The Irish American Story is traveling

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:

 

My Father

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.

 

Scot-Irish

 

        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:

 

Dear 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.

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A Typical Irish-American Family – The Smiths of Philadelphia

 My Father, Aunt and Uncles

  • Served our country
  • Put out fires
  • Delivered mail
  • Supported America’s workers
  • Taught Pennsylvania’s children

Matt- career Marine who served before, during, and after WWII

John (JJ) – WWI Navy Veteran, National VP of the Government Employees Union AFL/CIO

Vince – WWII Navy veteran, mailman

Ed –WWII Marine veteran, Jack of all trades

My dad, Jim – WWI ship builder, union member, Jack of all trades

Sister Rosenella – Teacher

Joe – Fireman

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.

 

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

Commodore John Barry commanded the Continental Navy

Luke Ryan surpassed the deeds of John Paul Jones

 

Irish by the thousands fell at Fredericksburg

O’Rorke and O’Kane saved the Union on Cemetery Ridge

Patrick Cleburne died during his final charge at Franklin, Tennessee

Phillip 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.

 

 

 

My Irish Story

This was initially contributed to Gerry Regan’s “Thenewwildgeese.com.” Since I enjoyed writing it, I decided to make the rest of you suffer.

 

My Irish Story

 

James Francis Smith, author of The Irish-American Story Series

 

The grandson of Big John Meehan from Sligo, Mary Ellen McLaughlin-Keane from Galway, Bridget Munnelly from Mayo, and Matthew Smith from Cavan ended up with the least recognized Irish name of them all. I can’t begin to tell you how many times, I’ve been asked, “Smith, huh! English … right?” When I meet up with my ancestor Mac an Gabhann—the one who anglicized our family name to Smith—he and I are going to have words. Even my wife, Elizabeth McCarthy McGinty Smith, would’ve retained her maiden name if such a thing were fashionable when we were wed.

        Before I continue on to the little I’ve accomplished in life, there are a few items from my family history that need emphasizing. The Smith homestead in Beagh Upper, Parish of Upper Killenkere, was “situate” within 200 yards of where General Phil Sheridan was born. And since, my uncles have stated that their grandmother was a Sheridan, well … you do the math. If you have an issue with that, there’s no sense going into the story Big John Meehan told of my Galway-born grandmother being related to a member of Columbus’s crew.

        When I began writing narrative-history, I didn’t plan to write the complete Irish-American Story, it just happened, or it will happen when later this year I add, The Revolutionary War Irish to the series.

        An interest in the Druids and ancient Celts formed into a book when I learned the Celts invaded Rome in circa 500 BCE. This was followed by The Life and Times of Liam O’Donnell: which began as a tale of growing up Irish-Catholic in Philadelphia, then grew to an epic, including the major battles and events of WWII. Since the Liam book needed a companion, I wrote its sequel, Rory O’Donnell and the Kennedys to add the Korean War, Civil Rights, and Vietnam. The Last of the Fenians began as a whimsical tale about the Irish Republican Brotherhood stealing the Titanic’s sister ship; until, I stumbled across the fact that the first-formed Irish Division (the 10th) fought in Gallipoli. The book then took off on a path of its own through WWI, the Anglo-Irish War, The Treaty, Ulster, ending with Michael Collins’ assassination in the Irish Civil War. As an aside, both my father and my Grandfather Smith were in Ireland during that period. Now I couldn’t let my likely cousin, Phil Sheridan, off easily, therefore; he became one of the main characters in The Civil War’s Valiant Irish. That’s when I realized I wasn’t just writing individual books, but the complete series about Irish-American accomplishments.

        How can you obtain these books? Easy … click on www.theirish-americanstory.com and visit my blog. While there enjoy the 30-plus articles already posted to learn more about Irish accomplishments and contributions to American society. Click on either Kindle or Nook and purchase directly from the blog.

        I used to tell people, “Six months ago, I couldn’t spell author, now I are one.” Truth be told, I evolved from an author into a book peddler.

Maybe that’s why people are purposely avoiding me?

The Gathering Project

Ciara Gallagher, Project Manager for “The Gathering Project,” must have her hands full, and that’s a good thing. I love ‘The Global Irish Community’ map she has on their website. Visit their website, www.thegatheringireland.com and run off a copy. Yesterday Ciara got a boost in her marketing endeavor, when the Irish Central’s newsletter announced that the Kennedys (yes those Kennedys) will join the throngs to celebrate their Irish heritage. I thought I’d point out as I have in my eBook, Rory O’Donnell and the Kennedys, that JFK’s visit in 1963 wasn’t his first, only his most famous.

From Rory’s July 1963 column in the Chicago Tribune, ‘A Different Outlook’:

He was there before, you know … in 1947, arriving with Winston Churchill’s daughter. Although delighted to meet him, the locals were more interested in examining their car. Station wagons were rarer than returning Yanks.

“Ah sure, wouldn’t you proclaim you were ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ if a million or more West Berliners were delaying your visit to the ancient land of your people? A pleasure that Kennedy’s political hacks, Irishmen all, opposed. Wasn’t it Kenny O’Donnell, himself, who said, ‘Ireland? Mr. President may I say something? There’s no reason to go to Ireland. You’ve got all the Irish votes in this country you’ll ever get.’”

Philadelphia’s Hallowed Ground

My after-school Western Union messenger trips often included a detour to honor the long dead heroes buried in Philadelphia’s Old Saint Mary’s graveyard. These interludes brought back forgotten lessons about Commodore John Barry, Father of the American Navy, and General Steven Moylan, Commander of Washington’s Cavalry.

But it wasn’t until I had ePublished The Civil War’s Valiant Irish that I learned of another graveyard containing the remains of ancient warriors.

In 1845, the first year of Ireland’s deadly famine, the cornerstone for St. Anne’s Parish at Lehigh and Memphis was laid. My County Mayo grandmother raised her seven children on Memphis Street, which serves as the setting for The Life and Times of Liam O’Donnell. I had often wandered past the Church’s two small cemeteries without giving them a second look.

A recent article in The Irish Edition Newspaper made me sit up and take notice. Father Brady, St. Anne‘s current pastor, and his Historical Committee began to explore the “Civil War Era Cemetery Register.” They learned that among those interred were volunteers of the Philadelphia Brigade’s 69th Regiment.

Few Civil War buffs, let alone the Irish-Americans among them, know anything about County Derry-born Colonel Dennis O’Kane. He, along with the 69th’s 258 officers and men, gallantly withstood Confederate General Armisteads’ desperate charge at Gettysburg’s Bloody Angle, an encounter during which O’Kane sacrificed his life. The Civil War’s Valiant Irish validates the achievements of these and other Union and Confederate Irish-American participants.

The terra firma, where these brave men lie, is indeed hallowed ground.