The history of New York and the history of the Irish have been deeply entwined from when Irish immigrants first landed on the shores of Manhattan in the early 18th Century. NYC has always appealed to the poor of Ireland with it’s siren call of better opportunities than their home country could provide. But what had been a steady stream in the 18th Century, grew into a flood from the 1820′s through to the mid 19th Century as the Great Famine took hold Ireland. As Irish men and women came in droves to find their fortunes here, at one stage there was more Irish in NYC than in Dublin.
Those early Irish immigrants didn’t have an easy time of it. Most were relegated to laboring and domestic service jobs that they had to fight for against the resentment of immigrants who had arrived earlier and who were not Catholic. However the Irish gave back as good as they got and often overcome oppostion by either sheer weight of numbers and straight out skulduggery of all sorts.
One thing the Irish brought with them was their hatred of the British. The man who was later Brigadier General of New York’s famous ‘Fighting 69th’ Irish Regiment, Michael Corcoran, refused to parade his tropps for the 19 year old Prince of Wales in 1860 when he visited New York. He was threatened with a Court Martial but then the Civil War broke out and he was very much needed to recruit his fellow Irishmen to the Union cause. So the Court martial proposal was quietly dropped and Corcoran went on to serve with distinction throughout the Civil War.
The Irish in New York, like other immigrant groups were clannish, banding together to help each other in their churches, through their Benevolent societies and most particularly in their gangs. They showed a particular aptitude for seeking out positions of power and influence. The Irish came to dominate the FDNY and NYPD as they developed as institutions. And they consolidated their political power in New York and in the Democratic party through Tammanay Hall, dominating City and State Politics, the building trades and the waterfront in the City for many years into the 20th Century.
New York has had 11 Irish Mayors and many prominent NYC sporting, legal and acting professionals have proudly claimed their Irish ancestry. It must be said the Irish have also contued to make their mark in the gangster world of NYC, just as some of the early irish gangs did as they battledea gianst other ethnically based gangs in the 19th century.
SITES IN NEW YORK ASSOCIATIED WITH THE IRISH:
CASTLE GARDEN in Battery Park, Americas official immigration Center.
ELLIS ISLAND whichb ecame the major immigration port in America from Jan 1892.
FIVE POINTS, now demolished but at the intersection of Worth, Baxter and Mosco Streets in Lower Manhattan.
The worst slum in NYC in the 19th Century and the site of fierce battles between the gangs of New York.
The old ST PATRICKS CATHEDRALin Lower Manhattan and the current ST PATRICKS CATHEDRAL on Fifth Avenue.
Tammany hall in Union Square, once the heart of Irish Democratic political power.
MCSORLEY’S OLD ALE HOUSE AT 15 E. 7TH Street the oldest remaining Irish Ale House in NYC.
IRISH HUNGER MEMORIAL. a little chunk of Ireland situated near the World Trade Center and the waterfront.
A memorial to how many left Irleand because of the Great Famine.