Winona and the Gophers

Having discovered (invented) the ‘origin’ of the Dead Rabbits, Cassidy then did the same for some of the other NY gangs. I have already posted on his absurd and impossible derivation for the Plug Uglies. Cassidy also decided that the Shirt Tails came from siortálaí, which is a variant form of a word siortaitheoir meaning rummager or ransacker. The received wisdom is that this gang wore their shirt tails outside their trousers so that they could be recognised. This was also the case with factions in Ireland, where the gangs adopted items of clothing like an old waistcoat or a necktie. These sartorial touches became the equivalent of the blue and red colours of Crips and Bloods, so the English shirt-tail explanation makes a lot of sense.

Cassidy went even further by saying that the Gopher Gang derived their name, not from the fact that they hung around in cellars but because they were a confederacy or comhbhá (pr. koh-wah or koh-vah). Ó Dónaill defines this word as fellow-feeling, sympathy, close friendship, close alliance. Which, to me, seems more California than Hell’s Kitchen – a bit too New Age and touchy-feely.

I can just imagine one of their meetings. 

“Now, I call dis meetin’ to order. I’d just like to say, las’ time we was makin’ some real progress. Tony, you was tryin’ to woik out why you keeps faintin’ when you’re under pressure. Legs, you shared wid us how undermined and disenfranchised you feel as a poisson when da cops is mean to you, and Bugsy, you was outlinin’ da copin’ strategies you employ to counter da feelins o’ rejection you gets when people try to not pay da full whack o’ protection money …” 

Then Cassidy completely loses it. OK, his ideas were crazy before now … but this one is really howling at the moon with a tinfoil helmet! According to him, when the Gopher Gang founded their Winona Club in Hell’s Kitchen, this was nothing to do with the town of Winona, Minnesota or the Native American princess it was named after. No, according to Cassidy, this was a club for the Uathadh Nua, which Cassidy claims means ‘the new few’. Note that uathadh has the letters Lit. after it in the dictionary, which means that this is an old-fashioned literary term, not in current use. And we are not talking Dickens or Twain old-fashioned here. We are talking ‘Gadzooks, sire, by my codpiece, I vow the knave lieth!’ old-fashioned. In other words, not current now, or in the 19th century. And just in case anyone is in any doubt that Cassidy was a lying imbecile, I should just point out that uathadh nua is pronounced oo-ah-hoo noo-a. The first bit is like Oahu but with a vowel change to Uahu. Does this sound much like Winona to you? What about the w? What about the vowels? What about the other n?  

Cassidy also claimed that the Why-O Gang derived their name from the same word and without a shred of irony, he quotes an early 17th century text, Foras Feasa Ar Éirinn, as an example of the word in use!

In short, Cassidy’s claims about the gangs of New York are as ridiculous, contrived and fanciful as the rest of his mad theories.

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