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1778-1998 - Bicentennial Celebrations

Civil War
Irish Figured

Irish Did Not Apply


A thousand lucky people were on hand to experience the pageantry. Actors, singers, musicians and volunteers donated their time and considerable talent to this memorable opening day event.
Others who could not be accommodated within the theater had the option of gaining an appreciation of what went on over our local radio station, WRKL.

Honorably mentioned were: Native Americans (indian tribes), Afro-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Dutch, British, Protestant refugees from France, Germans from Palatinate states on the Rhine, Presbyterian Scots, and reference to the fact that Rockland was never a melting pot of nationalities like Manhattan, where 18 different languages-including Dutch, French, English, German, Italian, Polish, Portugese, Swedish, and several other dialicts-were spoken in 1640s. The script was thusly worded to get a bunch listed. Nary a Mention of?



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Dancers Bring a tapestry to life

Journal News - Gannet Newspapers/Thursday, July 16, 1998
in an article by staff writer Elizabeth Johnson she quotes Hemu Aggarwal:
"America is not a melting pot, it's a tapestry," she says. "We're all connected by that tread, but we keep this our own colors and textures, When you put it all together, it's beautiful." ........... ........... "We wanted representatives of all diverse ethnic groups in Rockland County." says Aggarwal, the chair of the festival. "Unfortunately, she says, not all the diverse groups in Rockland will have a representative. No Irish groups applied to dance in the Canadian festival, and so could not be part of the Rockland one. .................

Does this mean it's a God Save the Queen affair, I wonder.

Irish Contribution Non-existant

Sorry to relate, there was nary a mention of an Irish contribution to Rockland County at the Bicentennial kick-off. All of this not surprising to me given what I've noticed and been monitoring over the years.

Having been present and having read a draft of what was read at the Rockland Bicentennial Commerative Pageant I can truly relate that ethnics whose contributions were cited would feel somewhat sheepish and funny were they to realize some glaring and overlooked facts of our history. That of an Irish contribution in the founding of Rockland County, being ignored, either by design or otherwise. The script seemed to be geared to ensure a WASP, an Anglophile love-in, and to propagate the anti-Papist notions that are alive and well as in the "No Nothing" days. We're expected to be excited by a version of history that buries a people's contribution and remain charmed by the unreality of anothers.

Much play was given to doctors whom I'm sure were worthy of mention. Overdone was the suffrage movement in Rockland and an accounting of the glories of Molly Sneden who helped a British soldier escape.

Now to some things the Irish should have been cited for.
What happened to John Suffern whose "New Antrim" village was renamed "Suffern" in his honor? Suffern figured very big in the development and founding of Rockland. Fortune Ryan who founded Good Samaritan Hospital? Irish sisters who founded numerous homes for orphans and educational institutions e.g. Dominican College in Blauvelt for starters? James A. Farley Postmaster General of the US, a president maker, a brilliant politician. Brickmaking factories along the Hudson in Haverstraw were Irish owned and with labor that was performed by their Irish immigrant brothers. Havestraw thus provided 90% of the bricks that were used in the construction of New York city buildings prior to 1920s.

There was a mention of G. Wilson Bartine of the Journal-News, "For a century and a half, Haverstraw's terrain was cut and slashed and pitted with yawning holes to furnish clay for the manufacturing of bricks, which were set all along the Atlantic seaboard.

It's all Related ... Founded for Truth

Mentioned, but few Knew

General John O'Sullivan grandson of County Kerryman Major Philip O'Sullivan, served in the Revolutionary Army with George Washington. He faithfully carried out the scorched earth policy on the Indians for George. Not a very happy achievement to relate.
To be true to history we must tell the good the bad and the ugly side of events. He was a Freemason as was Washington and his comrades.

Songwriter George M. Cohan was mentioned in the context of a "Yankee Doodle" of the Revolutionary era. He was a Freemason also.

Yankee Doodle - snippet from article by Tom Fleming

...Exactly how may Irish served in the American Army will always be a source of debate. Historian Michael O'Brien, who devoted his life to the study of the Irish in Revolutionary and Colonial America, concluded approximately 38% of Washington's soldiers were either Irish born or of Irish descent. O'Brien based his figure on exhaustive studies of muster lists and recruiting rolls, many of which stated where soldiers were born.

Some estimates go higher. The British general, Archibald Robertson, testifying before Parliament in 1779, declared that 50% of Washington's army was Irish. Philadelphia loyalist Joseph Galloway named the same figure. Some American historians have disputed these estimates, arguing that most of the Irish were really "Scotch-Irish" - a vague term suggesting they were either from Scotland or Scottish Protestants who had settled ( planted on native Irish lands, I'd put it.) in Northern Ireland.

The indefatigable O'Brien answered this assertion by compiling a list of names from Revolutionary muster rolls that have appeared in Irish History for centuries. There were no less than 695 Kellys in the American army, 494 Murphy's, 331 McCarthys, 327 Connors or O'Connors, 322 Ryans and 248 Doughertys.

One of O'Brien's most notable triumphs came in a dispute with Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts. Lodge asserted that the population of Massachusetts at the time of the Revolution was "of almost pure English blood, with a small infusion of Scotch-Irish from Londonderry." O'Brien found 3,000 unquestionably Irish names on the state's revolutionary muster rolls - not one Lodge.

Refer to Irish America magazine of July/August 1998 for more.


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