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.
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.
*Census for the State of New York for 1855 (Ward#, area, Irish-born residents)
Ward 1 (Brooklyn Heights 2,227)
Ward 2 (now known as DUMBO 2,967)
Ward 3 (East of Brooklyn Heights 1,964)
Ward 4 (south of DUMBO 2,440)
Ward 5 (Irishtown 5,629)
Ward 6 (Fulton Ferry Landing 6,463)
Ward 7 (Southeast of Navy Yard, north of Fort Greene Park 6,471)
Ward 8 (Gowanus 1,717)
Ward 10 (East of Cobble Hill 6,690)
Ward 11 (West of Ft. Greene Park, south of Irishtown 4,985)
Ward 12 (Red Hook 3,332)
Ward 13 (East of Navy Yard where current Williamsburg Bridge is 2,036)
Ward 14 (North of Williamsburg Bridge along waterfront 4,314)
In these wards, Irish-born constituted 32% of Brooklyn’s total population
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.
Recent research has proven that Al Capone did not willingly leave his hometown of Brooklyn. In fact, he was forced out by a local Irish gang called the White Hand (named in opposition to the “invading” Italian Black Hand).
In 1899, the year Al Capone was born, Brooklyn was a heavily populated industrialized and manufacturing hub. All along the waterfront area there were gigantic sugar refineries, coffee storage houses, weapons manufacturers, soap manufacturers, cardboard box makers and canned food shippers. . . the list goes on and on. Ten years earlier New York City had taken over London as the busiest port city in the world and the longshoremen trade (loading and unloading steamships) employed thousands of rough and tumble men.
The longshoremen trade had been dominated in Brooklyn by the Irish since their arrival in the 1840s due to the Great Hunger (commonly known as the potato famine). 95 Navy Street, where Capone was born, was on the outskirts of a neighborhood known as “Irishtown,” just south of the Navy Yard in an outlying Italian Cammora neighborhood.
But Irishtown dominated. It was the location of the Irish White Hand’s headquarters, the Dock Loaders’ Club at 25 Bridge Street. No one could get a job as a longshoremen without checking in the Dock Loaders’ Club. And most Italians had to go south of the Gowanus Canal to work on the docks at the Bush and Grand Army Terminals where Frankie Yale, a Johnny Torrio protege, held court.
As a teen, Capone worked at the Harvard Inn, a bawdyhouse in South Brooklyn’s burgeoning Coney Island, which is where he got his scar and famous nickname, “Scarface.”
Wanting to muscle in on “tribute racket” in North Brooklyn, (tribute is what the White Hand Gang charged all longshoremen to work) Capone and others started talking to stevedore employees, ship captains and pierhouse managers in the White Hand’s territory.
That did not make the Irish happy. According to family sources, Dinny Meehan, leader of
the White Hand, dispatched his deadliest weapon to deal with the invading Italians in the form of Richie “Pegleg” Lonergan.
Pegleg (19 years old in 1919) had lost a leg to a Brooklyn trolley when he was eight. Renowned in Irishtown as a wildly successful fistfighter and a murderer who could kill without emotion, the war was set. Lonergan vs. Capone.
Torrio had moved to Chicago by this time and when he heard that Lonergan and the powerful White Hand were going to kill his most prized protege, he ordered Frankie Yale to send him to Chicago with his tail in between his legs.
Willie Sutton was born and raised in Irishtown. In fact, the opening words of his biography were “Irishtown made me.” Sutton went on to great fame as an ingenious bank robber and public personality. Having grown up in Irishtown, he got the inside scoop concerning the Lonergan vs. Capone rivalry. Below are his words:
“Scarface Al Capone was a member of the (rival) Italian mob, and it was common knowledge in later years that he had gone to
Chicago because the Irish mob played too rough.”
The fact that Capone ran from the Irish in Brooklyn haunted him for many years and in Chicago, he was known as a brutalizer of the Irish (he had Dean O’Banion and others murdered). But he simply could not get over the japes about him running out of Brooklyn from Lonergan. He needed revenge.
In 1925, seeking the best doctors in the country for his son’s surgery, Al Capone came back to Brooklyn. On Christmas Eve, he and some buddies were having a drink at a local bawdyhouse called the Adonis Social Club in South Brooklyn (4th Avenue & 20th Street). Guess who walks in? You got it, Richie “Pegleg” Lonergan and some friends.
Whether Pegleg was lured there, or just came by happenstance is up for debate, but the explosive results are not.
Pegleg and his cohorts were demeaning and shaming the Irish prostitutes that worked in the Italian club. They also were casting racial slurs at the Italian patrons. At some point the lights went out and immediately there were gunshots. When the lights came back on, Pegleg and two others were dead (Lonergan still had a toothpick in his mouth), another was badly wounded. When the police showed up, no one saw a thing, of course.
Capone and others were arrested, but were soon released. And so, vengeance achieved.
Divide the Dawnis a stand-alone historical novel for publication April 18, 2020.
Critics see this coming:
♠ “A brilliant story that belongs in the elite company of world-renowned classics like The Godfather, The Maltese Falcon and A Game of Thrones.” (review fromAnticipatience)
“Just as you are getting a feel for this story, a scene occurs that is likely to leave some readers catatonic with shock.” ~Anticipatience Review. From a shortlisted author comes the ultimate in historical crime fiction; endowed with suspense, mystery, horror, adventure, fantasy, surprises. . . Divide the Dawn gifts it all with striking ease.
Through winter’s barren trees the morning moon lurks like a portent of doom. Such is the prophecy of an otherworldly shanachie, or Irish storyteller who appears out of the mist in 1908 Ireland. We are then transported exactly eleven years later to Brooklyn, New York where the Irish-American gang known as “The White Hand” is fast losing sway over the streets. After a snowstorm blankets the city in white, men begin to appear who were thought to have been dead.
A dark action adventure with complicated characters caught in a fascinating period in history.
“Propulsive and affecting, Divide the Dawn is historical fiction with arresting language, yet the narrative hurtles forward with the intensity of a suspense novel.”
Divide the Dawn is a Historical novel with elements of Crime Fiction, Horror, Suspense and Fantasy, but author Eamon Loingsigh (sounds like Lynch) is calling it a Ghost Story.
“The ghosts of the old world haunt the Irish. History, myth, prophecy and even hope colors our forebears’ decisions in 1910s New York to create a character-driven account of the ancestors of 40 million Americans. Don’t be afraid of the dark, it’s there you’ll find the light.”
It is a rare moment indeed when a lie that has been passed as history can be righted. But that is exactly what Black ’47, directed by Lance Daly, has done.
For 171 years a lie persisted, and even though it cannot be fully overcome, at least the healing may begin.
What happened in Ireland from 1845-1852 should never be deemed simply a “famine.” It was no more than a blight on a single crop, the potato. The deep truth, hidden for so long, is that a cold economic program by a colonial power wielded the blight like a weapon against the Irish. To move them off the land. At the heart of this story is the horrific malevolence of the English foreigner and their true intentions to murder and displace millions of innocents.
The enmity, trauma and dismay of the Irish people who suffered the consequence, as well as having to suffer the lies, are represented by the anger in James Frecheville’s seething character “Feeney.” And most importantly, that anger is righteous. Feeney is shown to have destiny on his side when he is utterly fearless as guns are pointed at him. When they misfire, destiny allows him to continue his revenge killings.
Clint Eastwood was never this angry, and never this justified.
Please, please watch this movie. It is now available in Ireland & UK on Netflix.
“Eyes green in the enveloped saloon light of amber and black. A child’s eyes. An ancient’s eyes. Sometimes I wonder if he ever really did exist, Dinny Meehan. I even doubt it at times, it was so long ago that all this passed. But there he is in my thoughts.”
Dinny Meehan (b. 1889) is the leader of the White Hand Gang whose motives, origins and existence is shrouded by the veil of Irishtown’s Code of Silence. Some claim he is of gypsy blood, some call him a working class hero while storytellers describe him as a Demiurge, and speak of how he was summoned by pre-Christian prayer to bring back “the auld ways from the aulden days” to care for the survivors of Ireland’s Great Hunger who founded Irishtown in the 1840s. What is known is that he has never lost a fistfight, draws inspiration from the past and has never been seen eating or sleeping and seems to have no concept of time. His father came to New York in 1847 as an “exiled child” from County Clare, Ireland. His uncle was Red Shay Meehan, leader of a West Manhattan gang called The Potashes. But by 1900, Dinny’s family was decimated by the Hudson Dusters, forcing him to flee to Brooklyn as an eleven year-old with his dying father. According to The Gas Drip Bard, a storm came at dawn and capsized the ferry they were in, and young Dinny drowned keeping his father afloat. Somehow the boy was brought back to life and by 1912, Dinny had organized all the Irish-American gangs on the Brooklyn waterfront to join him in overthrowing the King of Irishtown, gold-toothed larrikin Christie Maroney.
What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: Origin By the time Liam Garrity picks up the story, it is 1915 and the gang is under attack by many elements; big businesses, the Italian Black Hand, the law, the longshoremen’s union and revolt from within his gang. Liam sees that Dinny is cunning and shrewd, and yet the gang leader spends all of the profits he earns on the poor and needy of Irishtown. When news breaks of the 1916 Easter Rising, Dinny has ideas of his own for an uprising in Brooklyn. In a stroke of genius, The White Hand ferociously strikes against all of its enemies at once in multiple attacks and takes back power in Brooklyn during the Donnybrook in Red Hook. Although the gang again is in power, Dinny cannot seem to stop time as the White Hand is one of the last powerful street gangs in New York. Again the gang’s enemies assemble against him when one of his dockbosses, Wild Bill Lovett, joins forces with Jonathan G. Wolcott of the New York Dock Company in revolt against him, seceding from the gang and taking the profitable Red Hook territory. Vulnerable, Dinny finds out his childhood friend Tanner Smith backstabbed him and his righthand The Swede attempted suicide. Again though, Dinny outsmarts everyone by making a three-way pact with the International Longshoreman’s Association and the Italian Black Hand and violently puts down the revolt. Charged with murder, Lovett agrees to a plea that sends him to the Army and World War I where he dies in combat. Dinny then replaces Lovett in Red Hook with his prodigious cousin Mickey Kane and robs a local shoe factory after an Irishtown child dies with one shoe on his foot, passing out boots to all the poor Irish families. But by 1919 Dinny is furthered weakened. The gang has lost many members to the Great War, the Spanish Influenza, coal shortages and worsening poverty. During the Storm of Slanting Snow, Lovett mysteriously resurfaces in Brooklyn and has Dinny’s cousin Mickey murdered, touching off a horrific gang war and a blood feud with Lovett.
“Mickey is Dinny’s last surviving family member loyal to him. Tall and powerfully built with a big head of blond hair, he follows Dinny’s orders closely. Mickey Kane is Dinny’s blood. His mother’s blood, and many of us feel as though one day Mickey will replace The Swede at his right side. Dinny’s most-trusted.”
Mickey Kane (1894-1919) was the cousin of White Hand leader Dinny Meehan, and the gang’s golden boy before being horrifically murdered when Wild Bill Lovett resurfaced in Brooklyn during the Storm of Slanting Snow. Tall, muscular and dauntless, he was an accomplished bareknuckle boxer as many in Brooklyn spoke of him as being a “fair scrapper, brisk fighter.” A cousin on Dinny Meehan’s mother’s side, Mickey was spared the wrath of the The Hudson Dusters of Greenwich Village, who decimated the Meehan family in the late 1890s, forcing eleven year-old Dinny Meehan and his dying father to flee to Brooklyn in 1900. After Meehan became King of Brooklyn’s Irishtown in 1912, he called for his eighteen year-old prodigy cousin and mentored him in preparation to one day become his righthand.
What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: In 1916, Meehan convinces Lovett to take Mickey in as his righthand in the Red Hook Terminal. Kane took part in the Donnybrook in Red Hook when the White Hand gang took back power on the Brooklyn waterfront.
In 1917, after Tanner Smith backstabbed Meehan and the White Hand gang, Kane accompanied his cousin back to their old neighborhood, Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The two of them beat members of The Marginals and confronted Smith, battering him as well and banishing him from the underground. After putting down a revolt and sending Lovett to World War I, Kane became dockboss of the profitable Red Hook Terminal. In 1919 when Meehan, The Swede, Vincent Maher and Lumpy Gilchrist were arrested for robbing the Hanan & Sons shoe factory, Kane and Cinders Connolly were left in charge at the Dock Loaders’ Club. But Kane became anxious and went back down to Red Hook during a terrible snow storm where Lovett mysteriously came back from the dead and had him killed, starting a ferocious gang war and blood feud.
“Ya know, people talk. And they’re sayin’ one day the gang could be all Lovett’s. Can ya imagine the take fer us if ya was his righthand? Like the Romans we’d live! But that Bill Lovett’s a wild one.” ~Mary Lonergan
Bill Lovett (b. 1894), also known as Wild Bill or Pulcinella in South Brooklyn, was reported to have been killed in combat in World War I by the US Army. But during the Storm of Slanting Snow, he resurfaces in Brooklyn and has Mickey Kane murdered, sparking a gang war for leadership of the White Hand. He is a violent drunk who carries a loaded .45 caliber, has a soft spot for animals (killed a man for pulling a cat’s tail), and hates the Italians that live in the dock territory he runs. In the early 1900s, Lovett was the leader of the Jay Street Gang that paid tribute to Christie Maroney. In 1912 Lovett (along with many other gang leaders) struck a deal with Dinny Meehan and allowed one of his followers, Pickles Leighton, to accompany him in shooting Maroney on the streets of Brooklyn. But during the trial for Maroney’s murder, Pickles was the only one convicted. Rightfully blaming Meehan, Lovett swallowed his pride and took over as dockboss in the profitable Red Hook Terminal under Meehan’s White Hand gang, but decided to keep Pickles as his man inside of Sing Sing to one day supply him with paroled soldiers in a revolt against Meehan.
What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: Realizing the importance of ruling Sing Sing, Meehan had his righthand man McGowan plead guilty to a charge in order to kill Pickles in Sing Sing, in what became known as the War for the Inside. But Lovett paid a screw (prison guard) through Pickles to beat McGowan to death in his cell, winning the proxy war and creating a tense relationship with his gang boss, Meehan. After the gang took back power on the Brooklyn docks during the Donnybrook in Red Hook, Meehan sought to weaken Lovett and pinned the death and destruction on Lovett’s righthand Non Connors.
When Connors is arrested, Lovett makes an alliance with New York Dock Company president, Jonathan G. Wolcott and plays a game of tug-of-war with Meehan over the loyalty of Richie Lonergan‘s crew. In 1917, Lovett has Lonergan murder Meehan’s enforcer Tommy Tuohey and together they secede from the White Hand gang in Red Hook, with Wolcott providing extra protection. Paranoid of a Meehan attack, Lovett goes on a drunken binge while Lonergan’s family life becomes tumultuous after his six year-old brother dies. Meehan makes a pact with the International Longshoreman’s Association and the Italian Black Hand, who send an assassin to Red Hook to kill Lovett. But Lovett survives and kills the assassin, yet is charged with murder and reaches a plea, which forces him to sign up with the Army’s 77th Infantry Division. In France during World War I, it is reported Lovett was killed in combat. His death causes of his followers to lose hope such as his biggest supporters Anna Lonergan and Darby Leighton. Shockingly, Lovett resurfaces in Brooklyn and gives Lonergan his .45 to kill Mickey Kane, Meehan’s cousin, starting a blood feud and gang war for control of the Brooklyn waterfront.