Baltimore's St. Patrick's Parade is a time of celebration (wait 'til next year), and a visual delight. Perhaps you have enjoyed it in its modern form. What attracts you to it, in particular? Is it the joy and spectacle of the day? The festivities are, for many, the purpose in and of itself. Yet, as with so many themes in Irish life, there is a deeper significance to it. Our American heritage, and our rights listed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is the foundation of the expressions of the day.
Immigrant Irish arrived with limited skills and education, and most men entered the working world as common laborers. They worked under others who were skilled tradesmen and learned as they went, eventually becoming accomplished in various trades themselves. This was the stepping stone for many Irish into the middle class. One prominent group who did just this was those who worked in the brick and block trade.
Baltimore's early Irish Catholics gathered in parishes close to the waterfronts and factories where jobs could be found, and they could be part of a supportive Irish church. A swelling population pushed the faithful outward, and an answer needed to be found on the edges of town...once the shadowlands of city life.
Baltimore's population swelled in the years following the arrival of thousands of desperate Irish. They gathered in waterfront and downtown parishes in huge numbers, and something had to give.
Our Shamrock Legacy series of articles includes stories of remarkable Irish who began anew in America, leading what would seem to be modest lives among their own. Many developed into persons of accomplishment, and established families that would make significant contributions to a young America. Such was the experience of Patrick and Julia A. Connolly.
Research into our heritage can take us pretty far afield, as it were. Cemeteries can present whole new stories...some personal, and others less so. You just might find your name inscribed on a marker, while another might name the home turf of an immigrant Irish hero. Here's what one search presented to us.