The Irish in America


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Listowel Man Remembers Day JFK Was Shot

Vincent Carmody of Listowel, County Kerry left the following as a comment here on the blog. I thought it deserved to be seen by all followers of The Irish in America, not just the dedicated comment-readers!

PiccadillyCircus1963_LondonPostcardArchive

Piccadilly Circus, 1963 (via Vintage Everyday, click on image)

I have enjoyed reading Seamus Hora’s two poems.

I was a young man just over in London from Ireland in 1963. I went over in October, the following 22nd of November a work colleague and myself attended a showing of the film, Tom Jones, at the Odeon in Leicester Square. During the showing some people who had come in and sat nearby mentioned that they had heard rumours of President Kennedy been shot.

After the film we were in a pub, Wards of Piccadilly.  At this time news of the shooting was both on Television and in everyone’s conversation. Leaving the pub, the news vendors were selling their first edition with the news of the shooting.
As we rode down the second escalator to the Piccadilly tube platform, we came across a woman who had fainted, her boyfriend who was with her asked us to help. Together we moved her to a bench on the platform, by this time she had recovered, her boyfriend (Jack Shaefer?) told us that he was a marine working at the US. Embassy and that she had been overcome and upset when she heard of the shooting.

We traveled home together and they spoke of Jack’s tour of duty ending and of their return to Pittsburgh. The next I heard of them was nearly a year later when I received a small packet from them  which contained 4 Kennedy Dollar coins. After that we corresponded  for some time, however when I returned to Ireland a couple of years later we lost touch. All of that was over 50 years ago but the memories remain.

Impressive memory, Vincent! I wonder what ever happened to Jack Shaefer and his girl? Maybe someone from Pittsburgh knows????

Vincent also had this to say:

Some of your readers might be interested in looking up the website of a book which I had published last year, it is a social history of my hometown of Listowel. It has got some great reviews. The book’s name is, Listowel, Snapshots of an Irish Market Town, 1850-1950,  the books website address is, www.listoweloriginals.com.

This is not the last we will hear from Vincent. In the coming weeks, he will share a couple of excellent articles with The Irish in AmericaVincent has written about relatives and Listowel natives, and their experiences in America – Chicago politics, US Presidents, and more. Great stuff!

And stay tuned for another great giveaway in March, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day!


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Monica Wood: Irish American from Mexico (Maine)

WWWTK

From the moment she began reading When We Were the Kennedys, my sister, Regan, could not stop talking about the book. Regan reads a lot, but we don’t usually share what we read. I think it’s because our literary tastes differ quite a bit. But that all changed when Regan read, When We Were the Kennedys.  As she finished the book and handed it off to me, she said, “Hurry up now and finish it so we can talk all about it!” (Please keep reading to learn about your chance to win a copy for yourself!)

The Kennedy name surely caught Regan’s eye initially – the iconic Irish American family has always intrigued her – but the blurb on the back sold her. The story begins in 1963 with the close-knit Wood family living in Mexico, Maine. Mexico is a town physically, psychologically, and fiscally dominated by the Oxford Paper Company. The author’s father dies suddenly on his way to work at the Mill one day and life for the Wood family changes forever. We see how the family mourns (at one point with the entire country) and how they begin to make their way back.

Poignant, but never sappy, it is a truly a beautiful memoir. One reviewer said he had never pulled as hard for a family. That is exactly how I felt, and I wanted to learn more about its author, Monica Wood. She mentioned in an interview that both her parents’ families came from an Irish enclave on Prince Edward Island, Canada and that her father was a natural storyteller with a gift for language, but I wondered how else she felt her heritage as an Irish American.

Monica Wood - click photo to learn more about the author!

Monica Wood

Monica was gracious enough to chat a bit and answer a few questions. I began by asking Monica if growing up she was aware of her Irish roots. Monica said very much so and went on to describe the lilting accents of her grandparents and the “many, many Irish expressions that were built into our family lexicon. Lots of colorful expressions.”

I asked if she remembered any and Monica came up with: “Arriving with one arm as long as the other.” Meaning? “You brought nothing to the table.” That’s one I can definitely hear my Irish American relatives saying!

Monica also remembered songs such as “Whiskey You’re the Devil” and “Danny Boy” filling the air of her childhood.

I was interested if Monica ever felt she was treated differently as an American of Irish descent. Mexico, Maine was a town of immigrants and the children of immigrants, so she never felt out-of-place because of her heritage. Monica was proud of it: “…I remember as a child in my town, we still identified by our families’ roots. When a kid asked, ‘What are you?’, my answer was ‘Irish.'”

Monica recently visited Ireland for the first time, spending part of her visit on a houseboat on the Shannon. She was amazed at how, although many generations removed from Ireland, she felt at home in Ireland. The Irish embrace their history and their folklore in such a way that a common ground emerges when descendants of those who left, return. This is why it can feel like coming home for many Irish Americans.

I’d like to share what Monica told me about her visit to Ireland:

My sister Cathe had been there just last year and told me it would feel like coming home. I didn’t think that would be true. But it was. For one thing, so many people reminded me of aunts and uncles and cousins! And they are so very warm, and they LOVE to talk, and sing, and lift a glass to almost anything. The night before we left (I was there with my husband) we ended up singing for 100 people in a pub in Ennis. By the time I got to the final chorus, everyone had learned the song (“Hard Times” by Stephen Foster) and was singing with me. I got the chills, literally, and realized: This is my tribe.

I can imagine that Monica was a big hit with the people of Ennis that night – they do love when you bring a song!

I am so happy to have read When We Were the Kennedys, and if you don’t win the Author-Signed Copy in our little competition here at The Irish in America, you will just have to go out and buy one for yourself, but it probably won’t be signed. Monica even agreed to personalize the inscription (actually it was her idea!)

So, how do you win? It’s easy! Just “like” this post – either click the button below on the blog or like it on Facebook (click here) – and your name will be entered in a drawing to win. Only one entry per person, please. You only have until 11:59pm (EST) Sunday, January 26th. We will announce the winner here on the blog early next week. For more information on the contest, please visit our CONTEST page.

Good luck!

Take a look at this short video and hear Monica talk about When We Were the Kennedys:

Click here to read reviews of When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood.


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Where Were You?

Last November 24th was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President of the United States John F. Kennedy. Many people took a moment on this anniversary to remember where they were when they heard the news.

We recently received an email from Seamus Hora from County Mayo in response to our blog post. He sent along a wonderful poem he wrote describing “where I was when I learned of the sad news of the tragic passing of President J F Kennedy.”

Detroit Tigers v Washington Senators

Where Were You

 

In my mind I see him clearly

As he stood inside the door

We sat and gazed in silence

At the sad news that he bore.

 

We all were fascinated

By this man from USA

Honoured by a visit.

From charismatic JFK

 

The worlds greatest speaker

Simple words-But oh so true.

For a country to be proud of

You must make an effort too.

 

He promised as he left us,

He would return again someday

But a sniper from a window

Sadly had the final say.

 

We had no television

But felt that we were there

For coverage was provided

By the great Michael O Hehir

 

I was playing bingo

The clock had just struck ten

The gambling house Mulrennans

The bearer; Our late friend Eamon Quinn

 

by: Seamus Hora

Seamus Hora was born in Gorthaganny, County Roscommon. He has been employed by same company, Delaneys Ltd in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, for 44 years. He has lived in Ballyhaunis for the past 20 years. Seamus is married to Rosaleen and the couple has one daughter, Sandra. Seamus only recently started to write poetry. and he bases his poems on his life experience. He values feedback and would like to hear what people think of his poem. Please leave a comment!

Thank you, Seamus, for sharing your poem! Stay tuned to the blog for my profile of Monica Wood, the author of the beautiful memoir, When We Were the Kennedys, later this month. You will also have the chance to win a copy of the book!


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One of Our Own

Detroit Tigers v Washington Senators

I received an email yesterday from Mary – Maureen Teahan Murray’s (Meet Maureen and Maureen’s Memories) daughter and collaborator – sharing their memories of the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In recent days people all over the world are remembering that fateful day, November 22, 1963.

Nearly everyone (at least in this country, but elsewhere as well) remembers where they were when they learned that someone shot President Kennedy. I have heard many people say there have been two days like that in their lives: November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001. Mary writes:

I had just turned eight when JFK was assassinated and like many people I remember the day vividly. That Friday I was in Miss Murphy’s second grade class at the Francis Parkman School, Jamaica Plain (Boston) . Although very young Miss Murphy was an extremely strict teacher so I was surprised that afternoon when she abruptly announced she was leaving us alone in the classroom. She told us to do our vocabulary homework which we usually would have done over the weekend.  It was so out of character for her I knew something was very wrong but I had no idea what it was and could never imagine the awful truth. When she finally returned she dismissed us without saying a word about the tragedy. I suppose they thought we were too young to be told and left that difficult task  to our parents.


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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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Wexford: Maps, Oral Histories, and an American President

In addition to the usual information on household and water charges there are a couple of surprises on the Wexford County Council website (they also tweet – check out the latest info here.)

Click on the Interactive Maps link to see a list of maps for nearly every aspect of life in County Wexford – great for visitors and locals alike. Looking for a beach? There are over thirty on this map. Or perhaps a day at a museum is more your style, or even a round of golf. These maps have you covered. Hopefully you will not require medical attention, but if you do, a map of local hospitals is right here.

I love the map of Wexford area attractions. All of the sites I mentioned last time are included, plus a few more. An easy tool for planning a visit to County Wexford!

In the Library section of the County Council’s website, you will find the Oral History Project, complete with podcasts of 130 interviews conducted with residents of County Wexford. The project provides anyone, anywhere the opportunity to listen to Wexford residents tell their stories:

Since 2008, over 130 have been interviewed. The recordings are available here as podcasts and on cd for borrowing from all branch and mobile libraries.Wexford people here are witnesses to and practitioners of aspects of local life which are disappearing fast.Hear about school and childhood, work, trades and crafts, fairs and festivals, shopping and lots more.

If you trace your roots to County Wexford, you may just find a cousin on the alphabetical list of interviews. Select a name from the list and a photograph and a short biography are displayed. It is also possible to browse the interviews by region and townland – another way to learn something new about life in your ancestor’s Ireland.

There were no interviews from Dunganstown, the site of the John F. Kennedy Homestead. Dunganstown is the birthplace of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s great-grandfather Patrick, who emigrated to America in 1849. President Kennedy returned to the small cottage during his 1963 tour of Ireland. This is the speech President Kennedy delivered in Wexford:

It would be interesting to learn if anyone mentioned JFK’s 1963 visit in the Wexford interviews…

It looks like the homestead is closed until 2013 while a modern visitor’s center is built. It will be ready just in time to mark the fifty-year anniversary of Kennedy’s visit. The JFK Park and Arboretum, a beautiful place to visit, is also located in Wexford (it’s on the map!)

President Kennedy’s Irish roots spread across Ireland beyond County Wexford  – his maternal Fitzgerald great-grandfather came from County Limerick. Click here to read more about President Kennedy’s Irish connections.

This is a great video of President Kennedy in Galway and Limerick in 1963. Enjoy!