Mar 30, 2012

Old Celtic Lady's Prayer

I was moved by this and wanted to share it with you.  Brother Sean Bradley begins by sharing that this story comes not out of a Roman Catholic or religious teaching, but from his heart. The story really gets going at minute 5.00.

Mar 21, 2012

Mission of Our Lady of the Rosary for the Protection of Irish Immigrant Girls

This mission to Irish immigrant girls was the inspiration for the Ellis Island Series I'm currently working on. I marveled over pictures of this building on the Internet and when I was able to see it in person last October it was just as amazing to see that this old building was still standing among the modern skyscrapers of the Wall Street District.

Many immigrants came to America completely unprepared, and this was certainly true for young Irish girls. Missions like this were created to keep the girls from harm or from turning to a life of prostitution out of desperation. Approximately 60,000 girls came through this building from the late 1800's to the middle of the 20th century. And now, according to this article, records are available for genealogical research.

I like to imagine what life was like for these girls, alone, scared, having to adjust to a different society with all kinds of modern conveniences they did not have back home. If it weren't for societies like this one the history of the these families might have been very different. If you have an Irish immigrant ancestor who came through Ellis Island and then worked as Irish maid, you very well might find your relative's name in the society's ledgers. I'd love to hear about it!

Mar 17, 2012

5 Things You Might Not Know About St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Here's my list of things you might not know (and you just might because I have such smart blog readers!)

1. Ireland's traditional color is blue, not green. Shocking, isn't it? Well, I suppose that depends on how far you want to go back. I'm thinking there wasn't an official color when Patrick came to Ireland and if even if there had been, he wasn't Irish. (Also shocking, right? He was a Roman Briton, likely born in Wales or Scotland, according to who you want to believe.) Here's one report about the Irish color blue.
The flag of the President of Ireland from Wikipedia.

2. The leprechaun has nothing to do with St. Patrick, and the one we're most familiar with has nothing to do with Ireland. Apparently it was Walt Disney who invented the happy-go-lucky leprechaun. The Irish version is a trickster, not one you probably want to encounter, and... incidentally, he likely wore no green.

3. The Irish don't dye their beer green. Why mess with it? Besides, Guinness doesn't take the dye well. Beware. Don't say I didn't warn ye! ;-)

4. Parades aren't traditional in Ireland. Yes, Dublin, Ireland, has a fantastic St. Patrick's Day Parade, watch it here, but the parades began in America. Irish soldiers in the British army held the first one (so it's said) in NYC in the 18th century.

ST. PATRICK'S DAY PARADE 2011    -      Fifth Avenue, Manhattan NYC   -    03/17/11
Last year's NYC parade.
Photo by asterix611
5. Wearing a shamrock is a traditional way of celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Folks in Ireland started that in the early 1700's. So, go for it! 

Learn who Saint Patrick really was. Visit the Saint Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland. That's me in front of the Centre, but you can visit online here.

Mar 16, 2012

Guest Post: It's Not Patty!

My friend Jamie just ran this post on her blog. I thought you'd appreciate it so she said I could share it with you.

It’s Patrick’s Day. Paddy, Not Patty. Please.
By Jamie Chavez

The day the Irishman was born, his mother watched the St. Patrick’s Day parade from her room in the Rotunda Hospital overlooking O’Connell Street and the Parnell monument. I’d love to be in Dublin for this parade, although they say some of the best St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world are here in the States: Boston, New York, Chicago, Savannah, Georgia (who’d a thunk it?).

One thing we Yanks can’t seem to get right, though, is the spelling of Patrick’s nickname. Browse any greeting card display, for example, and you’re bound to see this: Happy St. Patty’s Day!
            No, no, no.
            It’s spelled Paddy. 

That’s the diminutive of Pádraig, which is Gaelic for Patrick. Here’s a website that gives you all the acceptable “wee versions” of Patrick, as well as a scrolling monitor of “eejits” who are using the unacceptable version on Twitter—just in case you’d like to call them out on it. :)

Unfortunately, Paddy has too often been used as an ethnic slur in reference to an Irishman. (Paddywagon, for example, of American origin, refers to a police van, either because so many Irishmen became policemen in American cities, or—and here’s the slur—due to the high crime rate among Irish immigrants in the nineteenth century. You can look for it even in the lyrics of children’s songs, like “This Old Man”: Wikipedia tells us the term paddywack was used from at least the early nineteenth century to describe an angry person, specifically a “brawny Irishman.”) Interestingly, it can just as easily be an affectionate term for that same Irishman; it just depends on who’s saying it and how it’s said. Nonetheless, if you find yourself in Dublin on the grand day, you (with your American accent and all) should probably be circumspect.

The route for the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Parade is 2.5 kilometers (about a mile and a half) long and leads from Parnell Square on the city’s Northside down O’Connell Street, over the River Liffey via O’Connell Bridge into Westmoreland Street, past Trinity College at College Green and on to Dame Street. It then turns left at Christchurch Cathedral into Lord Edward Street, Nicholas Street and Patrick Street before finally finishing at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. If you can’t make it, you can stream it live here.

Wherever you find yourself on March 17, though, just remember—it’s Paddy, not Patty. And stay away from that green beer.
Happy Saint Patrick's Day 2010, Dublin, Ireland, the green luck, the green love, our impressions, the parade, enjoy! 17/03/2010 and so much more!:)
From the parade in 2010. Photo by

Jamie Chavez is an editor, writer, and blogger. This article reprinted by permission, © 2012.

Mar 10, 2012

Were Your Ancestors Here?

As part of my research for my novels I watch some YouTube videos. There are lots of historical clips that are fascinating and give you a good feel for life at the turn of the 20th century.

Two historical photographers will appear in my first novel in the series, Grace's Pictures. One is Jacob Riis, the author of How the Other Half Lives. He chronicled life in the tenements where the immigrants lived. Since many Americans have ancestors who came through Ellis Island, many of our ancestors lived in the conditions Riis's photographs illustrate if they stayed in New York after they arrived.

Another interesting aspect of searching YouTube videos is that many students put their history projects up there. This one, I think is very good. What do you think?

Mar 5, 2012

Guest Post: How Do You Say Celtic?

All Their Wars Are Merry and All Their Songs Are Sad*
By Jamie Chavez

Words—and the way they are pronounced—can be such funny things. And people are often passionately attached to their own interpretation, even if they’re … well … wrong. Like the pronunciation of Van Gogh. (Look it up; you may be surprised.)

The Irishman and I have done some pleasant business with a company called Celtic Marble and Granite right here in the geographical center of the state. The storefront downtown is this fantastical, swirling, hippie-looking façade and I just love it, love going inside and running my hands over the samples of gorgeous stone. The business is owned by the Fretwells; she’s English, he’s Welsh (very, very Welsh).

Which doesn’t really matter, but I’m out driving one day and remember I need to call them about our current project. I don’t have the number, so I call information and ask for Celtic Marble and Granite. I pronounce it “KELL-tick.” Wouldn’t you? It never crossed my mind to pronounce it any other way.

            The operator tells me there is no such number.
            Now … I know there is. :) So I smile and say: “Oh, of course there is! I do business with them! C-E-L-T-I-C (see-ee-ell-tee-eye-see).”
            Long pause. “You mean SELL-tick, then.”

Hahahahahahahhaa. My mistake was that I didn’t get it at first: I was wrong, she needed me to know that. But that just flew right over my head. “No, it’s KELL-tick,” I say without thinking. I didn’t really mean to argue with her, I just didn’t understand I wasn’t playing the appropriate role. :) It made her mad, I could tell. (After the fact. Sorry, BellSouth operator lady! Really!)

But what about the Boston Celtics? you might well ask. Or, if you’re Irish: But what about the Glasgow (Scotland) Celtic? Excellent questions. I was trying, some time ago, to locate a succinct explanation of the origins of the Gaelic language, a language that, written, looks absolutely nothing like how it sounds (would you have guessed the word taoiseach—meaning prime minister, as in “Bernie Ahern, at age forty-five, was Ireland’s youngest ever taoiseach”—would be pronounced “TEE-shock”? Neither would I), when I stumbled upon this, which explains the situation: What is a Celt and who are the Glasgow Celtics?

… It is interesting to note that when the British Empire was distinguishing itself as better and separate from the rest of humanity, it was decided that British Latin should have different pronunciation from other spoken Latin. Therefore, one of these distinguishing pronunciational differences was to make many of the previously hard ‘k’ sounds move to a soft ‘s’ sound, hence the Glasgow and Boston Celtics. It is the view of many today that this soft ‘c’ pronunciation should be reserved for sports teams since there is obviously nothing to link them with the original noble savagery and furor associated with the Celts.

And that, I believe, is the final word on that!

(*From “The Ballad of the White Horse” by G. K. Chesterton: “For the great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad, for all their wars are merry …”)

Jamie Chavez is an editor, writer, and blogger. This article reprinted by permission, © 2012.

Mar 1, 2012

Happy St. David's Day

St. David, the patron saint of Wales, was a 6th century bishop. His rule was rather harsh, but his goal was the same as other ancient Celtic Christians--to draw close to God. We all are still on this journey.

I'm sharing this video from my friend, author Liz Babbs, because it inspired me this morning. I hope it inspires you as well.