Sunday, September 5, 2010

September 5-Irish-American contrasts

Abandoned cottage on the Ring of Kerry, Ireland - See Celtic photo gallery
I grew up in a small town in New Jersey. Bordentown was founded in 1682 by Quakers, noted for tolerance and commitment to social justice.

This little town drew many Irish immigrants escaping the potato famine in their native land in the mid-1840s. I remember my Dad talking about the social divisions in Irish society that followed my ancestors to their new home.

"Shanty Irish" or "mud Irish" were the most impoverished. Most had no skills and worked at anything that would put bread on the table. "Lace curtain Irish" were fairly well off, often wealthy.

Malahide Castle - Dublin, Ireland - Celtic Gallery
Catholic Mass was held at the home of my great-great-grandfather Cornelius Joseph Lynch and other Irish, now Americans. At least, according to a Bordentown history book written in 1932 by James Magee, publisher of the Bordentown Register News. According to information on St. Mary's website, there was already a small church that was built in the area where my family lived, a full decade before they arrived. Regardless, my great-great-grandfather was a founding member of the first church.

St. Mary's Catholic Church, Bordentown, NJ

The current St. Mary's Catholic Church was dedicated in the 1872. My great-great-grandfather was a cobbler by trade and was probably somewhere between "shanty Irish" and "lace curtain Irish." In my hometown, many of the Irish lived in the "2nd ward" of the town close to the railroad and "hilltop."

Camden & Amboy rail line circa 1980
My great grandfather, also Cornelius Joseph Lynch, was an engineer on the Camden & Amboy Railway before his untimely death at age 27. Family legend is that he had a heart attack after hitting a woman crossing the tracks when he was driving the train. The August 1879 Bordentown Register simply says that he died.

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