The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience

By Dennis Clark | Go to book overview

SIX
CLANS AND CAUSES

Although the immigrant from rural Ireland to urban Philadelphia may have been estranged in various ways from full participation in the life of the city because of poverty and cultural difference, he did contrive his own elaborate network for social activity. A part of this network was connected with the church. Much of it was not. In character and complexity, it was quite different from the structure available to the ordinary resident of an Irish rural village or small town, where, in the nineteenth century, a folk quality pervaded social relations. Traditionally, the institutions that provided the structure for socialization were the face-to-face local agricultural community, the parish church, and the local fair for the exchange of produce and livestock. There was also the "big house," the landlord's estate, remote because of its English character and higher status but intimately related to the community because of its economic significance. 1 Within this rustic framework thrived that sociability for which the Irish were noted.

Sunday mass at the parish church commanded all but the English establishment to a weekly concourse for gossip, speculation, and friendly interchange. The periodic fairs were even larger occasions for sociability, with their bargaining, match- making, impromptu auctions and sales, drinking, barter, and political activity. Political rallies and elections, often coinciding with the fairs, provided additional rural excitement; and on a rare occasion, some religious pilgrimage or larger political event, such as one of Daniel O'Connell's mass rallies, would take the farmer or village man out of his locality. For the most part, local life was just that, enlivened by visiting

-106-

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The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xiii
  • One a Tradition Grows 3
  • Two the Famine Generation 24
  • Three City Shelter 38
  • Four Working to Live 61
  • Five Church and School 88
  • Six Clans and Causes 106
  • Seven Hibernia Philadelphia 126
  • Eight the Tradition Persists 145
  • Nine the Urban Irishman 165
  • Notes 185
  • NOTE ON SOURCES 237
  • Index 243
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