Friday, October 7, 2011

Another side of Hugh

We know of Hugh the labor leader; Hugh the peace keeper; Hugh as church founder, etc..  You have heard of Hugh the beer brewer (and the subsequent lawsuit against him), but do you know of Hugh the temperance man?  In my never ending quest to know all I can about him, I recently came across an interesting account.  Hugh wore many hats.  One was merchant.  He kept a West Indies Dry Goods store on Merrimack Street.  (A few years ago we had the Cummiskey Alley sign installed to remember Hugh, and since it is an actual street on city maps.)  Like most stores of the period, one of Hugh's best selling items was whiskey.  Each of the stores had their own jugs with the store name labeled on it.  (We have one with "Cummiskey's" on it in our parish archives.)  When the contents were emptied you simply brought it back to the store for a refill.  In the 1840s an anti-liquor movement swept the nation.  It made a big impact in Lowell among Yankees and Irish alike.  An Irish priest named, Fr. Theobald Mathew, was a well known speaker and visited Lowell to give "the pledge" where men and women alike swore they would never touch another drop again.  (Our parish archives has a medallion from one of his visits.)

In the Journal of the American Temperance Union is a brief account of a visitor seeing a gang of men and some type of disturbance outside Hugh's store.  Closer inspection showed it was the store owner, Hugh Cummiskey, having casks of liquor removed from his establishment and "abandoning entirely a traffic which is heretofore given him part of his livelihood."  (I wonder where they brought the evil deamon rum.)  The writer further says Cummiskey is a model to his fellow Catholics and hopes other "will join hands with him in this cause."

Now I feel a little guilty on Saint Patrick's Day when I raise a glass to the man who brought the Irish community to Lowell.

I made note of our parish archives.  We've got a nice collection of items from the parish, schools, and the Acre neighborhood.  It consists of several hundred artifacts, printed materials, prints, and photos.  Every now and then folks drop off items that they think deserve a good home and relate to the story we try to tell.  I remember getting a call from a wonderful woman asking me to look at some items she was going to throw away.  There were great neighborhood photos and the bell that called the kids to school at the turn of the century.  Little finds like this make up our history and need to be preserved.  Do you have anything to share?

We've reached over 3000 hits!  Those interested in preserving Lowell's Irish past are out there.  You hear from me each week.  I'd like to hear from you.  Drop a line.  Tell me a story.  I'm looking for guest bloggers.  Share your family's role in Lowell's Irish past.

On another note the Lowell Historic Board is doing a tour of Old English, Saint Pat's neighboring cemetery on Nov. 20th.  Might be interesting to see who the neighbors are.  I was also thinking of doing a preliminary census before mapping out the slates in Yard 1 on Saturday, October 22.  If you might be interested drop me an email.

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