Tag Archives: Cork

Irish labor built Pennsylvania’s famous Horseshoe Curve

ALTOONA~As the Great Famine began to ease in the early 1850s, about 450 Irishmen began working on an extraordinary engineering project in south-central Pennsylvania. Their accomplishment remains in place today as a vital segment of the American economy.

Working with only picks, shovels and some explosives–but no machinery–the men shaved the face of adjoining mountains to fill in two ravines and lay the grade for a railroad line. They built the Horseshoe Curve for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

A display at this National Historical Landmark, about 10 miles west of Altoona, offers only a few details about the men. They are said to have been recruited for the job because they were “former mine workers,” mostly from counties Cork, Mayo and Antrim. Keep in mind this project was completed 20 years before the Molly Maguire unrest began in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region, some 200 miles to the northeast.

The 2,375-foot curve, which opened to freight and passenger traffic in February 1854, reduced the trip between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia from 20 days by wagon to about 15 hours by train. It remains part of the nation’s critical east-west rail corridor.

A westbound freight train climbs the grade through a light rain in this July 2017 image. Below, trees obscure the entrance of the road tunnel.


An Gorta Mor exhibit going to Ireland in 2018

A large portion of the art and artifacts from the Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., will travel to Ireland in 2018. The “Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger,” exhibition will be on view at Dublin Castle from March to June, and at the West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen from July to October.

In addition to displaying paintings, sculpture and other items from this one-of-a-kind collection, the touring exhibition also will include a program of poetry and literature readings, concerts, theater and lectures.

The Ragpickers,, 1900, by Henry Allan, is part of the Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum collection.

The estimated cost of the exhibition is $800,000, according to the official website. Of this amount, Quinnipiac has committed $200,000, with the balance to come from corporate, foundation and individual donations, including one $250,000 “presenting sponsor” and three $100,000 “lead sponsors.”

It will be interesting to see who or what organizations pony up.

In March 2013, I spent a day at the museum and related collection of printed materials at the Lender Family Special Collection Room at the University’s Arnold Bernhard Library. The combination of narrative and visual materials made for a moving and engrossing experience.

I am sure these images and materials will have an even more profound impact back “home” in Ireland.

Ellis Island, Annie Moore and other Irish news of 1892

Happy New Year!  Today is the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Ellis Island immigration center in New York. Cork teenager Annie Moore, joined by two younger brothers, was the first immigrant to enter this busy portal to America. She stepped off a steamship gangplank and into the massive building, where she was greeted by U.S. government officials.

The “rosy-cheeked Irish girl” was handed a $10 gold piece in a brief ceremony scaled back from earlier plans for a “pretentious opening,” The New York Times reported. Her arrival in America also was noted a few days later in a one-paragraph brief on page 2 of the Irish Examiner.

The attention didn’t last long.

“Annie may have stepped off the boat and into American legend—the first of 12 million to pass through Ellis Island in its 62 years of operation—but as an actual person she seemed to dissolve the minute she reached Manhattan,” Jesse Green wrote in this 2010 New York magazine piece that explores the fact and fiction of the popular immigration story.

The Times story that helped make Annie a legend also reported that Ellen King, “on her way from Waterford, Ireland, to a small town in Minnesota,” was the first to purchase a railroad ticket at Ellis Island. And it hinted ominously of detained immigrants placed “in a wire-screened inclosure (sic).”

The arrival of these immigrants at Ellis Island was not the only Ireland-related news reported by the Times in the first days of January 1892. Other stories included:

  • The  wreck of the schooner Catherine Richards off the coast of county Kerry on 29 December 1891, killing six crew.  The sailing vessel was carrying a cargo of grain from Africa to Limerick.
  • The 31 December 1891, explosion at Dublin Castle, two months after the death of Charles Stuart Parnell, which stirred “whisperings that the ‘physical force’ party were tired of their enforced inactivity and had given up all hope of Ireland gaining her independence through Parliamentary agitation.”
  • The pending U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the Supreme Court of Nebraska and allow James E. Boyd to become governor of the state. Boyd was born county Tyrone in 1834 and emigrated to America 10 years later with his family. Boyd’s father applied for U.S. citizenship in Ohio but never completed the process, later moving the family to Nebraska, where his son become involved in business and politics. Once Boyd won the 1890 governor’s contest, outgoing Gov. John M. Thayer challenged his citizenship and refused to yield the office. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Boyd and other residents of Nebraska gained citizenship when the state joined the union in 1867.

Five years after opening, the Ellis Island center that welcomed Annie Moore burned to the ground in a massive fire that also consumed 40 year of federal and state immigration records. It is the replacement building opened in December 1900 that became the iconic symbol of U.S. immigration through 1954. This is where my Kerry-born maternal grandmother and grandfather arrived in 1912 and 1913, respectively. Today, it operates as the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.

The original immigration center at Ellis Island, top, opened New Year’s Day, 1892. It burned to the ground five years later. It was replaced by the iconic building, below, that is now a national museum of immigration.

Ireland ordered to take big bite of Apple taxes

In a largely expected but still stunning ruling by the European Union’s antitrust commission, Ireland is being ordered to collect €13 billion ($14.5 billion) of back taxes from tech giant Apple. Details of the 30 August decision are still developing.

Unsurprisingly, Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan “disagrees profoundly” with the ruling. In an official statement, he said:

Ireland’s position remains that the full amount of tax was paid in this case and no State aid was provided.  Ireland did not give favorable tax treatment to Apple.  Ireland does not do deals with taxpayers.

Apple distribution center near Cork city.

Apple distribution center near Cork city.

The Irish Times says the penalty “is far in excess of what had been envisioned by Irish authorities,” and that the State will appeal the decision. In an analysis, Cliff Taylor writes:

The scale of the finding means that the whole issue of multinational tax will be front and center again in international business debate, and this is bound to spark off serious tensions between the European Commission and the U.S., which will be furious at what has happened.

Ireland is caught right in the middle. It is a decision which will involve significant collateral damage for Ireland, which has always claimed to have a transparent and legally based tax system.

Ireland’s 12.5 percent corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in the developed world. As The New York Times reports:

Other incentives and breaks allow companies to cut their bill even further. While it is phasing out some of the more contentious loopholes, Ireland just introduced a new break for revenues on intellectual property, a potentially huge benefit to large technology companies with troves of patents.

On the First Day of June

On the first day of June, 2012, my wife and I attended the Listowel Writers’ Week, which this year opens on the same date. We attended a reading by poet Paul Durcan at the Listowel Arms Hotel, the lovely River Feale shimmered outside the ballroom window, just beyond where the poet sat at a small platform.

A highlight of the performance was his reading of “On the First Day of June.”

I was walking behind Junior Daly’s coffin
Up a narrow winding terraced street
In Cork city in the rain on the first day of June …

… Outside in the streets and the meadows
In Cork and Kerry
On the first day of June on the island of Ireland
Through the black rain the sun shown.

Four years later, it remains one of my favorite moments in Ireland.

Architect traveled from the Lee to the Mississippi

NEW ORLEANS–One of the Crescent City’s premier 19th century architects was a native of Cork city. Now, a new exhibition celebrates “An Architect and His City: Henry Howard’s New Orleans, 1837-1884.”

Henry Howard, circa 1870s.

Howard sailed from Ireland to New York in 1836, moving to Louisiana the following year, not long after fellow Irishman and architect James Gallier Sr. arrived in the city. At the time, New Orleans was America’s third largest city, a bustling trade hub, albeit one driven by slave labor.

Howard studied at the the Cork Mechanic’s Institute before his emigration. In New Orleans and the surrounding area he designed some 240 homes, factories, churches, orphanages and commercial buildings through the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The exhibit runs through April 3, 2016, at The Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal Street in the French Quarter. There’s also a new companion book, “Henry Howard: Louisiana’s Architect.”

Here’s a story and photos about the book from nola.com. And some background on the history of the Irish in New Orleans.

A man, his camera and over 200 Kerry cemeteries

What started as a hobby turned into a job and became an obsession.

Now Tralee resident Joe Maher has created a website filled with headstone images from more than 200 County Kerry cemeteries, representing more than 130,000 dearly departed since the 1770s.

Joe Maher. Image from Irish Mirror.

Joe Maher. Image from Irish Mirror.

“The idea came to me when I started my family tree in 2008 and hit many dead ends,” Maher, no pun intended, writes in the About page of his website, www.kerryburials.com. He started the job in May 2013 and just finished up last month.

“I took more than 50,000 pictures and I did things like clear away ivy and fill in faded lettering with white chalk to make sure I got the right shot,” Maher told the Irish Mirror. “The photographs need to be properly indexed, which could take four or five years and money I don’t have.”

Kay Caball of the always excellent My Kerry Ancestors website and blog also wrote a post about Maher. Both sites contain useful links for genealogists and history buffs with an interest in Kerry.

Maher’s photo collection includes the Celtic cross and burial marker of my maternal relatives, the Diggin family of Lahardane townland on Knockanore Hill, just outside Ballybunion. Thirteen members of the family are buried at Kilehenney Cemetery on the Sandhill Road, near the entrance of the Ballybunion Golf Club.

Now Maher is beginning to photograph and index headstones from County Cork. Support his efforts with a donation if you can.

Guest post: Visit to Ireland, Part 2

Our friend Tim McDonnell visited Ireland in October. This is the second half of his guest post about the visit. Part 1 is here. MH

5-Star Eating

Contrary to popularly held beliefs, the food in Ireland was excellent and dramatically exceeded our expectations. Fresh fish, lamb, the mixed grill, full Irish breakfast, brown bread and seafood chowder, fresh scones – all as good as you’ll taste anywhere in the world. But – beyond the more native dishes, there is a very global and diverse range on offer, like any good culinary hub. It was not just the high end restaurants, although we went to several – like O’Grady’s in Barna, the Lodge in Doonbeg, Market Lane in Cork City – heck, we even ate in Stormont’s royal dining hall called “The Long Gallery.” It was also family restaurants like O’Loughlin’s in Miltown Malbay (Clare), Kate McCormack’s in Westport (Mayo), Paddy’s Barn in Downpatrick (Down), and our B&B’s in Doonbeg and Cork City – and the homemade variety with family and good friends in Dublin and Crosshaven (Cork). There’s nothing like local hosts and guides – but if you don’t have family over there or any Irish friends to help personalize your trip, not to worry. Just stop in for a pint at a pub anywhere on the road and lighten up for a laugh – one of the easiest things you can do is befriend an Irishman.

The Self-Deprecating Celebrity

Guest blogger Tim McDonnell, far right. Others left to right are Tim's wife, Amber, his cousin Edelle O'Meara of Galway and jockey Davy Russell.

Guest blogger Tim McDonnell, far right. Others left to right are Tim’s wife, Amber, his cousin Edelle O’Meara of Galway and jockey Davy Russell.

My cousin from Galway, Edelle O’Meara, is dating Ireland’s best horse-racer Davy Russell – and we got to spend some time with the man himself while we were over. Horse racing is one of Ireland’s favorite past times, and everywhere we went, the Irish people knew Davy. As recognizable there perhaps as Evan Longoria might be for the average person walking in downtown Tampa. Davy generously provided tickets for Edelle, my wife and I, along with Amber’s parents, to watch him compete at the Limerick Races in Limerick City. He placed us in a suite along with the University of Limerick racing society – and came up to the suite before the races started to give the students betting advice on the 5 races that he was set to compete in. As Americans, we thought he would be explaining why he expected to win all 5 races – but he went in a much different direction with it. It sounded something like, “Ah Jeannie Mac, that horse there could fall over twice and still beat my horse to the line in this race.” And, “Ah sure, you see now, if I were a betting man – I would wager that my horse in this race will end up in that man’s yard right over there.” Belly laughs all around. Entertaining, endearing, and easy friends – like most everyone on the island, God Bless it. I think we may have even made a couple Euro betting against his advice.

Who control historical commemoration?

The Irish Story, a great website, currently features an opinion piece by Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc that raises thought-provoking questions about how history is remembered and celebrated. At issue are plans to redevelop a memorial of the 1920 Kilmichael Ambush site in Cork so that it commemorates both sides in this key battle in the Irish War of Independence.

The idea of developing Kilmichael into a heritage site and tourist attraction has been widely welcomed. However the idea that this development will include a formal commemoration of the [Royal Irish Constabulary] Auxiliaries has met with strong opposition. This controversy has arisen at the beginning of the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ and raises important questions about the nature and politics of commemoration and who and what we commemorate.

The piece is worth the read and is beginning to attract an interesting string comments. This isn’t the first time such issues have been raised in Ireland, and it surely will not be the last.

Kilmichael Ambush Memorial in Cork

Kilmichael Ambush Memorial in Cork

Kilkenny picked among world’s friendliest cities

The readers of Conde Nast Traveler have selected Kilkenny city in County Kilkenny as one of the world’s friendliest places. “Charming and full of proud folks who want you to sample their best, Kilkenny is a can’t-miss destination for our readers,” the magazine wrote.

The town of about 25,000 was the only European city in the top 10. (It actually tied with Ubud in Bali, Indonesia). Dublin was named 12th worldwide and Cork city was 20th place. Florianópolis in Brazil won the honor of world’s friendliest.

The Irish Independent reported that “Kilkenny has recently enjoyed a huge increase in its booming tourism industry, and in 2012 welcomed 219,000 international visitors.”