be easy to understand the rationale for the Hunger.  This is so much better than a pure history, it is a true history for even though the family is fictitious, it allows you to experience anxiety, frustration and desperation as they experience the historically factual hardships imposed by a greedy colonial administration.  More importantly, it explains the survival of our Irish culture despite the tragic times.

I contacted the author to offer my congratulations and she told me that her son, Brian, started reading the book and after the first 100 pages expressed the opinion that the Irish should not have died passively without a fight.  After reading more, he offered a profound evaluation: The more I think about it, he said, it was HOPE that kept them passive.  By the time hope was gone and they realized that the British were not going to help them, they were too weak.  If they had known British intentions from the beginning, they would have been more aggressive.  It was Hope that did them in. An astute observation!  To read this book is to experience An Gorta Mor.  It will be available on Amazon.com in October, check out the review in this issue.

Don’t forget to check out the histories on AOH.COM and NYAOH.COM and until next time, keep the tradition alive.