Many of Ireland’s brave sons and daughters had to leave Ireland for one reason or another. One of those daughters was Katherine “Katie” Gilnagh who was just seventeen years old when her sister sent for her to come to the United States. She caused a bit of a stir before she left home by having her palm read. The astute (or gifted) fortune-teller told Katie that she’d be crossing water soon and that there’d be a lot of danger, but that no lasting harm would come to her. Soon after the reading, Miss Gilnagh left her family in Cloonnee, Co. Longford and boarded the RMS Titanic as a third-class passenger, bound for America.
The Irish have always flocked to America’s shores for one reason or another. Some have argued that the Irish built America itself, despite its inherent distrust and discriminatory attitudes toward them. And just how did the U.S. repay them for their work? Not well. America treated the Irish horribly. There were anti-Irish riots. There were “No Irish” signs. The Irish people were used and abused for years but they kept coming and eventually they became part of the fabric of the country where many thrived. It’s safe to say that without them, the United States would be a very different place.
Today there are 34.5 million people in the U.S. who claim an Irish heritage, which is nearly 30 million more than the entire population of Ireland itself. This includes the few hundred thousand Irish-born people who currently live and/or work in America legally but it doesn’t count the estimated 10,000-50,000 Irish people who are not legally supposed to be in the country. These folks usually settle in so-called “Sanctuary cities” like New York, Boston, and San Francisco where there are large, established Irish communities and city law enforcement agencies that do not contact or cooperate with immigration officials unless absolutely necessary. It creates an illusion of safety but the pervasive threat of discovery is serious and it’s getting more dire every day.
On this day in 1928, a great Irish warrior passed away. John Devoy lived a long life that was devoted to Irish freedom. For him, despite the many years he was in exile, Ireland was always home and its freedom was the only cause worth fighting for.
The Irish Hunger Memorial stands on the edge of the Hudson River in New York City. It commemorates the journey that many thousands of Irish men, women, and children made to America while fleeing An Gorta Mór – Ireland’s Great Hunger. It is a stunning site that has seen its fair share of controversy and closures, but there’s finally some good news for New York’s little piece of Ireland.
The jet lag has kicked in and I’m having some exhaustion-related come down from my travels, but before I crash, here are just a few more shots of the amazing and poignant Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City. More photos and tales to come soon as soon as I catch up on my sleep.
It really did feel like Ireland there for a minute…
In the heart of Southern Manhattan on the bank of the Hudson, a mystical Irish cottage rises out of the ground. It is surrounded by tall buildings and heavy traffic and seems out of place but it is irresistible and it beckons you inside. When you do enter, be prepared – your heart may break due to both the despair and the longing.
Next week I will begin writing from the other side of the United States – I’m only going to New York for a couple of weeks but I am excited to experience it on a different level than I ever have before. Do any of my readers and fellow writers live in the Big Apple? If so, I am looking for suggestions of what to do and where to go while I visit, since I’m going to be there for a decent amount of time. It is to be my final trip before the centenary in Ireland next year, so I want to make the most of it.
Please comment if there’s something or somewhere that is not to be missed, or if you know about an amazing coffee place, because I am spoiled rotten living here in the bay area. I’ve seen Ellis Island and most of the touristy things already, and am visiting the Mckittrick Hotel again as well. I’ll be there over Easter and am hoping to find a commemoration, since I will miss the one here in the bay and some good traditional music too. I’m looking for all manner of things – Irish or not – though by now it’s probably apparent that the topic is a passionate one for me. That said, where do you like to go when you visit or live in New York?