Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Rising - Join us this Saturday to remember this event in Irish history

British soldiers with the captured Republic flag - 1916
The plan was to go into effect on Easter Monday of 1916.  It was doomed to failure from its inception.  Poor communication, leadership, financial and munition support made the plan doubtful at best.  The one hope some of the groups had was aid from Germany.  Other groups questioned using German support while the war was ongoing.  With the capture of a cache of arms by the British that was meant to support the Irish cause, some began backing away from Monday's plan.  There were even ads put in newspapers saying all was called off.  Some ignored the notices while others never got to see them.

The initial plan was to take several key positions throughout the country, especially in Dublin.  With it being the holiday, many British troops had gone off to see the races.  A group of patriots walked into the General Post Office in Dublin Center and took control of it in the name of the new Republic.  Some patrons thought it was a joke, but soon found otherwise.  At noon Patrick Pearse stepped out of the GPO and read aloud the Proclamation declaring Ireland a new republic.  For the next week Dublin center became the target of bomb shelling and death for soldier and civilian alike.  Newspapers across the globe cast their light on what was happening in Dublin.  At first opinion sided with the British.  Once the patriots surrendered and the executions by the British began, public opinion swayed.  Even the citizens of Lowell kept a close eye as events unfolded.

We ask you to join us this Saturday, April 2 at 2 pm at the Old Court (upstairs) for a viewing of historic photographs from the Rising, a short film of the week's events, and a brief talk by Victoria Denoon of UMass Lowell's Irish Partnership.  The event should last about 90 minutes and is free and open to the public. If you choose you can pick up lunch downstairs before or after the event.  Feel free to bring a beverage from downstairs to the talk..  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Easter Rising 2016 – Roots of Rebellion

“Faithful to Erin, We Answer Her Call” – August 4, 1914 – On that day, Great Britain entered into war with Germany.  Over the next two years the war dragged on with the death toll and numbers of wounded mounting ever faster.  All able-bodied male citizens were being encouraged to do their part and join in the cause.  Initially, like their British counterparts, the Irish enlisted.  Eventually 30,000 would enlist.  Protestant and Catholic alike served together for King and Crown.  To encourage the Irish to join in the war, posters spread across the country proclaiming, “Have you any womenfolk worth defending.”  And, “I’ll go too, the real Irish spirit.”  To hit home another read, “Daddy, what did you do in the war?”

Underlying all of this nationalism was another group.  One that had been promised Home Rule for Ireland, but had not seen it fulfilled.  They saw the ongoing battles in Europe as an opportunity to strike while the iron was hot.  This was the perfect time to take advantage of Britain’s stretched military resources and declare Ireland’s independence.  There was hope that Germany would even supply the Irish with munitions and the plans for a rebellion were drawn up.  (Our next installment will bring us up to the events of April 1916.)

Saturday, April 2, 2016 at the Old Court Central St, Lowell, MA.  2 – 3:30 pm – A display of historic photos detailing the history of the Easter Rising will be shown along with a brief video of the people and events of the Rising.  Victoria Denoon of UMass Lowell’s Irish Partnership will lead a discussion.  You’re invited to grab a lunch or drink from the pub for the event. Please join us in remembering this important period in Irish history.  (Sponsored by Irish Cultural Comm. of St. Patrick Parish, UMass Lowell Irish Partnership, Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, and Ancient Order of Hibernians Div. 19). 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Celebrating the Saint's Day

St Patrick Church, 1880s

So begins the opening line of the first recorded celebration of St Patrick’s Day in Lowell.  The Lowell Mercury of 1833 gives us a picture into the past.  They were all there at the Mansion House.  Mr. Blanchard, the owner of the establishment, served a fine supper.  He was known for his oysters and setting a fine table.  They were a close-knit group, a tight band of “native sons” who were making new lives for themselves.  Of course there was Hugh and Eugene Cummiskey.  Hugh’s close friend and business partner, Samuel Murray, was also there.  At the head table would be Charles Short.  He seemed to be involved in everything in the Paddy Camps, land dealings, business arrangements, and even causing the Bishop some grief with choosing a new Pastor.  But that won’t be for a few months.  The Campbells came in, one a tailor and the other a laborer for the Corporation.  They were among the growing number of businesses in the Acre.  Most of the crowd, being solely men, made their way over from Lowell (Market) Street and Fenwick Street.  Most were part of Lowell’s growing Irish middle class.  There were teamsters, carpenters, real estate agents, stable owners.  They were here to show their fellow Irish countrymen that America had much to offer.
Lowell Directory, 1833

After the table cloth was removed the musicians, and they were a fine group by all accounts, started up their tunes.  Of course the first was St. Patrick’s Day.  They slapped their hands on the tables and prepared the first round of toasts.  “The day we celebrate- may its memory be celebrated in the breast of every Irishman.”  The glasses were lifted, another jig was played and the sentiments continued.  They remembered their homeland and those left behind.  They remembered their heroes and cursed their oppressors.  They lifted their glasses to O’Connell and the Irish harp.  Over and over again they remembered their new home: President Jackson, Democracy, the Constitution, the Merrimac River and to the owners of the loom.  They sang Adeste Fideles when they recalled Bishop Fenwick and sang Yankee Doodle.  Music and poetry filled the room.  As the night drew late someone reminded the crowd that it was a Saturday and the next day was Mass.  And so some made their way to their hacks and others bundled up and walked out into the March night to return to their homes. 
In the words of James Campbell, “May the Sons of Old Hibernia celebrate the festival of their Patron Saint, with mirth, cheerfulness and convivia