News regarding The Irish-American Story is beginning to travel.
I sent the following to Washington’s Senators:
To build a canal, you need four things: a pick, a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and an Irishman.
19th century saying
Dear Senators Murray and Cantwell;
I am one of 39-million Irish-Americans, who make up over 13% of Washington’s population. I hope the kindle gift of my latest book, The Irish-American Chronicle, encourages you to support New York Senator Chuck Schumer and vote to pass his E-3 Irish Visa program.
The Irish Edition published in Wynmoor, PA requested an article for Father’s Day. I furnished the following:
Author James Francis Smith
Irish families traditionally revere their mothers, and the Smith clan was no different. My Kindle book, The O’Donnells of Philadelphia, however, was set in Port Richmond to preserve the essence of my father’s boyhood before it fades from memory. An Irish section situated in northeast Philadelphia, consisting of industrial plants mingled within neighborhoods crowded with row homes, bordered the Delaware River. Everyday life was tough, challenging, and always exciting.
Baptized James Francis after my father, I was a teenager before learning that Francis wasn’t his middle name. While standing in line for Confirmation practice, Cockeyed Collins kidney punched him. Of course, Dad retaliated, and decked Collins with a right-cross. For punishment, their Nun made my father take Aloysius for his Confirmation name. Because he couldn’t spell Aloysius, he chose Francis instead.
The lads from Port Richmond swam buck-naked in the Delaware near where the knitting mills discarded their excess dye. When they came home, one with blue hair and the other a green face, my County Mayo-born Grandmother thought her oldest sons were poisoned. She made them drink seven gallons of milk. Saint Anne’s Nuns, however, were less lenient for they knew where their charges swim. Without doubt, their punishment was both harsh and humiliating.
One very humid Saturday morning, Dad, lounging on the corner of Cambria Street, noticed one of his brothers approaching. Armed with ripe tomatoes, Ed passed the open doors of the neighborhood’s small synagogue. He stopped, threw the tomatoes into the place of worship … then took off. Angry Jewish men stormed out and spotted Dad, the only youth in sight. My father took off, climbed a neighbor’s alley fence and made his way safely home; while the Jews and the neighbor screamed at each other.
With his formal education ending in 6th grade, Dad worked at Cramps’ Shipyard, during WWI. When the war ended, he joined his father, working the family farm in Ireland, during the Time of the Troubles. Flaunting the English curfew, Dad partied nightly. A County Cavan barmaid saved his life by shrieking, “He’s a Yank,” stopping a bayonet-armed Black and Tan from running him through. Deciding that farm life wasn’t for him, my father soon returned to America.
Early in his marriage to Marie Meehan, we moved from Our Lady of Mercy Parish to the less crowded Incarnation, enabling Anne, my hard-of-hearing sister, to attend regular school. I was about five, when a drunken driver hit and nearly killed Dad at Second and the Boulevard. That night Mom and her terrified kids knelt and prayed the rosary. With his body broken and jaw wired for six months, Dad lost all desire for alcohol and tobacco. These near death incidents likely instilled him with religious fervor, for we recited the family rosary nightly.
His practical experience in the trades—roofing, wallpapering, and plumbing—enabled him to provide for his brood throughout the Depression. He cut our hair, mended our shoes, and repaired our few household appliances.
During WWII, my air raid warden father sponsored Incarnation’s annual clothing drive. The parishioners were extremely generous in donating warm coats, sweaters, and shoes. Our family, including uncles, aunts, and cousins, were drafted to sort, pack, and ship the contributions to war torn Europe.
We couldn’t afford a car. Public transportation took Dad to and from work, and he worked full-time, until age 75. Then he spent the remaining five years of his life looking for work.
As a family, we’ve been thrice blessed for my dad loved my mom, she loved him, and their four children loved them both.
In my writing, I refer to the descendants of Ulster, who immigrated to America, as Scot-Irish, rather than Scotch-Irish. My reasoning, Scotch is a drink, whereas a Scot is a person. There may be some who’d prefer I didn’t include these Irish who provided Washington with more than half his forces. Well that’s too bad. If the Emerald Isle’s ever going to become a united country then we must accept them as they are and not as some might wish them to be.
Many Scot-Irish were driven from Ulster during the 1700’s by the practice of “rack-renting,” and a diet of milk, potatoes, and oat bread. With farmland being scarce, the owners would rent to the highest bidder following the expiration of a lease. Leases were usually for 31-years, which meant families lost their homes after being situated for a generation or more. Emigration to America became their sole option. Finding themselves less than welcome by the Pilgrims of Boston, the new arrivals made for Philadelphia, Chester, or New Castle. From there, they headed toward the Appalachians in rural western Pennsylvania, and then south settling in the Shenandoah and Tennessee.
They brought with them their music and ballads. Many of their ballads honored William of Orange, who the Irish nicknamed, “King Billie.” You can sense where this is going. Before long these ballad masters earned the name, “Billie Boys of the Hill Country,” since shortened to “Hillbillies.”
Ardent patriots, the Scot-Irish flocked to serve in Washington’s Army, whereas their Scotch cousins tended to side with the Tory Loyalists. Based on the ethnic population of the 1700’s, estimates that the Scot-Irish made-up slightly greater than 50% of Washington’s Army are likely accurate, and may be on the low side.
The Ireland of the Welcomes magazine in their July/August 2013 issue, published the following letter to the editor:
I enjoyed “Who are the Scotch Irish?” In the May/June issue, however, I must admit some surprise at the author’s reckoning of as many as 27-million Scot-Irish descendants, and they out number the Catholic-Irish. Below is a segment from my recently published book, The Irish-American Chronicle, available on Kindle for 99-cents. I’ve also included the poetic framework from the same publication.
James Francis Smith
The Irish-American Story
James Francis Smith
We dug the coal mines and canals
Courted your daughters
Built the railroads
And fought the wars
Patrick Carr died in Boston’s Massacre
Sullivan, Moylan, and Scot-Irish filled Washington’s ranks
John Barry commanded the Continental Navy
Luke Ryan surpassed John Paul Jones
Irish by the thousands fell at Fredericksburg
O’Rorke and O’Kane saved the Union on Cemetery Ridge
Patrick Cleburne led his final charge at Franklin, Tennessee
Phil Sheridan dogged Lee ’till Appomattox
Irish-Americans formed the Unions
Constructed the cities
Laid the highways
And educated the masses
Too-many-to count died in Flanders and France
Then came Guadalcanal, Normandy, and Iwo Jima
Irish music and laughter lightens the mood
For we are proud Irish-Americans, and this
Is our story.
Tomorrow look for my first posting re: James Francis Smith’s Weekly Paragraph Selection from the Irish-American Story Series available on Kindle and Nook.
Have a grand year.