Considering a purchase of historical novel Divide the Dawn? Have a free listen to the Prologue, read by actor Stephen Dalton.
Should Andrew Jackson be considered Irish-American? The answer is a resounding yes, but with an invisible asterisk, to be sure, to be sure. Why? Would you call a fisherman a “fish”? He may smell of fish, but that is because he kills them.
A Twitter battle between myself and Northern Ireland crime writer Adrian McKinty flared up recently. Actually it was more of a slaughter as I was blindsided by his profanity-laced insults, roaring rhetoric and theatrical hysterics that would make even the sainted martyrs blush with embarrassment.
McKinty had posted a comment about an article in the New York Times called Donald Trump, Joe Biden and the Vote of the Irish. His critical analysis (he went to Oxford, so he should know how to analyze and cite text as deftly as he calls strangers “stupid” on Twitter) included the comments, “this article gets it all wrong JFK was not the first Irish American president.”
Eager to see the “paper of record” make a mistake, I read the article and found that it never said JFK was the first Irish American president. At all. Ever.
When I pointed this out to McKinty, you would have thought I threatened to cut off his genitalia and set them alight on a bonfire in Portadown. He took it as an opportunity to put himself on the cross and proclaim everyone has Irish-American history wrong. Real Irish-American history is Presbyterian. That old Papist version of Irish-American history has gotten it wrong all these long years (even as no one had argued that point but him).
Religious sectarianism may be something that is familiar to McKinty in Northern Ireland, but in the states it’s a bit old-world (we prefer to get our dander up over racism and sexism). Americans do not take kindly to having history rammed down our throats with a cross like an Ian Paisley speech on the streets of Belfast. Our history is not solely about religion. Religion is a mere aspect of history, not a deciding factor.
Loyalty to Ireland – My main contention, and the contention of millions of Americans is; How can people call themselves Irish if their sole purpose is to solidify a union with colonial Britain? It’s even in the name of their organizations such as the Ulster Unionist Party, Protestant Unionist Party and the modern Democratic Unionist Party, parties that have proudly sought to undermine the Republic of Ireland and strengthen ties to England, who had oppressed Ireland for hundreds of years. As another person on the thread (@planetcarnival) mentioned, “It’s sophistry to define descendants of Ulster Scots as Irish Americans.”
No one disputes that Presbyterians from Scotland were “planted” in Northern Ireland centuries ago by the English crown after Irish Gaelic Lord Hugh O’Neal was defeated in the Nine Years’ War. The Scots were planted, as in given land in Ireland, to shift power from Irish-speaking natives to a group of people loyal to the colonial English crown.
There is no religious or ethnicity test for being Irish-American. I would contend you are Irish-American if you see yourself as Irish-American. That’s all it takes.
But if you are invested in dividing Ireland, via religion and colonialism, yet call yourself Irish, what should we say?
It’s a little bit like if Andrew Jackson calling himself a Native American, (the same Andrew Jackson who signed the Indian Removal Act, which forcibly relocated most Native American tribes to outlier territories, which resulted in widespread death and disease).
Yes Andrew Jackson was the first Irish-American president (John F. Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic president). But let Jackson have an invisible asterisk like Roger Maris, who hit 61 home runs to beat Babe Ruth’s home run record, though it took him eight more games.
Hint, there never was an asterisk, it was implied.
Eamon Loingsigh is the author of historical novel Divide the Dawn.
A popular new book called Divide the Dawn features the Irish White Hand Gang, one of many that once ruled the streets of industrial era Brooklyn.
In 1876, the New York Times described the conditions across the East River before the Brooklyn Bridge connected Manhattan and Brooklyn.
“Desperate outrages by organized gangs of ruffians have been of frequent occurrence in Brooklyn.”
The words “gangs” and “Brooklyn” go hand in hand, though you wouldn’t really know it since the Manhattan gangs, particularly from the Five Points section, have traditionally gotten all the press over the years. In reality, street and dock gangs flourished in Brooklyn in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
In fact the most famous gangster of all time called his home Navy Street just outside of Brooklyn’s Irishtown in what now is called the DUMBO, Vinegar Hill, Navy Yard area. Al Capone, or “Scarface Al,” eventually became a rising star in the Italian mob, was forced out of Brooklyn by the infamous Irish dock gang called “The White Hand.”
The Irish gang “played too tough,” and Al Capone was too valuable, so he was sent to Chicago where he made his name, instead of in his own hometown, Brooklyn.
Without the world realizing, Brooklyn has always had the best gangs. And I am here to prove it. For the first time, we have a comprehensive listing of Brooklyn’s gangs unearthing the meanest, rowdiest, drunken, fist-fighting corner loafers, bounty jumpers, bank robbers, highway robbers, political bullies, dock wallopers, pierhouse rats. . . The most rugged young larrikins the world has not remembered. Until now. With monikers like Joe Grapes, Scabby McCloskey, Pegleg Lonergan, Goose McCue, Pickles Laydon, Skinny Wilson, Yeller Kelly and my own personal favorite, Cute Charlie Red Donnelly.
Jackson Hollow Gang – (1840s-1901) One of the most prevalent and certainly long-lasting gangs in Brooklyn. The area formerly known as “Jackson Hollow” was the gang’s home turf. An 1858 article in the New York Times, which was essentially a crude census of the “inmates” of the squatters in the area was described thusly, “Upon Grand Avenue, North of Myrtle Avenue, there are 44 shanties having 230 inmates… Between DeKalb and Lafayette Avenues, 20 shanties having 90 inmates… A total of 340 shanties having 1,427 inhabitants of the Hollow… How this large number contrive to subsist at all is a wonder.” It had many gangs, but one in particular dominated from their original arrival in the 1840s due to The Great Hunger in Ireland to the turn of the century when they were still committing crimes in Brooklyn, the Jackson Hollow Gang… In July of 1876, the Jackson
Hollow Gang made a big splash in all the New York dailies, including the New York Times, when on the corner of Steuben and Myrtle avenue, they killed on Officer Scott of the Fourth Brooklyn Precinct. When Officer Scott told “a gang of rowdies” to disburse, they verbally abused him and then crushed his skull with a brick thrown at him. Still in operation during the elections of November, 1901 where the gang was planning to perform robberies while the police were busy at the poll stations. One of the gang members William “Solly” Ryan, who was a very well known boxer, beat up and bit officer John Egan at the corner of Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street. A second officer arrived and helped subdue, then arrest Ryan. The gang was described as “an organization composed of the most desperate criminals in the city. Hardly a day passes that some outrage is not traced to the agency of these ruffians. Scott is not the first policeman who has been sent to an untimely grave by this band of outlaws.”
Neighborhoods they roamed: Clinton Hill, Downtown, Irishtown, Navy Yard, Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg.
Some of the gang members were: James McQuaid, George W. Sanders, Edward Wheelihan, John Hurley, Edward Hill, Christopher Callahan, James O’Neill, John Conlon, Philip Craddock, Thomas McGuire, Peter McCabe, James Connolly, Thomas Baldwin, John Connors, John Gallagher, William Phalen.
Tillary Street Gang – (1849-1881) Originated in the late 1840s, was a politically motivated gang within the Brooklyn Republican Party representing the newly arrived Irish, the gang was described as “the hardest gang in the neighborhood of City Hall.” In the area from Tillary Street to Hudson Avenue in Irishtown, “no policemen dared to patrol that beat alone.” Known for political intimidation, some members were also charged with robbery. First appearing in the newspapers in 1849 at City Hall during a Republican nominations meetings, the Tillary Street Gang, described as “mostly Irishmen” stormed the front row and “had evidently prepared themselves for a row.” Twenty years later in 1869 we find them again amidst a riot between them and another gang in front of a saloon on the corner of Johnson and Navy streets where one James Dunnigan was shot and killed. In 1870, a 19 year-old member of this gang snuck into a lodging at night and when confronted by the occupant, shot at him, then fled. When police went to the young gangster’s home, his mother complained to them about not being able to control him. In 1876, a gang member shot at saloon-keeper Philip Duffy, missing him. After being arrested at a local rookery where the Tillary Street Gang hung out, the gang member was
released as Duffy refused to press charges. In 1881, the Tillary Street Gang crowded around the polling places in Brooklyn, which the reporter stated were intimidating pollers that supported Democrat “Boss” McLaughlin. A few years earlier, a Tillary Street Gang member broke up a Fourth Ward Republican Association meeting by storming to the podium and shaking his fist in the face of the association’s president. The meeting was quickly adjourned.
Neighborhoods they roamed: Irishtown, Fulton Street Landing (DUMBO), Navy Yard
Some of the gang members were: James Curry, Robert Berry, Pat Foley, Thomas Howard, James & Mathew Carberry, John Kilroy, Thomas Kilmead.
North Fifth Street Gang – (1860s) A gang that centered its operations around bounty jumping during the Civil War. Members would accept money to go to war so that a richer boy wouldn’t have to, then go AWOL with the money in their pocket.
Neighborhoods they roamed: North Williamsburg
Some of the gang members were: “Punch” Devlin, Jack McCormack a.k.a. “McAlpine.”
Pete Rogers’ Gang – (1860s) Were involved in the robbery and bounty jumping business during the Civil War. A clever, expert burglar, Rogers had a crew that followed him. After robbing a bakery on Union Avenue, Rogers disappeared until he was implicated in a New Jersey robbery, for which he escaped and was never heard from again.
Neighborhoods they roamed: Williamsburg
Some of the gang members were: Pete Rogers, “Matches” Read, Charley McGarvey
The Velvet Caps of Irishtown – (1860s-1870s) Not too much is known about this gang, but what is known can be attributed to Michael J. Shay, a.k.a. The Gas Drip Bard, who often wrote into the Brooklyn Standard Union’s Old-Timers‘ section. He described The Velvet Caps of Irishtown as famous for wearing skin tight pants, like real “dudes” of the era, with blue shirts and caps made of velvet, obviously. In a 1924 article, he wrote about “The Seige of Irishtown” when the Marines were sent into Irishtown in 1873 through the Navy Yard in order to put a stop to the illegal distilleries that made Irish “poteen” and was sold without Uncle Sam’s gaining his tax from it. “Whiskey was the prevailing beverage down there, water was mainly used to wash with,” The Gas Drip Bard proclaimed. So when the Velvet Caps of Irishtown, a local gang close to the distillery owners, found out the Marines were on the way, the gang took a large still and attempted to throw it into the East River until the siege was over. The Marines caught up to them however and a terrible fight ensued for which they had neither the weapons or the numbers the Marines did. The Gas Drip Bard was there when it happened, he says in the 1924 article. No doubt a young and impressionable youth at that time, however. He then repeated the poem written by one Johnny Manning, a previous Irishtown bard and “the leading literary genius of Irishtown in those good old days.” Here’s an excerpt:
“The first place that was taken was in Little Water Street,
The Dutchmen with their axes were a fearful crowd of beats,
They dragged a still out carelessly and threw it on the ground,
Saying ‘Soldiers, watch those Velvet Caps, they’re the boys of Irishtown.’”
(The “Dutchmen” were the Marines under Revenue Officer Silas B. Dutcher)
Neighborhoods they roamed: Irishtown
Battle Row Gang – (1871 -1890) This gang, according to an 1875 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was “composed of the scum of the Fourteenth Ward (Williamsburg).” They were known mostly as “fighters and rowdies” who hung out at “Crow” McGoldrick’s saloon on Union Avenue and North First Street.The Battle Row Gang became famous in the area when Henry Rogers in July of 1871 killed an officer Donohoe and became the first person in many years to suffer the death penalty in Kings County by hanging. In June of that year, two opposing elements of this gang had a horrendous fight where
“pistols, knives, fists and slungshots were freely used and the battle raged furiously and unrestrained” for thirty minutes. It started in what we now call Highland Park when one gang pushed a trolley on its side while filled with their opponents. One dying member, Patrick Cash, was asked to name his assailants, to which he replied “I’d die with the name of the fellow in my throat, before I’d give him away.” In 1879, two members of the Battle Row Gang were charged with many thefts from chicken farms in Queens. After stealing them, they sold them to butchers in their Williamsburg neighborhood.
Neighborhoods they roamed: Williamsburg, Bushwick, Queens,
Some of the gang members were: Patrick Cash, “Buck” Doolan, The Powell family, Richard Brien, Edward Kane, Patrick Head, John Pieman, George Fleming, William & James Carberry, John Dougherty, Johnny Reynolds, John Donohoe, Nellie Larkin, Patrick O’Mahony, Patrick Carney.
North Sixth Street Gang – (1870s) Former Forty Thieves gang leader “Skinny” Wilson was one of the leaders of this gang. Some of the elder gang members were also one time members of the Battle Row Gang. They were notorious for burglary and highway robbery. Leaders often spent long stints in Sing Sing, which led to a lot of turnover.
Neighborhoods they roamed: North Williamsburg,
Some of the gang members were: “Skinny” Wilson, “Goose” McCue, “Sugar” Van Wagner, Jack Dunne, Jim Kirwin.
Atlantic Avenue Gang – (1870s) A gang that was “about as hard a looking set of young desperadoes as one could meet in a day’s travel.” Members of this gang were arrested in 1875 for mugging a man on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Boerum Street.
Neighborhoods they roamed: Cobble Hill
Some of the gang members were: James Harrigan, Thomas Hays, Thomas Thornton, Charles Nesel.
Myrtle Avenue Gang – (1872-1885) Known as simple hooligans who were charged with assaulting many police officers and drunken rowdyism. In 1883 In 1885 one member interrupted a Civil War Veterans picnic at the old High Ground Park (no longer exists) at the corner of Myrtle and Throop. He was “put out” three times, the third time he punched the officer who clubbed and arrested him. The gang assaulted another police officer also that year by throwing paving stones and fighting him while “working the growler” and getting themselves drunk and loud by singing old songs. At one point the gang split in two, the “Dusters” supported by the much bigger Jackson Hollow Gang, and the “Barkers,” who clashed at a saloon at 254 Myrtle Avenue.
Neighborhoods they roamed: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick,
Some of the gang members were: Joe Grapes, Paddy Burns, Scabby McCloskey, Patrick Lally, Pierce Keating, Maggie McGrath, Dan Callahan, John McCann, John March.
Patchen Avenue Gang – (1876-1881) Burglars & bank robbers. This is not necessarily a Brooklyn gang, though it’s most famous leader “Red” Leary was famously apprehended there by the Pinkerton Agency. In 1876, this gang successfully robbed the Northhampton Bank in Northhampton, Massachusetts of $1.6 million. In 1879, Leary was arrested and by 1881, the rest were rounded up by Robert Pinkerton, son of Allan Pinkerton who created the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.
Neighborhoods they roamed: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Fort Hamilton
Some of the gang members were: “Shang” Draper, “Red” Leary, Robert “Hustling Bob” Scott, Gilbert Yost, Thomas Dunlap, Billy Porter.
The Kettle Gang – (1877-1886) These “youthful highwaymen” in Williamsburg once roamed in an area known as “Pickleville” and were called the Kettle Gang. They got their name from the empty kettles or growlers they carried with them as they sat outside small businesses to beg, annoy and threaten people for enough money to fill their kettles up with beer. This practice, according to the New York Herald in 1885, eventually became known as “working the growler.” In September of 1877, two men were involved in a prize-fight inside a shanty that the gang occupied. August Baxter of Melrose Street and “Wopper” Seidler of Bushwick Avenue were both arrested. A crowd of gangsters and their followers attempted to wrest the two boxers away from police at Bushwick Avenue. There were multiple complaints of this gang mistreating women over the years. In 1879, a man was knifed in a robbery at Bridge and Tillary streets. Police blamed the Kettle Gang. In 1881, three men were raided in their hangout because they “disturbed the whole neighborhood by their orgies.” Which probably meant they were drunk and disorderly, instead of naked and copulating. The Kettle Gang also ran around the Wallabout Bay waterfront area and the Upper East Side of Manhattan where they were known to have long feuds with the police, including throwing rocks and paving stones at them from building tops, known as “Irish confetti.” In 1886, two Kettle Gang members were arrested for offering a Polish man employment, then choked and robbed him.
Neighborhoods they roamed: Williamsburg, Bushwick, Irishtown, Wallabout Bay waterfront, Upper East Side-Manhattan
Some of the gang members were: “Pop” Reilly, “Crook” Connorton, “Snow” McLaughlin, “Rake” Kelly, “Buck” Walsh, “Brock” Harrington, Thomas “Fat Farley” White, Charles Kleka, James McGarra, John Seitz, Robert Garrity, Henry Frank, Andreas Brennis, John Somerendyke, Andrew Wheeler, Edward McGuire, Joseph Betts, Adam Scharf.
Meeker Avenue Gang – (1870s) Their hang out was Sullivan’s Saloon, which was located
at the corner of Meeker and Graham Avenues. Members of this gang were also in the North Sixth Street Gang after being driven out of Sullivan’s Saloon, although in 1875, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported this gang forced entry into a saloon to get free beer. Some of the elder gang members were once in the Battle Row Gang. One member was charged and convicted for stealing a pair of shoes valued at $2. In 1873, the gang invaded a saloon at 333 Devoe Street and trashed it, taking the owner and his wife as hostage when the police showed up. An Officer Ward’s face and cheek was grazed by a bullet from the gang.
Neighborhoods they roamed: Greenpoint, Bushwick
Some of the gang members were: James Carmen, Daniel Powers, James Kiernan, Abe Gibson, Thomas Brady, Tom McDonald, Jim McGuire
Gang of the Green (1885-1892) – The “green” referred to in this gang was the “open space between Bushwick and Greenpoint,” The New York Herald reported. An off-shoot of the infamous Battle Row Gang, this was a small-time gang known for highway robbery, drunken revelry, fighting with police and muggings who had a headquarters on Union Avenue. In 1885, a gang member simply known as “Bender” attempted to rob a taxi of its cash box. In September of 1886, on the corner of Union and North Second Street at a bar called Fagin & McDonald, one of the owners was challenged to a fight outside by a patron. A donnybrook ensued and five men were arrested. In June of 1891, a drunken gangster brawled with a police officer, kicking him multiple times in the head before eventually being subdued. In November, another gang member robbed two Chinese men who owned a laundry store at 337 Second Street. One of the gang members was stabbed in the neck with a pen-knife, then arrested. After sentencing, the judge said to him, “I know… that you are a member of the notorious Gang of the Green. I want to say that every time a member of your gang is convicted before me, I will give him a long sentence. I consider it my duty to do all that I can to break up the gang.” The next month, another gang member was arrested at the corner of Graham and Driggs for a stabbing. In 1892, a gangster kicked several teeth out of a policemen’s head while being arrested for “assaulting his mother.” In 1896, businessmen and reporters blamed the gang for a riot and ruining seven trolley cars by blocking the tracks, throwing rocks and shooting at the trolley cars. In reality, the violence was spurned by a union strike which didn’t stop the trolley company from hiring scabs to continue service. The gang had been broken up by this time, but the trolley owners had no problem equating unions with the behavior of gangs.
Neighborhoods they roamed: North Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick
Some of the gang members were: Bender, Charles McDonough, Felix Farmer, James McDonald, Frank Bradley, Jerry Quirk, Timothy Hubbard, Edward Powell, Edward Stillman, George Kennedy, William Mannion.
Rainmakers Gang (1894 – 1904) – A gang that lived under the docks along the waterfront of North 1st and North 4th streets and in tenement basements. Known as “dock rats,” they stole from factories, barges, railroad freight yards, brawled with police and assaulted and robbed local Jews by throwing bricks and cobblestones at them (hence the moniker “Rainmakers”), then demanding money. In 1900, two members were arrested for asking for a drink at a saloon owned by Samuel Goldstein, then grabbing the whiskey bottle from him. In 1903, this gang was blamed for starting a fire at 288 Wythe Avenue, beating a patrolman and mugging residents for “beer money.” In 1904, the gang started a riot with local “Hebrews” at the corner of Wallabout Street and Harrison Avenue. At the signal, the gang through paving stones and other missiles at “defenseless” Jews. Other local Jews returned the favor and a riot ensued.
Neighborhoods they roamed: North Williamsburg, Greenpoint
Some of the gang members were: Peter “Captain” Mulholland, John Sullivan, James Quinn, Thomas Powers, Michael Moylan, Robert Molloy, Patrick Murray, John Cunningham, John Kiernan, Francis Enright, Harry Fisher, Thomas Sanders, Charles Samm, John Woods, Henry Lehman, John Ricker.
The Dump Gang – (1890s) In March of 1894, seventeen of the gang members were arrested after a raid by police underneath a pier at the garbage dump on the waterfront where they lived during the winter. The officer told a judge they “lived like water rats.” By covering up holes in the pier with canvas and using coal fires, they stayed warm. The leader, “whose proud boast it is that he never worked and never will” along with the others were sentenced at the Tombs Police Court. For food or alcohol, they begged and filled up soda bottles with cheap whiskey or beer growlers. They often stole things like rope from ships along the East River and traded it in for cash. In 1898, a man was beaten to death and had his eyes gouged by this gang.
Neighborhoods they roamed: Newtown Creek, Greenpoint and Long Island City, Queens, Lower East Side-Manhattan.
Some of the gang members were: “Nigger” Jack, “Yeller” Kelly, Patrick Corcoran, William & Dennis Young
The White Hand Gang – (1905-1925) The most infamous gang of Brooklyn acted as an
umbrella organization for other Irish-American gangs that paid tribute to it, including the Jay Street Gang, Red Onion Gang and the Frankie Byrne Gang and others. Known as a dockland gang, they forced longshoremen and local factories, warehouses, ships and pier houses to pay them “tribute.” They were also known for “ginzo hunting” and their hatred of Italians was legendary as they even named their gang in reaction to the Italian “Black Hand.”
Neighborhoods they roamed: Irishtown (headquarters), DUMBO, Navy Yard, Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook.
Some of the gang members were: “Wild” Bill Lovett, “Pegleg” Lonergan, Dinny Meehan, “The Swede” Finnigan, “Cute Charlie, Red” Donnelly, “Non” Connors, Matty Martin, Tim & James Quilty, Petey Behan, Harry Reynolds, Garry Barry, Philip Large, Mickey Kane, Eddie MaGuire, Eddie Lynch.
The Jay Street Gang – (1904-1914) Originally an Irishtown gang from the 1870s who were
a collection of “vulgar bruisers,” according to the Brooklyn Daily Union in June, 1871. “Wild” Bill Lovett was a young leader in the 1910s. Although he was small, he was a ferocious fist-fighter who commanded a group of about 20 young longshoremen along the Brooklyn waterfront in the mid 1910s. They forced other laborers to pay “tribute” to them after a day’s hard working, or forced them to pay for the right to work. They also were known to shake down gambling joints or warehouses and ship captains. Eventually Lovett (although never charged) probably killed Dinny Meehan, the leader of the much bigger White Hand Gang, who Lovett was more than likely paying tribute to. Lovett then took over the White Handers after going on the lam for a while in Chicago. Some doubt whether he ever accepted Meehan as a leader in the first place, though most believe the Jay Street Gang was one of the many Brooklyn waterfront gangs that lived under the White Hand umbrella.
Neighborhoods they roamed: Irishtown (headquarters), DUMBO, Navy Yard, Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Some of the gang members were:“Wild” Bill Lovett, John Lonergan, Richie “Pegleg” Lonergan, “Dago” Tom Montague, “Cute” Charlie “Red” Donnelly, “Pickles” Laydon, Jim Healy, Arthur & Charlie Johnson, Belle Marion, Daniel Hustis, Charles Stanton.
Divide the Dawn is doing a book giveaway on Goodreads! Follow the link above to enter for free:
The story of a few of them comes to the fore: The wife of a gang leader flees the city with her son. An aging detective is overwhelmed by a superstitious Irish prophecy. A teen ascends in a gang’s ranks. A young woman fights through rampant sexism to understand her place in the world. A man hopes to support his baby and Italian immigrant fiance while in hiding. A veteran of World War I must decide which gang his union should support. And a young patrolman makes brutal decisions to grasp power.
This sweeping novel takes you back to the dark and dangerous New York City streets. But it is not so much about gangs or violence as it is about the lengths we will go to feed our family.
They said my great-grandmother was stunningly beautiful, had a whip-smart sense of humor and thought of others before thinking of herself. Yet she was also known for diving into a deep sadness that would quieten her. Even set her to trembling.
From all accounts Honora was a gorgeous baby, but it couldn’t help her to fight against the hunger that raged in her little belly. She was one of many children, and because her parents could not feed her she was given up for adoption to an orphanage in Ennis, the capital of County Clare.
I often imagine her: A beautiful little girl, starving and parentless. Thrown into a dorm
with many other girls, forgotten. Then I remember that her ability to fight is what gave me a chance at life.
On the ship to New York she was huddled into the steerage compartment with many other people. Her beauty had attracted some of the crew and the worst thing imagined, actually happened to her. Honora was lured away and trapped. Taken advantage of.
I learned this fact from a great aunt and uncle. They were in their 90s when they mentioned this. During their day, something so tragic and personal was never spoken of, but they wanted me to add it into the genealogical story I had been collecting.
In New York Honora found work cleaning homes and making sandwiches in saloons in Greenwich Village. She then became associated with groups that raised money for Irish freedom.
One night in 1902, at a dance ball put on by the local Gaelic Athletic Association and the
County Claremen’s Evicted Tenant’s Protective and Industrial Association, she met a very tall and imposing man.
the tavern for a few years they moved to Brooklyn and lived a moderate, working class life.
It’s this simple: If you landed on this page, it means you were targeted in an ad.
Amazon tracks your purchases on its site, your activity on other websites, your voice commands, locations, grocery shopping and even extensively tracks your reading habits.
Bookbub sends emails directly to you and over ten millions others. It tracks if you open the email, if you click on one of the books in the email and when you buy something afterward.
So who does Amazon & Bookbub share this information with? What is done with it? And how does it affect my privacy? I’m going to tell you now.
They keep your information and habits to sell more advertisements, which is where the big money is for them.
On Bookbub, if you selected that you enjoy Crime Fiction, then you will be targeted by publishers and authors in future emails with offers to buy another Crime Fiction novel.
On your Kindle, if you have bought Historical Fiction novels in the past, Amazon’s advertising platform offers this information to publishers and authors so they can target you in advertisements (have you ever noticed those tiny little ads on the bottom of the Bookbub emails? Those are authors that were not accepted in Bookbub’s Featured program).
So is this evil? Is this immoral? Is it illegal?
No, no and no. It’s actually convenient. But it does make Amazon and Bookbub millions upon millions of dollars based on your interests.
As I’ve mentioned, if you landed on this page, it is because I targeted you in an ad with the keywords “Kindle” and/or “Bookbub.” Then you clicked on it.
Under California’s new privacy law, you can actually request from Amazon exactly what information they are saving. The Guardian did it recently, and although the article intones that something dastardly is going on, in reality it wasn’t all that dastardly at all.
The fact of the matter is, Kindle and Bookbub offer convenient ways to get the books you like, right in front of your eyes.
Here’s some info from a recent Pew Research Center Poll: “47% (polled) say the basic bargain offered by retail loyalty cards – namely, that stores track their purchases in exchange for occasional discounts – is acceptable to them, even as a third (32%) call it unacceptable.”
But, “Six-in-ten Americans (61%) have said they would like to do more to protect their privacy. Additionally, two-thirds have said current laws are not good enough in protecting people’s privacy, and 64% support more regulation of advertisers.”
Now, if we were to suddenly have dictatorial governments sweep across the wealthiest countries in the world and work in cahoots with big businesses to imprison those who disagree with them, well that would be, um, ok maybe collecting our information is a nightmare.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m considering buying a book I read regular people
on Goodreads and Amazon to get the truth. There’s too much publicity that you have to sift through to get the truth. So here are some reviews by real people who have read and reviewed some of the books by Eamon Loingsigh, an author who has been shortlisted for the 2016 Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction.
Quotes from REAL People:
“From the very first pages I was taken back to this time, fully immersed in this time period. . . Extremely well written, so authentically portrayed and covered a period I hadn’t read before.”
~From Diane S., Goodreads #5 Best Reviewers
“At once poetic and gritty. . . a wonderful piece of historical fiction, written beautifully.”
~Angela M., Goodreads #15 Best Reviewer
“The author again proves himself to be a gifted storyteller possessed of a vivid sense of history. Delightful is his ability to take us back in time to a forgotten corner of Brooklyn.”
~Father Ray Roden, Amazon
“What Eamon Loingsigh points out very consciously, is that all things must cchange to move forward, and yet there are those that do not want things to change.”
“Loingsigh captures the poetic texture of the language. . . persuasive, very skillful and seductive. An impressive achievement indeed.”
“I liked the atmospheric quality of his narrative and the depravity he wasn’t afraid to depict within these pages.”
~Historical Novel Society
“Eamon Loingsigh is a stellar author and I love his work.”
~Brett McAteer, Amazon
“Eamon Loingsigh is an excellent writer. Once one opens to read they become part of the story. You are right there. . . He has written an amazing story.”
~Eileen Scarpello, Amazon
If you have a Goodreads account, go here and select “To Read” on historical novel Divide the Dawn: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50353580-divide-the-dawn
Back Cover/Dust Jacket Description: From the slums of old Irishtown to the docks of industrial Red Hook, chaos flourishes. Factions struggle for supremacy over labor in Brooklyn and to feed families where meals are hard-won. Staking claims through blood feuds, gang wars, insurmountable poverty, influenzas and mystical snowstorms. All foretold in the
prophecies of the aged, unkempt augurs from the Great Hunger who’d founded this place on the windy waterfront in the 1840s.
It is a tale in which many call upon the past to guide them, while others look to the future for hope. Where enormous brawls can determine power, and defiance of law can save lives. Here men are killed in the streets for breaking codes of silence, boys become Soldiers of the Dawn; and girls either marry out of the slums, or become property.
Against a backdrop of ritual bareknuckle fights and incestuous love. Where the dead haunt in more than just memory, victory often comes to those with the coldest, cruelest hearts. For when dawn breaks, the darkness of the past and the light of the future clash.
Add your voice to the chorus that is singing out against the English government’s chosen language of Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy.
Would you sign a petition to inform non-Irish people not to use the term “potato famine” when referring to what happened in Ireland from 1845-1852?
Call it An Gorta Mor
Call it The Great Hunger
Call it Genocide
But when you say “potato famine,” you are using the language of the perpetrator of a horrific, years-long brutal crime where millions of pounds of food were exported by British soldiers at gunpoint and a million people starved to death, a million more emigrated.
Here’s what it says:
To the United Nations
We the undersigned, citizens of the world, earnestly beseech your honorable body to adopt measures for so amending the UN Charter on Human Rights as to discourage, disenfranchise or prohibit the use of the term “Potato Famine” or “Famine” to describe the events that took place in Ireland from the years 1845-1852.
If it cannot, or will not use the term “Genocide” to describe it, we encourage the United Nations to adopt the terms “An Gorta Mór” or “Great Hunger.”
The use of the term “potato famine” or “famine” is the language of the perpetrators of a brutal, colonial force that exported grain, wheat and cattle from Ireland, which lead to over a million deaths from starvation, and over a million more to emigrate. The blight on a single crop, the potato, could not be responsible for such devastation.
The Act of Union that came into effect January 1, 1801, joining Ireland to Great Britain, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, put the citizens of Ireland in the trust of Great Britain. Instead of helping the Irish people at their time of greatest need, Great Britain moved them off the land in great numbers to their financial benefit: to allow cattle to graze on the same land.
With grace and humility,
Citizens of the world
Although Irishtown had been known as Brooklyn’s most recognizable, infamous
waterfront neighborhood for Irish immigrants in the mid 1800s, it was the city’s long waterfront property that stretched both north and south of Irishtown that was heavily settled by (what the local Anglo-Americans called) the “Famine Irish.” In truth, Irishtown could only be seen as the capital amidst the long stretch of Brooklyn waterfront neighborhoods facing the East River and Manhattan.
By the census year of 1855, the Irish already made up the largest foreign-born group in New York. This constituted a dramatic shift in the ethnic landscape of Brooklyn. In just ten years, the amount of Irish-born inhabitants had jumped from a minimal amount, to 56,753. Out of a total population in Brooklyn of 205,250, its newly arrived Irish-born inhabitants made up about 27.5%.
The impact of such a large amount of immigrants in a short period of time may be difficult to imagine, but it must be remembered that these newly-arrived were not only all from one ethnic background, but they were also terribly destitute, bony from intense starvation, malnourished, disease-ridden, uneducated and untrained people that came from an outdated medieval agrarian community. On top of all of this, at least half of them did not speak English and instead spoke Gaelic and were landing in a culture that was traditionally hostile to their form of religion: Catholicism.
The Great Hunger in Ireland of 1845-1852, or what is commonly, if not erroneously called the “Potato Famine,” caused over 1.5 million (if not more) Irish tenant farmers to flee for lack of food.
“Few newcomers had the resources to go beyond New York and therefore stayed for negative reasons,” said Ronald H. Bayor and Thomas J. Meaghan in their book, The New York Irish. “Most… had no other options… The best capitalized Irish immigrants were those who did not linger in New York, but went elsewhere, making New York and other harbor cities somewhat atypical of the rest of Irish America.”
The waterfront neighborhoods of antebellum Brooklyn was such a place. These neighborhoods of mostly English Protestants and old Dutch aristocracy were quickly overwhelmed by these Catholic “invaders” crippled by diseases, starving and with a legacy of rebelliousness, secrecy, violence and faction fighting within their fiercely communal cooperations. In short, these great numbers of Brooklyn immigrants were in no way interested in assimilating into the incumbent Anglo-Protestant culture.
Since 1825 and the opening of the Erie Canal, Brooklyn had begun to boom as the New York Ports along the Hudson and East Rivers now had access to the great and rising cities in the midwest and beyond.
Soon, New York become the busiest port city in the world. There was labor work to be had in Brooklyn, in the manufacturing and loading and unloading of goods to be sent around the country and around the world.
Brooklyn was broken down into wards at that time, and although much of the population lived along the waterfront, there were plenty of other neighborhoods inland that were heavily populated by the English and Dutch before the Great Hunger. But the newly arrived Irish immigrants did not go inland, they stayed along the waterfront where the labor and longshoremen jobs were.
One neighborhood in particular gained fame, though it is not as much known today as it was then: Irishtown.
Located in the old Fifth Ward, Brooklyn’s Irishtown never gained the kind of infamous popularity that Manhattan’s Five Points garnered (as I previously wrote about in Code of Silence), it was nonetheless the center of the immigrant, working class slums and the brawling, closed-off culture of the wild Irish.
Located on one side next to Brooklyn’s Navy Yard that built ships and on the other side with the ferry companies connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan across the East River, Irishtown was centrally located.
Although Irishtown was the face of Brooklyn’s Irish community, it did not even have the distinction of having the most amount of Irish-born (which exclude American born of Irish stock) in it during the 1855 census. The dock and pier neighborhoods of Brooklyn were not just in the Fifth Ward, they were spread from the waterfront in Williamsburg north of Wallabout Bay all the way down to Red Hook and the Gowanus Canal.
During this time, there are three other wards that outnumber Irishtown in total Irish-born of the 1855 census. Cobble Hill, the Fulton Ferry Landing and southeast of the Navy Yard, north of Fort Greene Park. The brownstones of Brooklyn Heights are still considered mansions for the rich Brooklyn landowners at this time, but later will be divided and subdivided for the working class Irish.
The densest area of Irish-born is obviously from the Navy Yard, both inland and on the water to the Fulton Ferry Landing, but surprising numbers existed in the north along the Williamsburg waterfront and south in Cobble Hill, Red Hook and the Gowanus Canal. In fact, 47.7% of the total population of Red Hook in 1855 is Irish-born.
In fact it is Brooklyn’s most famous Irish-American toughs, the White Hand Gang that originated not in Irishtown, but in and around Warren Street in Cobble Hill and Red Hook at the beginning of the 20th Century.
So, it is right to assume that masses of Famine Irish landed and settled around the more famous neighborhood of Brooklyn’s Irishtown, but it is the general waterfront area from Williamsburg down to Gowanus, in the pier neighborhoods of the fastest growing port and industrial areas of the city where the majority of them settled. In fact, of the 56,753 Irish-born in Brooklyn in 1855, about 51,000 of them lived in the waterfront neighborhoods.
And they just kept coming, well after the Great Hunger ended. With connections in Brooklyn, Irish-born brought their extended families and friends to New York over the coming years, funding new passages to the city helping keep the Brooklyn working class Irish poor for many years to come.
By 1860, Brooklyn was the largest city in America with 279,122 residents, a large portion of which were either Irish-born or of Irish stock as it is still some years ahead of the considerable amounts of Jewish and Italian immigration to Brooklyn later in the century.
By the census of 1875, the population of Irish-born in Brooklyn jumps to 83,069. In 1880, the U.S. census, which counted both place of birth and parents’ birth place as well, estimated that one-third of all New Yorkers were of Irish parentage. By 1890 as Brooklyn neighborhoods were expanding east and south, the amount of people with Irish stock is at 196,372.