The mission of LowellIrish is to collect and preserve the history and cultural materials, which document the presence of the Irish community in Lowell. As the first immigrant group in a city that continues to celebrate its immigrant past, LowellIrish will serve as an advocate to support a better understanding of the historical, political, religious, and social function the Irish played in the formation of the city.
In my cellar I have boxes and folders of materials dealing
with the Acre’s Irish past.Some I’ve
gathered on my own research.Others have
been handed down by those who share my vocation.And then there’s the GOK pile.(GOK means God Only Knows.)Either I have to take a sabbatical or wait
until retirement to sort all this “stuff” out.Ask me where something is and given enough time I can locate it for
you.There is one piece that is
special.Where it comes from I have no
idea, but it’s one that with which I have a personal connection.It’s an old article from the Lowell Sun,
1958.It was written by John F. Kenney.
Sports fans may remember Mr Kenney’s name from the Golden
Gloves days.He was born in 1905.Throughout his life he referred to himself as
a “Son of the Acre.”He was proud to say
he attended St. Patrick Church and St Patrick School.He was a walking library of Lowell’s Irish
past and often wrote columns for the Lowell Sun around St Patrick’s Day.His columns are little vignettes of life in
the Acre.The names and places he
mentioned have all but faded into the past.But the spirit of the man lives on.In one column he wrote of a slight despair of how the Saint’s day was
being celebrated and asked if somehow the sense of a true celebration could be
renewed.That was over 50 years
ago!I wonder what Mr. Kenney would say
of us today?Though ill for many years,
he continued his work at the Sun and actually wrote his last St Patrick’s Day
column just days before his death at the age of 55 in 1960.As he wished, he was buried in St Patrick
Cemetery with all those Irish who came before him.
I have held onto that yellowed Lowell Sun article from 1958
for maybe 40 years.I’ve read it so many
times I have sections memorized.So I
want to say thank you, Mr. Kenney.Your
words have lasted these many years and perhaps will inspire others today.Suaimhneas
síoraí dá anam. May he rest in peace.
following editorial was written by John F. Kenney, former Sun staffer, who has
been confined to the Rutland State Sanatorium for the past few years.
Traditionally Mr. Kenncy has contributed a colorful and interesting St.
Patrick's Day item for the past 30 years.)
in year 1960, the gay-hearted folk of Irish stock assemble again in the manner
of their tradition and nature to celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick as their
patron saint. They'll join in song, and ask you to join them—and with wetting
the shamrock, and feasting, and dancing and all, they'll be merry indeed 'til the
crow of the cock in the mornin'.
the celebration today is but "a reasonable facsimile" of the mardi
gras atmosphere that once upon a time gripped Lowell. The newer generations
cannot conceive of the excitement in the streets a half-century ago—the
"St. Patrick's Day Parades" with up to 15,000 marchers accompanied by
as many as 16 kilted and military bands; when the boys of several Catholic
parishes marched in cadet uniforms. And the horse-drawn floats! They depicted
scenes ranging from the lightning struck on the Rock of Tara by the rod of St.
Patrick, to the oration of Daniel O'Connell as he offered his life for
Ireland's Freedom before the beruffled and wigged Parliament.
have a way of changing, however, and it was Marcus Aurelius—no Irishman —who
maintained that "all change is inevitably for the best." There are
those who would have my head, I suppose, for saying as much, so I hasten to
point out that it would not mean at all that the proud Irish spirit has been
diluted. The sons of Erin's sons continue to love the mother country with its
tradition of hard toil with integrity, and above all the Faith which is their
Irish are a people who loved the contest—and a race which loves to compete,
must of necessity be a race to love a challenge. The ancestors of Lowell
Irish-Americans therefore left monuments to this capacity of theirs to meet
‘the tests of positive action, and these are clearly visible in the structures
of the city itself in which these descendants are now prospering.
Lowell Sun, 1954
grandsires of today's generation, who never made more than $10 or $12 for a
six-day workweek in mills and machine shops, built cathedral-like churches of
granite; they erected multifloored schools of brick, libraries and public
buildings that would be regarded as extravagances were they undertaken now.
These pioneers and immigrants, mind you—and there were many minorities other
than Irish, of course—built them to "last forever."
has brought changes in life, and the living of it, to be sure. But always there
will be the challenge to improve on the old order. The "O's" and the
"Mc's" are still on occasion, prodded by the proud old men who
"came over", with that biting and provocative charge,"You'll never be the man your father
was!" That salient "message" of reminder is familiar to every
boy born in an Irish home. It is never spoken without point; it is uttered by
one of the father's clan . . . his father's friend who knew his father as a man
to stand up to a task; a man for a man's challenge.
never be the man your father was . . ."
will you be?
is the time.
years of this century have passed with a history already rich in content of
blood, daring, courage and resolute growth by the people who celebrate St.
Patrick's Day today.
Irish-Americans can and will be the men their fathers were.
Greater-Lowell now, and it's growing greater still, by that old-fashioned way
the old-timers had in resolutely coming to grips with challenges- and making
them into changes.