It’s not all whiskey and beer.
The history of Ireland is both beautiful and heartbreaking. It makes you wish you lived there, yet it also makes you count your blessings. Being of Irish descent, this history has always fascinated me. I’ve found that in order to understand something, you need the full picture. You need to know what came before it, and you need to be able to visualize what comes next.
Over their history, Ireland and the Irish people have endured hardship after hardship—first in the homeland, and then once they began fleeing for America. But what interests me most is that regardless of the struggles, the Irish continued to cherish their home country, and eventually their new one. Alongside that affection for place was a devotion to both religion and family.
These senses of place and relationship have been passed down from generation to generation of Irish. It’s why you continue to see close-knit Irish neighborhoods in places like Detroit, New York and Boston. It’s why regions like Appalachia have such a strong tie to Irish ancestry, and why place, family and religion continue to be such a large part of their lives. Maybe that’s why a notion of place is usually a focal point in my writing.
In my home state of Michigan, several counties garner Irish names, whether it be from a revolutionary (Emmet county) or from counties back home in Ireland (Roscommon, Clare, Wexford). You’d be surprised how much Irish history lies in the names of American towns and counties.
For anyone interested, I would highly recommend reading The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan. Having Irish ancestry myself, this book gave me a great background on the history of Ireland and what led to so many Irish making their way to America.
For any writers out there, the book also explores the power that words can hold, and who better to explain that than the Irish?
“I find it impossible not believe that there’s something in Irish blood that favors their power with words.” – Jim Harrison, Off to the Side
Let’s take time to celebrate the Irish today, whether it’s in your blood or not.