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    First Irish history of Missouri available on audio download

    Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

    Following my post mentioning the first history ever written on the Irish of Vermont, I received a note from Mike O’Laughlin, an accomplished Irish-American genealogist and historian, who informed me he’s the author of the first book on the Irish of Missouri.

    Missouri Irish began life as a hardcover but is now available as an audiobook from IrishRoots.com.

    It looks particularly interesting as the history begins in 1770; eighteenth-century Irish immigration to the US is a story too infrequently told. Here are the notes from the table of contents:

    Part One
    1770 – 1804. Irish Settlers in the Spanish Regime…
    Indian Mounds and Tara Hills.
    Immigration…Religious Ties and Conflicts…
    West vs. East …
    The First Irish-American Settlement in the Bois Brule Bottom.

    Part Two
    1804 – 1900. The First Irish Americans
    Pioneer Journalists … Mexican War … Steamboat Irish … Indian War
    …The Famine Irish … Murphy’s Wagon replaced by the
    Railroad … Slavery … Civil War Irish.

    Part Three
    Irish Immigration and Distribution
    Irish Settlements in Missouri … City vs. Farm .. Population by County
    … Irish Settlements …O’Fallon Missouri … Donnybrook …
    Moving on from Missouri

    Part Four
    The Irish in the Cities.
    Saint Louis… Brady & McKnight … O’Connor… Mullanphy ..
    The Kerry Patch … Kansas City…. First Newspaper …
    Father Bernard Donnelly … The first Irish in Kansas City …
    The History of the St. Patricks Day Parade …
    The Shamrock Society … A.O.H. St. Joseph and Buchanan County…
    On the overland trail

    Part Five
    The Irish Wilderness Settlement
    Rev. J.J. Hogan … Lifestyle … Chillicothe … Brookfield … Ripley
    and Oregon Counties … Iron Mountain Railroad.

    Part Six
    My Irish American Heritage.
    The Sullivans, Donahues, Buckleys, Irish American Development.

    I hope that this is a trend and we’ll see histories of the Irish in all fifty states of the US!

    Visit IrishRoots.com – host Michael O’Loughlin has been working on Irish family history and genealogy since 1978!

    First history of Irish in Vermont published

    Monday, January 11th, 2010

    The first-ever book on the history of the Irish in Vermont has been published, authored by historian Vincent E. Feeney. “Finnigans, Slaters and Stonepeggers: A History of the Irish in Vermont,” examines the Irish experience in the state from the 1760s through the twentieth century.

    Feeney says the Irish stayed in their ethnic ghetto for over a century, before the community assimilated in the later years of the twentieth century. The Times-Argus carries a review.

    (Images From the Past, 2009, 250 pages, $19.95 paperback)

    Related web pages:

    NY to get Irish Arts Center with €2.3 million grant

    Monday, December 7th, 2009

    New York will get a major new Irish landmark, with the announcement today that Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has granted€2.3 million for the construction of an Irish Arts Centre in Manhattan.

    The press release from the Department of Foreign Affairs said:

    The Minister said one of the main themes to emerge from the attendees at the Global Irish Economic Forum was the importance of Irish Culture to the image of this country abroad and in particular in the USA. He noted that this was also an important conclusion of the Strategic Review of Ireland US Relations, published by the Taoiseach last March. Minister Martin said he was extremely impressed by the arguments made at Farmleigh by members of the business and cultural sectors alike.

    Announcing the grant from the Emigrant Support Programme managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Minister said:

    “The allocation of such significant funding is a clear demonstration of the Government’s strong commitment to the building of the new Irish Arts Centre in New York. This funding is a response to the extraordinary gesture of the City of New York in making a site, valued at $12 million available for the project, along with a further $8 million in capital funding.

    The construction of the New York Irish Arts Centre is identified as a priority in the revised Programme for Government and I would like to pay tribute to Minister Martin Cullen for his longstanding support and commitment to the project.

    The new Centre will project a dynamic image of Ireland and Irish America across the US; it will facilitate extensive Irish-related cultural, business and community programmes; will showcase quality contemporary Irish theatre and art; and will also provide an invaluable resource for the Irish emigrant community in the US?.

    The Minister paid warm tribute to New York City Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn for their exceptional support for the initiative. He also thanked Gabriel Byrne for his support for the Arts Centre and for his longstanding work in promoting Irish culture throughout the US.

    Minister Martin said that this major initiative demonstrates how seriously the Government views the outcome of the Farmleigh Forum:

    “Everybody at Farmleigh said that the success of the Conference could only be judged by the quality of the follow up. Today I have begun to demonstrate that despite the difficult budgetary situation, we are determined to continue investing in our unique resource- the Irish Diaspora and its cultural heritage.

    This is just the beginning and I will be making further announcements in the New Year.

    Other ideas which are being actively progressed include: a new Global Irish Network; the establishment of an Irish innovation centre in Silicon Valley; the Gateway Ireland portal, which would serve as a key online focus for promoting Ireland abroad and engaging with our global community; expanded educational exchange and scholarship programmes to increase engagement with younger generations; and a new Farmleigh Overseas Graduate Programme. I am aware that a number of other Departments are also taking forward initiatives suggested at Farmleigh. I am similarly encouraged by the fact that significant work has already been undertaken by participants themselves on a number of projects that are more suitably advanced by the private sector. These will have the support of the Government.?

    He pointed out that at its meeting on 13 October, the Government considered a comprehensive report prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Management Institute. The full report contains a detailed list of the main themes and specific proposals to emerge and is available on (www.dfa.ie and www.globalirishforum.ie).

    The Government has also established a new inter-Departmental Committee, chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Taoiseach, to consider the proposals and monitor progress across Departments. The Committee has already begun its work and will report to Government in the New Year.

    The Minister emphasised that the Government is absolutely committed to engagement with the Irish Diaspora across all regions and all sectors:

    “Through the Emigrant Support Programme, we will continue to offer support to all sections of our Diaspora. In addition to the increased economic element to our work arising from the recent Forum, I am determined to ensure that we continue to attach a high priority to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable members of the Irish abroad.?

    Irish gems of early cinema showcased in Boston

    Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

    The Boston Irish Film Festival looks like it’s up to great stuff these days. The website is out of action at the festival rebrands, but this month moviegoers are being treated to a look back at the earliest days of Irish cinematic history.

    “Blazing the Trail: The Story of the Kalem Film Company in Ireland” is being billed as

    a unique multimedia event that takes you back to the early 1910s when pioneering screenwriter/actress Gene Gauntier and director Sidney Olcott of the Kalem Film Company blazed a trail from New York to Killarney-and into history!

    Affectionately known as the “O’Kalems,” Gauntier, Olcott, and their crew became the first American filmmakers to shoot overseas and the first to produce films that reflected the realities of the Irish experience. A sentimental mix of rebel dramas, folk romances, and tales of exile and emigration, their films proved tremendously popular with the Irish in America and helped ease the pangs of being so far from home.

    I love the idea that these films were made in part to assuage the pangs of homesickness in an immigrant audience. How thrilling – and heartbreaking – it must have been to be able to see Ireland on screen in the earliest days of cinema, thinking that the black-and-white images might be the  closest thing to home you might ever see again.

    The programme will consist of a number of these short films, all digitally restored. The original films – some of which haven’t been screened in a century – will be accompanied by a pianist and two vocalists; there will also be a series of recently produced short films recounting the adventures of the Kalem film-makers.

    Watch this quirky little preview:

    The Boston Film Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary a year ago. Organisations like this (and the New York-based Irish-American Writers and Artists, for example) are a great reminder of the appetite for intelligent contributions on Irish-American heritage, and how much vitality there is on the Irish-American cultural scene; this  vitality is far too  often underestimated here in Ireland, where many people cling to inaccurate and outdated stereotypes of our diaspora.

    The event is sponsored by Reel Ireland, the Arts Council, and Culture Ireland. In recent years, there has been an increase in funding available from Ireland for Irish cultural events taking place outside of Ireland – this will surely have a great impact in strengthening the relationship between arts communities abroad and in Ireland, and also with deepening the understanding between Ireland and its diaspora communities.

    The programme will be screened on Monday, November 23 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, Harvard Street in Brookline; tickets cost $9.75.

    If you’re not near Boston, you can watch (most of) “The Lad from Old Ireland” on YouTube (I think it’s from a German print, so it’s complete with a little bit of German text). Directed by Sydney Olcott and released in 1910, it’s the first American film shot on location outside the US. Eleven highly entertaining minutes of melodrama!  Part 1 and Part 2.

    Related web pages:

    New books published: “After the Flood” on post-war Irish America, “Musical Traditions of Northern Ireland and its Diaspora”

    Friday, July 17th, 2009

    Two books published this week will surely be of interest to scholars of the Irish diaspora.

    “After the Flood: Irish America 1945-1960″, edited by James Silas Rogers and Matthew J. O’Brien, takes a fresh look at the Irish-American experience during the post-war period. The publishers say:

    The essays in this volume examine diverse aspects of the Irish-American community during the postwar years and cover both the immigrant community within the US – which witnessed a surge in immigration from Ireland – and the subsequent expressions of an Irish identity among later generation ethnics. Essays consider both social and political history, such as ethnic anti-communism and American responses to Partition, and significant representations of Irish life in popular culture, such as The Last Hurrah (1956) or The Quiet Man (1952). The study shows that the Irish-American community was lively and, in many ways, dissimilar from “mainstream” American life in this period. The supposedly deracinated descendants of earlier immigrants were nonetheless well aware that the larger culture perceived something distinctive about being Irish, and throughout this period they actively sought to define – often in deflected ways – just what that distinctiveness could mean.

    “The Musical Traditions of Northern Ireland and its Diaspora: Community and Conflict” is as much about the North’s cultural dynamics as it is about the music itself. From the publishers:

    For at least two centuries, and arguably much longer, Ireland has exerted an important influence on the development of the traditional, popular and art musics of other regions, and in particular those of Britain and the United States. During the past decade or so, the traditional musics of the so-called Celtic regions have become a focus of international interest. The phenomenal success of shows such as Riverdance (which appeared in 1995, spawned from a 1994 Eurovision Song Contest interval act) brought Irish music and dance to a global audience and played a part in the further commoditization of Irish culture, including traditional music.

    However, there has up to now been relatively little serious musicological study of the traditional music of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland remains a divided community in which traditional culture, in all its manifestations, is widely understood as a marker of religious affiliation and ethnic identity. Since the outbreak of the most recent ‘troubles’ around 1968, the borders between the communities have often been marked by music. For example, many in the Catholic, nationalist community, regard the music of Orange flute bands and Lambeg drums as a source of intimidation. Equally many in the Protestant community have distanced themselves from Irish music as coming from a different ethnic tradition, and some have rejected tunes, styles and even instruments because of their association with the Catholic community and the Irish Republic. Of course, during the same period many other Protestants and Catholics have continued to perform in an apolitical context and often together, what in earlier times would simply have been regarded as folk or country music.

    With the increasing espousal of a discrete Ulster Scots tradition since the signing of the Belfast (or ‘Good Friday’) Agreement in 1998, the characteristics of the traditional music performed in Northern Ireland, and the place of Protestant musicians within popular Irish culture, clearly require a more thoroughgoing analysis. David Cooper’s book provides such analysis, as well as ethnographic and ethnomusicological studies of a group of traditional musicians from County Antrim. In particular, the book offers a consideration of the cultural dynamics of Northern Ireland with respect to traditional music.

    For more information:

    Photographer explores Irish-American loss, landscape

    Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

    An Irish-American artist’s exploration of her family’s emigrant heritage is on display at the Indiana State Museum’s “Making it in the Midwest” exhibition. Cynthia Dell’s project, called “Migrations”, features transparencies of old family photographs juxtaposed against a backdrop of the landscape of her ancestral home.

    Several of the photos are available on her website. The artist says on the site, “In this work I am seeking to find beauty out of the loss that is the history of so many Irish Americans.” The images are haunting, as the ghostly figures of the photographs contrast with the bright, solid backgrounds.

    O’Dell expands on her work in an article from Depauw University Press:

    “I am trying to recreate my own family album in an impossible scenario, and as a result I am creating a new story,” O’Dell says. “Growing up, I was told that I was Irish. In Migrations, I was interested in posing the question, ‘How do I make sense of that identity?’ By symbolically taking my ancestors back to their native country, I attempted to complete the circle of their migration pattern – to convey loss while also exploring the redemptive and beautiful qualities of the Irish landscape in the midst of pain.”

    The group exhibition is on display from June 20 to October 18.

    Related websites:

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