Boxing once rivaled baseball as the most popular sport in America, and the immigrant Irish were among the most active ethnic groups that did well in the ring. They also used their skills to provide relief for the suffering in 1921’s Irish struggle for independence.
Baltimore's Irish community did much to contribute to the establishment of a Free Ireland, and had some fun along the way. Some families with particularly capable members became major community leaders as well.
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.
The Irish language was once headed towards oblivion, a result of its suppression by British authorities on several fronts. Their efforts failed due to patriots both in Ireland and among the diaspora, including the Irish expatriates of Baltimore. We continue its perpetuation today.
The world was changing, and Baltimore didn't want to lose its place as a major shipping center. Other cities were building canals westward to bring people and products to developing communities well off the Atlantic Coast. What did Baltimore's leadership come up with to compete with them, and how did they celebrate a new beginning?
Today we consider one of Baltimore's favorite sons of the Civil War period and beyond. He had an Irish heritage, and considerable leadership skills.
Baltimore’s earliest Irish Catholics were a persecuted people, as were their fellow Catholics in other major cities in America. Although their numbers were strong, as they had been in Ireland, the persecution of their faith followed them to America. That persecution took another form, though; it was not particularly from the government itself, or an established church. Opposition typically came from anti-Catholic forces, such as the political Know-Nothings, religious groups and clergy.
More than one million Irish had become landless and starving, and saw no option but to flee. They began decidedly urban lives in America, rather than the rural village life that their people had known for millenia. And yet, they remembered home.