The Irish in America


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Wexford – The American Connection

Readers of this blog may be aware of President John F. Kennedy’s Dunganstown, County Wexford roots. President Kennedy went home to Wexford for a visit in 1963. But Wexford’s connection to America does not begin and end with Kennedy. The Father of the American Navy, Commodore John Barry was a Wexford native. A new book exploring these connections, and more, was recently published by the Wexford Borough Council. Please read the following press release for more information. Click here for a sample of the great photography in the book and to read the forward by the Mayor of Wexford, Councillor Jim Allen.

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Relatives Who Served in the United States Military

Jim takes some time out this Memorial Day weekend to honor his McCormack relatives who served in the United States military…

As I researched my family history I noted that the following served our country in military service and I wanted to remember them on Memorial Day.

WW I

Army, France

  •  John Lambert McCormack
  • Philip Columbus McCormick
  • Benjamin Patrick McCormick
  • Michael Burns
  • Pat Burns
  • William Flannery
  • Bernard Flannery

Navy

  •  John Patrick McCormick
  • Jack Nugent
  • Phil Nugent

WW II

  • William McCormack (Army)
  • James F. McCormack (Army, Aleutian Islands)
  • Philly McCormack (Army, Pacific)
  • Zach Kruger (Army, Pacific)
  • Phillip Eugene McCormick (Navy)
  • Phil McDonald (Navy)
  • Patrick Frances McCormick(Army Air Corps, 35 Missions over Europe)
  • Jimmy Flannery (Army, Europe)

Post WW II

  • Ed Burns (Army, Korea)
  • K.J. McDonald (Air Force, Korea)
  • Patrick Benjamin McCormick (Army)

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A Time to Remember Irish American War Heroes

MemorialDayNext Monday, May 27th, is Memorial Day in the United States. Memorial Day occurs on the last Monday in May each year, and while the long weekend has come to signal the kick-off to summer, traditionally it is a day set aside to remember those members of the Armed Forces whom have died in service to the United States.

For many Americans, the meaning of Memorial Day has broadened to include remembrance of all deceased loved ones – those who served in the military and not. In my book, Memorial Day is a perfect holiday – we get together with family and friends to celebrated the beginning of summer, while keeping in mind those who have gone before us.

When Irish people contact us for help learning more about their relatives who came to America, so often they mention the relatives military service. They say with a sense of pride that their grand-uncle served in World War II after emigration. One woman from Galway shared with me how her family would say an extra rosary at night for “the boys in the war” – American cousins she had never met – during the Korean War in the 1950s.

The Waterford County Museum in Dungarvan makes a special effort to remember the contributions of Irish emigrants to their adopted homelands, and they pay tribute to Ballinroad, County Waterford native John Mansfield. John Mansfield (1906-1965) emigrated to America in 1927 and served in World War II. An exhibit case at the museum contains Mansfield’s medals and honors, photographs, and a biography outlining his service. Read about John Mansfield on the museum’s blog here.

An account of Mansfield’s 4th Armored Division on CombatReels.com indicates that the division trained in England for six months before landing on Utah Beach in Normandy on July 11, 1944. I wonder what it felt like for John to be so close to home?

Since John Mansfield’s medals made their way to County Waterford, it’s probably safe to say he had no children or “next of kin” in the United States. There may be no one left today to remember his service and sacrifice, so I plan to keep him in my thoughts this weekend.

Click here to view a photo of John and Bridget (Power) Mansfield, John’s parents. Waterford County Museum Image Archive has a fully searchable database of all the fabulous photographs in the collection. Plus, if you see something you like, you can buy it for your own collection!

 


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Ireland Celebrates America’s Independence Day

Wouldn’t you know that even the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest held every year on the Fourth of July on New York’s Coney Island has an Irish connection?

Legend has it that on July 4, 1916 Irish immigrant James Mullan consumed 13 hot dogs in 12 minutes during a hot dog eating competition. The contest was set up by hot dog stand owner Nathan Handwerker when he witnessed four immigrant men arguing over who was the most American of the group.

How do you prove your American-ness? Naturally, eat the most hot dogs in a single sitting! At least this was Nathans’s solution – he didn’t want the disagreement to turn into a brawl and if they were busy eating hot dogs, they couldn’t fight.

Nathan was a genius. His effort at conflict resolution turned into one of the best marketing gimmicks ever. The contest is still going strong, nearly one-hundred years later. Read the full story here. In case you are wondering, Joey Chesnut won last year’s contest – 62 hot dogs in ten minutes. Only in America?

Thankfully we don’t need to gorge ourselves with hot dogs to prove our patriotism or to celebrate the Fourth of July. The McCormack family has typically taken a low-key approach to the holiday – usually just fireworks by the Mississippi and burgers on the grill – nothing too extravagant.

I think that is why I am so impressed by the Fourth of July festivities planned by the folks in Wexford and Limerick this year. Wexford’s Irish America Day features a parade, Mark Twain readings, a performance by comedian Des Bishop, American-style BBQ, fireworks, and much, much more.

The Prom Night being held July 2nd at the Brandon House Hotel and Spa is especially creative. They are even crowning an Prom King and Prom Queen. This is a trip down memory lane for anyone who attended high school in the USA. There will also be the posthumous induction of Liam Clancy to the Irish American Hall of Fame at the Dunbrody Emigration Centre on Wednesday. Visit the Irish America Day website for the full schedule of events!

It is the inaugural year for the 4th of July Limerick celebration as well. Limerick has an entire slate of events stretching out to the weekend following the Fourth (I know a lot of Americans who are also stretching the holiday out!) A couple of the events that look particularly interesting are the Hip Hop Festival (all weekend) and the Cookie Making demonstration on Saturday.

It looks like Dolan’s is the place to be for music with Brian McCann singing Billy Joel favorites on Wednesday, the Hot 8 Brass Band on Thursday, and the Last Waltz Tribute on Saturday. Limerick restaurants, bars, hotels, and retailers will also run special offers through the weekend. Don’t forget the Treasure Hunt on Sunday. I had a sneak peek at the questions and it is a fantastic hunt!

To top it all off, there will be fireworks over the Shannon on Sunday night. Click here for the complete list of events. I suspect there will be plenty of oooohs and aaaahs in both Wexford and Limerick over the Fourth of July.

If you are an American in Ireland, how fun to experience the Irish take on the American holiday. And if you are Irish, try to make it to either Wexford or Limerick next week to experience something a little different. The Fourth of July is the perfect time to think about your family and friends who have emigrated over the years and became Americans themselves. Plus, who doesn’t like to celebrate gaining independence from the British?

Where ever you are this Fourth of July, I hope you have a wonderful time. Enjoy!