To the Golden Door: The Story of the Irish in Ireland and America

To the Golden Door: The Story of the Irish in Ireland and America

To the Golden Door: The Story of the Irish in Ireland and America

To the Golden Door: The Story of the Irish in Ireland and America

Excerpt

BILLY CARBERRY, in his new shoes, walked miles with the other Irishmen from northeast Philadelphia to join in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Philadelphia, then hobbled home, and when he got home they had to cut the shoes off his feet. The priest said, "Poor innocent men." An Irishman named Kennedy, the first to live in Fall River, Massachusetts, walked fifty miles to Boston and fifty miles back at least once a year, to attend the then nearest Roman Catholic church. An Irishman (apparently a young man) wrote to the Boston Pilot that he was tired of the blathering of what the Irish in America were going to do to England -- let's go over and fight, he wrote: "I'm ready."

These Catholic Irish emigrants had carried with them to nineteenth- century America a strong cultural identity shared through the patron saint, a deep devotional faith and a hatred of England.

Their first historian in the modern manner, the seventeenth-century Geoffrey Keating, had written: "To give a regular account of the first inhabitants of Ireland, I am obliged to begin at the creation of the world." They saw nothing extravagant, though New York of the 1830s raised an eyebrow, in the insistence of a local Irish controversialist that Adam and Eve spoke Irish in the Garden of Eden.

Keating had read the early manuscripts, in which Ireland was rich, and hesitated to go behind the record, but the critical examination of modern Irish scholarship is unraveling the golden threads woven by the learned men of Christian Ireland a thousand years before to bind the men of Ireland together in a common kinship. Their object was to find a common ancestor of the diverse races which populated Ireland and symbolize the cultural unity that was felt throughout the island.

There had been a succession of invasions into Ireland before the world Christian era, but the last, somewhere between 150 and 50 B.C., had imposed its rule and impressed its culture upon the previous in-

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