Our immigrant ancestors came to America and worked feverishly, in many cases, towards achievement and success. Their workplaces, educational institutions and even their modes of recreation were settings for these generations to assert their significance and belonging within an ambitious American nation. Even our beloved baseball diamonds were a showplace for those who wanted to do well.
We marvel at the hard work, family devotion and associations that were an essential part of life for our immigrant ancestors. Yet, surprises abound when we discover their commitment to leisure time, spent along the abundant waterfront surrounding Baltimore: a major industrial city tucked into the land bordering the west side of the Chesapeake Bay.
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.
We are thoroughly enjoying this learning experience as we look to various resources to better understand the flow of Irish dance through Baltimore history. A key to following the genre is an understanding that traditional Irish music and dance are intertwined and inseparable. Of course, each discipline is dependent on audiences to perform for, and fans of the art form give both emotional and financial support.
Perhaps you have spent years enjoying and participating in Baltimore’s Irish dance community, whether through the step dance form commonly seen among the many Irish dance groups of the region, or as part of a set dance group such as the Emerald Isle Club... and participated in their ceilis. That’s not the case with this writer, but there has been much to discover as I have interacted with dancers and musicians on the subject.
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.
Baltimore's rich history includes both a modern understanding of the role of drink within the greater culture and the considerable effort in earlier years to moderate the use of alcohol in Irish parishes. We hope you enjoy learning about another era, and the efforts to keep all things in moderation.
Two generations of fiddlers were front and center in the efforts to perpetuate Irish culture and traditions in the Baltimore area. Both were also central in the community's desire to maintain a flourishing dance tradition among the immigrant Irish and the generations to follow. Let's learn about Larry Ward and Mathew J. White.
Baltimore was a gateway for sailing ships who brought the desperate Irish into America's second busiest port. It was also, in later years a place to gather and travel eastward towards sun, sand and surf if you had a few dollars to spare.
Even the simplest railroading work has a fascination for many of us, and some even name their place of business after them. Such is the charm of the Gandy Dancer.
Perhaps you have spent years enjoying and participating in Baltimore’s Irish dance community, whether through the step dance form commonly seen among the many Irish dance groups of the region, or as part of a set dance group such as the Emerald Isle Club. That’s not the case with this writer, but there has been much to discover as I have interacted with dancers and musicians on the subject.