Scotch-Irish-L Archives

Archiver > Scotch-Irish > 2007-12 > 1198722626

Subject: Re: [S-I] Holiday Bonanza-More Books
Date: Thu, 27 Dec 2007 02:30:26 +0000

Hi folks, I'm ccing the list because I think Doug meant to post to the list.

> I got a what I think is a good book on Irish Immigration for Christmas--"The >Boston Irish: A Political History". It is in fact more than just the Irish in >Boston but a good overview of Irish Immigration starting in early 19th >Century. I got it yesterday and have found it so interesting I am about >halfway through. Today we think of Boston as being such an Irish Catholic >city but and I quote"If there had existed in the nineteenth century a >computer able to digest all the appropriate data, it would have reported one >city in the entire world where an Irish Catholic, under any circumstance, >should never, ever, set foot. That city was Boston, Massachusetts."
>Anyone else have any suggestions for good books on the topic?
>Doug Burnett
>Satellite Beach FL

Doug, I have and highly recommend "Inventing Irish America: Generation, Class and Ethnic Identity in a New England City, 1880-1828" by Timothy J. Meagher, published by University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana, 2001. I have the paperback edition.

The city he documents is Worcester, Mass. I lived there in the 1970s, myself. In colonial times it was the frontier in the early 1700s when the first wave of Ulster Scots came. Many settled there, but had a terrible time of it. The Worcesterites were rather nasty. When the SI built themselves a meetinghouse the Yankees, about 1740 or so, rioted and tore it down. After that the SI moved west to found a number of satelite towns (to Worcester) and the beyond. Much of western Mass was settled by SI trying to put forest between themselves and the Yankees. My other favorite story is of a SI couple being hauled before the session there because their dog was caught mounting a pig. The lady asked what else the dog was do to as there were no female dogs about. For that they all, including dog, got banished from town. So these were a rather odd bunch of people.

Unfortunately things didn't change a lot. When the Irish came to Worcester there were big problems. As Meagher points out, they were really never fully assimilated in Worcester. To this day there is not an Irish Catholic church though there are Italian ones. It took forever for the Irish to break through the shamrock ceiling.

If you know Worcester it is a great history of the town and its neighborhoods.

Meagher details the history of Irish immigration, reminding us the first wave of Irish Catholic immigation was the wave who came in the 1820s to build the Blackstone Canal. They were skilled construction workers who came from prosperous farming families in the English speaking counties of eastern and southern Ireland. They established a community in Worcester of about 500-600 pioneer familiesyb the 1840s.

Then you had the Faminers. Worcester's Irish population rose from 600 to 3000 between 1840 and 1850. 200 arrived with typhus or dysentery. Besides being sick, the newcomers were from a different area of Ireland and a different social class. They were from Gaelic speaking areas in the poorest counties of Ireland: Mayo, Galway and Sligo as well as the western reaches of Donegal and Kerry. Most came from Mayo. They arrived demoralized by the Famine with no industrial skills. Needless to say, they adapted badly and were alien not only to the Yankees but the previous wave of Irish and separated from them by an immense language and cultural barrier (p 23).

By 1870 the pioneer Irish had left Worcester who had well over 8000 newcomers.

This book is not only an incredible micro-study of the story of Irish immigration into the second largest city in New England at the time but Meagher also raises many points rarely raised in other books. He points out the differences in region emigration from Ireland that led to conflict not only between Irish and Wasp-America but amongst various waves of Irish immigrants. Before the Famine most Irish emigration was from industrialized English speaking areas wh ich also had many Protestants -- eastern Ulster, Dublin, etc. Famine immigrants were Gaelic speakers from the poorest and most isolated areas of Ireland. These were people who lacked the skills needed to prosper in an industrialized society. Hence the extremely difficult time they had in America.

Meagher goes on to describe the assimilation of Irish America. He seems to have a grasp of regional issues in Ireland that is rare to find indeed.

I highly recommend this book.

Another one is "Going to America" by Terry Coleman. It is about the emigrations of the mid 19th century from Ireland and the UK. While many came, their story is rarely told, unlike that of colonial immigrants. Many Scots and English came, not just Irish. I have
had the pleasure of researching a few of them for clients -- often coal mining families who came, like my father's lines -- to Ohio and Western PA. There were colonies of newly arriving Scots and Eng lish immigrants in America during those times. This book also covers migration to Canada. It also describes the journey. It tells you that most Irish left from Liverpool, not Ireland. The boats left from Liverpool, not the Irish ports. It describes the shift to steamers. It makes your 19th century immigrants' experience come alive. Just don't read it if your stomach is queasy or immediately after eating as it gives graphic descriptions of the plight of these people whose conditions on the ships is described as worse than that of slaves on slaver ships.


Linda Merle

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