Posts Tagged ‘Irish’

We’re all Irish today?

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

I’ve been thinking about St. Patrick’s Day and wondering why it’s such a big observance in the United States, and I found this piece by Peter Behrens in the New York Times to be interesting. He reviews the unwelcome faced by Irish immigrants in the 1840s—one of the first groups considered dark and unworthy of this great country, yet now a part of America that is not only embraced but embraced with a big beery hug. “This March 17,” he writes, “on this side of the water, we ought to be celebrating immigration, not Irishness.”

Irish and more

Friday, March 13th, 2009

A quick roundup of many weekend events, mostly centered around St. Patrick’s Day:

Museum events: Music, food

Traditional Irish songs by Irish Fever at 7:30 and 9 pm Saturday, Historic Richmond Town, 441 Clarke Ave, Staten Island. $15. Reservations required; call (718) 351-1611, ext. 281.

“Bridget Murphy’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration,” with samplings of 19th-century Irish-American foods and Irish music. 6 pm Tuesday. Call (212) 777-1089 for reservations (suggested). $30. Merchant’s House Museum, 29 E. Fourth St.

Walking Tours

Big Onion Walking Tours: “St. Patrick’s Weekend Irish New York,” meeting in front of St. Paul’s Chapel, Broadway between Vesey and Fulton. (212) 439-1090, bigonion.com. 1 pm Saturday.

Adventure on a Shoestring: “When Irish Eyes Were Smiling!” A walk in Clinton, meeting on the northeast corner of Eighth Ave and 48th St. 2 pm Saturday, (212) 265-2663. $10.

NYC Discovery Tours: “Little Ireland and Little Italy History and Tasting Tour,” visiting cultural and gastronomic sites of importance to Irish and Italian immigration, with a sampling of foods. 1 and 3:45 pm Saturday, noon and 2:45 pm Sunday. Call (212) 465-3331 for reservations and meeting place. $22.

Gotham Walking Tours: “Immigrant New York City,” a tour of Lower Manhattan, meeting on the southwest corner of Chambers and Centre. 11 am Sunday, (646) 645-5782, walkingnyctours.com. $20; $18 for seniors.

Center for the Urban Environment: “The Yiddish Rialto,” a tour of the Second Avenue theater district, meeting in front of the Sunshine Theater, 143 E. Houston. 11:30 am Sunday, (718) 788-8500, ext. 217, bcue.org. $13.

Bowery and Canal Walking Tours: “Five Points and the Irish,” meeting at City Hall Park, Broadway and Park Row. 1 pm Sunday, (917) 602-3543. $15; $12 for seniors & students.

Joyce Gold History Tours: “Hell’s Kitchen and Its Vivid Irish Past,” meeting on the northwest corner of Tenth Ave and 42nd St. 1 pm Sunday, (212) 242-5762, joycegoldhistorytours.com. $15; $12 for seniors.

Gearing up for St. Patrick’s

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

The Irish of Staten Island, a program with bagpipe music, traditional dances, and a discussion about Irish immigration and the lives of the Irish-American Staten Islanders, will be held at 1:30 pm Thursday, March 12, at the College of Staten Island, Center for the Arts, 2800 Victory Boulevard, at Route 440, Willowbrook. The event is free, but registration is required. Call (718) 727-1135, ext. 123.

Irish stories

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Historian Peter Quinn (Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America, Banished Children of Eve) will talk about his life, writings, and struggles of the Irish in New York with Terry Golway next Monday at the Museum of the City of New York. Admission is $9 for nonmembers, and you can buy tickets ahead of time in case it sells out. The program is at 6:30 pm Monday, Dec. 2, at the MCNY, Fifth Ave at 103rd St.

Irish dance in Brooklyn

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

The focus on the Irish continues. The Darrah Carr Dance company will give a demonstration of Irish dancing and step dance lessons, with live music on accordion and spoons, from 1 to 5 pm Sunday, Nov. 9, at the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont St, Brooklyn Heights. Free with museum admission.

New York Irish

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is having two discussions this month in conjunction with the Museum of the City of New York’s Catholics in New York exhibit. At 6:30 pm Monday, Nov. 3, Terry Golway of the New York Observer, author of the exhibit’s companion volume, leads a panel on the role of Irish Catholics in the formation of New York.

Then, at 6:30 pm Nov. 11, Jay P. Dolan, professor emeritus at Notre Dame and author of The Irish Americans, discusses the history of the Irish in America from the days of the potato famine through the Tammany years.

Both events are free and will be held at the museum bookstore, 108 Orchard St. Visit their website to RSVP.

The Moore family at 97 Orchard

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

First of all, you had to take the back stairs into the privy yard to use the privy—one of four to six outhouses. You also had to come down to this yard to get water for any purpose at all; it had the only spigot serving the building. On the first floor, next to the yard, was Schneider’s Saloon. If it was at all like New York bars today, you might not always be in the mood for its company.

But that’s how it was in 1869 at 97 Orchard Street, and these conditions were more generous than the law mandated—the sewer was even flushed (into the East River) once a week.

My group is standing in the back yard of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. This is the new Irish family tour that the museum debuted on June 17. Our guide, Ya Yun Teng, takes us up the back stairs to the fourth floor and, first, into a “ruin” apartment. (The building was shuttered in 1935 and left untouched until the tenement museum took it over in 1988.)

In an interior window—a law passed in 1901 specified that each room must have a window, but only one room in an apartment actually opened to the outdoors—we watch slides while we listen to period songs that give a flavor of life for immigrants at the time, such as “Thousands Are Sailing,” which goes along with the “American wake” they’d throw in Ireland the night before a family left for the States, probably never to return.

Next we proceed into the new family apartment, set up to show the living experience of Joseph and Bridget Moore and their three daughters (Mary, 4, Jane, 3, and baby Agnes), who lived somewhere in the building in 1869. The afternoon light is dim; they would have had to rely on kerosene lamps. The bed takes up about half the bedroom, in the back; the rest of the room is crowded with linens and trunks.

The kitchen table, in the middle room, is spread with bread, potatoes, onions, and ceramic bottles of beer. The kitchen also holds the washbasin and a clothesline, with stockings and tiny girls’ dresses, by the large coal stove. It’s a hot day, and it’s easy to imagine how smoky and close it must have been, especially if you were wearing a long skirt.

Imagine trying to take care of two toddlers and a baby in that space.

Then there’s the central issue of the milk, which you’d have to buy every day—there’s no refrigerator. It was often contaminated; this was probably the cause of baby Agnes’s scrofula and malnutrition. She was sick pretty much from birth, and she died in the apartment before she was six months old.

Her funeral vigil is arranged in the front room, with a circle of chairs. This parlor is much lighter (having a true window) and not as cramped. The space and its careful decor seem to represent the family’s aspirations, yet now it’s a scene of sorrow. Our guide turns on a recording of a woman keening a song of mourning.

The plain white wooden coffin sits on a cloth-covered table. A rosary lies on top of it. It’s so very small, almost as tall as it is long.

The apartment at 97 Orchard was a step up for the Moores from their previous place in Five Points. But they weren’t able to stay long, less than a year. They moved from here to 224 Elizabeth Street, which the New York Times described as an “area of destitution.” Bridget gave birth to five more daughters, only two of whom survived.

Their grim story was a common one. Poor and often unwelcome, the Irish (among others) had to struggle hard in this city, and some of them didn’t make it.

Eventually, though, things got better; the tour continues in the apartment next door where the Katz family lived in the 1920s and ’30s. Milk got pasteurized. Disease became less mysterious, and hygiene bloomed. Gaslight and indoor plumbing arrived.

End of tour. Now you can check your cellphones and complain that you just had to spend an hour without air conditioning.

Questions? Take the tour yourself and learn much more! You can also see how they put it together on the museum’s Flickr page.

What Irish dancing hath wrought

Friday, July 11th, 2008

The Museum of the City of New York is presenting a number of programs in conjunction with its current exhibit Catholics in New York, 1808-1946. On Saturday, July 19, at 2 pm, Foot & Fiddle Dance Company will perform at the museum. The program will demonstrate “how waves of Irish immigration have influenced American dance,” says the museum schedule. “Enjoy a dazzling blend of dance and musical styles, from clogging, square dancing, tap, and bluegrass, to swing, Cajun, and rock & roll.”

Presented in association with Community Works, whose mission is “to forge links between diverse cultures and communities, to improve educational attainment, and to extend the benefits of the arts to all people.” Sounds good. Free with museum admission; 1220 Fifth Ave. More info at (212) 534-1672, ext. 3395.