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An Update/Nuashonrú

 I have been really busy recently, so I have had little time to devote to this blog. Last week, Eoin Ó Murchú, an old friend of CassidySlangScam, wrote a piece about Cassidy’s nonsense in the Irish supplement to the Irish Independent. He discussed the list of words the RubberBandits put out last year.

The RubberBandits also put up a piece on Twitter. They said that they wanted to speak to people who have Irish and ask them questions about the language. One person raised the question of cultural appropriation and Dennis King (an American who speaks good Irish) replied with another piece about Cassidy’s book.

I think it’s worth mentioning these two things. Although I am the most determined and most vitriolic critic of Cassidy and his stupid book, I am not alone. There are plenty of people out there who have a knowledge of Irish, of Irish history, of linguistics or of English slang who also hate Cassidy and his garbage.

 

Bhí mé thar a bheith gnóthach ar na mallaibh agus mar gheall air sin, is beag am a bhí agam leis an bhlag seo a scríobh. An tseachtain seo caite, scríobh Eoin Ó Murchú, seanchara le CSS, píosa faoi raiméis Cassidy i bhforlíonadh Gaeilge an Irish Independent. Phléigh sé na focail a chuir na RubberBandits amach anuraidh.

Chuir na RubberBandits píosa suas ar Twitter fosta. Dúirt siad go raibh siad ag iarraidh labhairt le daoine a bhfuil Gaeilge acu agus ceisteanna a chur orthu faoin teanga. Thóg duine ceist na leithghabhála cultúrtha agus d’fhreagair Dennis King (Meiriceánach a bhfuil Gaeilge mhaith aige) le píosa eile faoi leabhar Cassidy.

Is fiú an dá rud seo a lua, dar liom. Cé gur mise an duine is díograisí agus is binbí maidir le Cassidy agus a leabhar bómánta, níl mé liom féin. Tá neart daoine amuigh ansin, daoine a bhfuil cur amach acu ar an Ghaeilge, ar stair na hÉireann, ar an teangeolaíocht agus ar bhéarlagair an Bhéarla, a bhfuil an ghráin fáiscthe acu ar Cassidy agus ar a chuid amaidí fosta.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Captain Returns/Filleann an Captaen

Some while back, I gave out to and about Captain Grammar Pants (a.k.a. Sean Williams of Evergreen State) for buying into Cassidy’s nonsense and helping to spread it far and wide through her grammar and ‘etymology’ site on FaceBook. After a while, she contacted me and admitted that she had made a mistake with Cassidy’s rubbish. Fine, I thought. At least one sinner has returned to the fold …

However, imagine my surprise when I came across this piece of crap on Captain Grammar Pants the other day. It was published about four months ago. (October 2017)

Dude! Slang can be fun and mystifying at the same time; its meaning also changes over time. Today we sort out DUDE (Irish, “incompetent fool”) …

Oh, for God’s sake! Didn’t you learn anything last time? There is a word dúid in Irish. It means 1. Stump 2. (a) Stumpy object, protuberant part; (short) horn, (cropped) ear, tail. (b) Short-stemmed (clay) pipe. 3. (Craned) neck, throat. 4. (a) Stumpy person. (b) Mopish, shy person; numbskull.

So where did the definition “incompetent fool” come from? Who invented that one? It’s not a direct quote from Cassidy but it’s close enough. And dude means a dandy or fop, which dúid doesn’t. The English dude almost certainly comes from Yankee DOODle DANDY, who stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni (which was also slang for a fop or dandy in the 18th century). There are several other possibilities but dúid isn’t as good a candidate as Yankee Doodle Dandy, as these sources agree:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2013/11/05/dude_etymology_of_the_word_is_traced_to_doodle_as_in_yankee_doodle_dandy.html

https://www.etymonline.com/word/dude

So, Captain Grammar Pants, PLEASE wise up and stop misleading people about language!

 

Tamall beag ó shin, thug mé amach do Captain Grammar Pants (nó Sean Williams ó Evergreen State mar is fearr aithne uirthi) as glacadh le raiméis Cassidy agus as cuidiú lena scaipeadh i gcéin is i gcóngar tríd an suíomh gramadaí agus ‘sanasaíochta’ atá aici ar FaceBook. I ndiaidh tamaillín, chuaigh sí i dteagmháil liom agus d’admhaigh go raibh meancóg déanta aici le cacamas Cassidy. Go breá, arsa mise liom féin. Ar a laghad, tá peacach amháin i ndiaidh filleadh ar an tréad … Samhlaigh an t-iontas a bhí orm, áfach, nuair a chonaic mé an cacamas seo ar Captain Grammar Pants an lá faoi dheireadh. Tuairim is ceithre mhí ó shin a foilsíodh é (Deireadh Fómhair 2017):

Dude! Slang can be fun and mystifying at the same time; its meaning also changes over time. Today we sort out DUDE (Irish, “incompetent fool”) …

Ó, ar son Dé! Nár fhoghlaim tú a dhath an uair dheireanach? Tá an focal dúid sa Ghaeilge, ceart go leor, ach ní hé sin a chiall. Seo na sainmhínithe, de réir FGB (Ó Dónaill):

  1. Stump 2. (a) Stumpy object, protuberant part; (short) horn, (cropped) ear, tail. (b) Short-stemmed (clay) pipe. 3. (Craned) neck, throat. 4. (a) Stumpy person. (b) Mopish, shy person; numbskull.

Cá háit a bhfuarthas an sainmhíniú sin “incompetent fool” mar sin? Cé a chum an ceann sin? Ní sliocht díreach as saothar Cassidy atá ann ach tá sé cóngarach go leor. Agus ciallaíonn dude gaige nó scóitséir. Níl an chiall sin ag an fhocal dúid, ar ndóigh. Tá sé chóir a bheith cinnte gurbh ó Yankee DOODle DANDY a tháinig an focal dude, ‘who stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni (focal a raibh an chiall gaige nó ‘dandy’ leis i mBéarla an ochtú haois déag). Tá roinnt moltaí eile ann, ach níl dúid chomh maith mar bhunús an fhocail le Yankee Doodle Dandy, mar atá le feiceáil sna foinsí seo:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2013/11/05/dude_etymology_of_the_word_is_traced_to_doodle_as_in_yankee_doodle_dandy.html

https://www.etymonline.com/word/dude

Mar sin de, a Chaptaein, LE DO THOIL, bíodh ciall agat agus stad de bheith ag cur dallamullóg ar dhaoine faoi chúrsaí teanga!

November’s Twit of the Month – James Wilson of IrishCentral

There was fierce competition for the Twit of the Month again. The obvious contender was Tommy Graham of History Ireland, who claimed that he had not received Liam Hogan’s rebuttal of Mike McCormack’s idiotic letter in time to publish it. The question I immediately asked myself is this. Did Tommy Graham send him an email to remind him? Did he make sure that Hogan knew the closing date? The apology Graham made is welcome but it’s not as if an attack by an idiot like Mike McCormack is really going to damage the reputation of a careful and intelligent historian like Hogan. The reason why Tommy Graham should be bending over backwards to make things right (apart from the fact that it’s the right thing to do) is that the reputation of History Ireland has been damaged by this. History Ireland looks bad and it’s going to continue to look very shite-coloured until Liam Hogan gets a chance to put his side of the story. So, Tommy Graham is still in the frame but I’ll leave it until the next issue of History Ireland in 2018 to see what happens.

Another potential candidate was the ridiculous pseudo-historian Peter Linebaugh (I have already had a go at him, but only in brief) but as I was preparing my critique of him, I found another and more timely target.

James Wilson wrote an article recently in IrishCentral which irritated me beyond measure. You can find it here: (https://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/others/how-the-irish-became-white-is-a-history-book-that-fails-the-history-test)

Until recently, IrishCentral has been one of the highest profile propagators of the myth of Irish Slavery. Under the misdirection of Niall O’Dowd, IrishCentral produced an article which is essentially copied from an article by an ‘expert’ called John Martin (apparently an alias anyway), an article which itself quotes extensively from the work of a well-known racist and Holocaust-denier. After being lobbied for over a year by Hogan and other historians, O’Dowd then wrote a nauseating article (without removing the offending nonsense) which claimed that the Irish were both slaves and indentured servants. I have dealt with this cynical and unpleasant article already (Niall O’Dowd Answers Critics).

Recently, IrishCentral finally removed the offending article and they have now added James Wilson’s article, which is a review of Noel Ignatiev’s book How The Irish Became White. Rather than tackle the Irish Slavery Meme and its supporters directly, James Wilson has produced a poorly-written article about a book which really has little to do with the Irish Slavery Meme as challenged by Liam Hogan.

The first sentence shows that Wilson has no idea what the book is about: “The title of the book is simply a shoddy attempt to conflate Irish suffering with slavery and a cheap attempt to pander to white grievance.” No it isn’t. I don’t like Noel Ignatiev’s book much either. Its fundamental argument, that race is a social construct and that the Irish were forced into becoming racists because of their quasi-white status at the bottom of the ethnic ladder, is overstated. As Wilson says, the Irish were always white. But the Irish Slavery Meme didn’t really exist back in 1995, when Ignatiev’s book was published, and Ignatiev is a radical Marxist, not some ignorant White Supremacist. Why not attack the target IrishCentral itself has just spent several years promoting, rather than attacking a fake target like Ignatiev? Because, of course, that would involve some genuine contrition and a willingness to wash IrishCentral’s dirty linen in public.

And if you’re going to take the right line over the difference between chattel slavery and indentured servitude, then at least read a book or two and do it properly! Don’t produce weak-minded dilettante shite like this. These are important issues and they deserve to be discussed intelligently and properly. The difference between chattel slavery and indentured servitude is not to do with one being voluntary and the other involuntary. Wilson says that: “At no point in US history were the Irish kidnapped from their homeland and brought shackled to America.” Actually, in the years following the Cromwellian Wars, an estimated 12000 Irish people, many of them children, were kidnapped and sent on an involuntary basis to America and to the Caribbean. They weren’t slaves because they had legal rights and their service was time-limited. Most indentured servants were voluntary (but not all). The vast majority of them weren’t ‘worked to death’, or worked harder than African slaves, though some of them did die waiting for their their contracts to run out. (Just as many free people died of malaria, yellow fever and tuberculosis in Virginia and other colonies.) But indentured servitude and the chattel slavery of Africans were different. Fundamentally, radically different, in terms of numbers, time scale and severity of treatment. And it’s important that we get the facts about that right.

In a way, the attitude of IrishCentral reminds me of a character in the film Twelve Angry Men. Juror No. 7 has a ticket to the baseball game, so he votes guilty at first, hoping to get the jury service over quickly. It’s a murder case and a boy’s life is at stake. Eventually, as the time for the game draws near, he changes to not guilty, and is shocked when the people who were just trying to convince him to vote not guilty are angry with him. “What sort of a man are you?” says Juror 11, with disgust.

That’s my attitude towards IrishCentral. This stuff is important. If the folks at IrishCentral have done an about-face and now think the Irish Slavery Meme is worth criticising, then they should do some research and get their facts right. Perhaps they could invite Liam Hogan to write a few articles!

However, if they can’t be bothered doing any research and if they really don’t give a toss about educating the people who use their website about the false nature of the Irish Slavery Meme, then they should stick to the usual crap about leprechauns and recipes for Irish apple cake and leave the serious issues alone.

 

October’s Twit of the Month – Hugh Curran

For this month’s Twit of the Month, I have decided to return to Hugh Curran of Maine. Readers of this blog will remember that in the winter of 2016 and the spring of this year, I took issue with many of this man’s comments on IrishCentral. These comments (now deleted along with most of the accumulated comments on IrishCentral) were complete nonsense. They supported Daniel Cassidy and his preposterous theories, arrogantly ‘corrected’ people who knew more than he did, and criticised genuine etymologists for not giving enough credence to these absurd claims. In these comments, he implied that he was a fluent native Irish speaker. A quick look on line was sufficient to show that he is not fluent in Irish and he himself has admitted this since.

Hugh Curran claimed that Cassidy’s book “is sometimes maligned because a few of the several hundred words are of questionable Gaelic origin, yet the vast majority are correct and the book makes for fascinating reading.” In another post, he claimed that about 40-50% of Cassidy’s derivations were correct. Not only do these two judgements conflict with each other, they are also both nonsense.

I lambasted him on this blog for this behaviour but I also set him a challenge. If he can find ten derivations which are correct out of the hundreds in Cassidy’s book, I will remove my comments about him. Just ten out of hundreds. The only condition was that they had to be original to Cassidy and not plagiarised by Cassidy from other people. I also said that if he couldn’t find them and issued a formal apology for supporting this dreck and misleading people, I would also remove the comments critical of him and substitute it with the apology.

Since then, we have heard nothing from Curran. He hasn’t been able or willing (actually, let’s get real – he hasn’t been able) to find evidence for the outlandish claims he was making. And he is obviously way too up himself to apologise.

Some people might think I am wrong to single out someone like this. He is plainly interested in Irish and Irish culture, even if he doesn’t know much about them. He is an ecologist (though I wouldn’t be alone in regarding the ‘deep ecology’ that he teaches as a load of New Age woo), a political liberal, a supporter of gun control, and he has worked with the homeless. All of these things are very laudable. But does that give him the right to go onto public forums, misrepresent himself as an expert on the Irish language and essentially make up a number of ludicrous claims about the merits of Cassidy’s work? No, it doesn’t! Sensible people have a duty to challenge nonsense like that.

The recent debate about the Irish Slavery meme and the heroic work of Liam Hogan in defence of the truth has shown how much fake information is out there. Most of this fake information is spread by people who believe it’s true, even though it’s clear that the overwhelming majority of them have no idea how to separate bullshit from fact and massively over-estimate their own intelligence and level of education.

One thing is sure. People who spread fake information are a menace. Whatever they think their motives are, their shallowness and arrogance are helping to make the world a worse place.

That’s why my October CassidySlangScam Twit of the Month is Hugh Curran, fake Gaeilgeoir and pompous spreader of fake information.

More on Caribbean Slang

I had a message recently from someone called mat_leith (Mat Leith? Mat from Leith? Who cares!)  in relation to my post on Irish and Jamaican slang. In that post, I discussed how few traces the Irish language left on Caribbean slang (though I am quite prepared to accept that Irish was spoken by some people in the Caribbean and America, both black and white). Here’s his message:

Your actually a retard there are atleast half a dozen patois words with clear irish origions

Yeah, I’m a retard, as is the academic whose work I quoted. I mean, why respect Professor John Wells’ opinion just because he’s a linguist with a BA from Cambridge, an MA and a PhD from UCL, fluency in a Celtic language (Welsh) and decades of experience, as well as being in a very long-term relationship with a guy from Montserrat?

I wouldn’t bother answering this nonsense at all but it does give me a chance to reiterate my position on when people deserve a reply and when they don’t. So, to all the deluded trolls and arrogant dumbasses like Mat out there, people who continually fall into the abyss of ignorance that lies between what they know and what they think they know, let me just make myself clear. I am not interested in your opinions. If you’re just going to send me a message to tell me how smart you are (even if you can’t spell you’re or origins), don’t bother. If you have any genuine evidence to offer (such as what the five or six words of Irish origi(o)n in Caribbean English are), then please supply it so that I can refute it or agree with it. If not, go and waste someone else’s time.

 

Twit of the Month: Mike McCormack – fake historian, scribbler of doggerel and plagiarist

I was unsure whom to bestow my Twit of the Month Award on this September, but then another shitstorm developed on social media in relation to Liam Hogan’s excellent work debunking the racist myth of Irish Slavery. The only popular non-local Irish history magazine, History Ireland, published a letter by a dimwit who is apparently the National Historian of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a bunch of conservative homophobic Catholic bigots. You can see a picture of him above. He seems to be wearing some kind of leprechaun suit and looks like Donald Trump’s even more evil twin brother – or perhaps Val Doonican with a serious habit.

Many real historians and sensible and decent people from all walks of life were dismayed that this delusional cretin, whose name is Mike McCormack, was given a platform to publish such a childish, petulant and insulting letter in Ireland’s only bimonthly history magazine. History Ireland doesn’t have a great record in this respect. I have already criticised it in this blog for an appalling article by Bob Curran about Irish vampires but this is really completely indefensible. I will never buy another copy of this magazine and that’s a promise.

I am not going to go through every lie and piece of arrogant nonsense in Mike McCormack’s long-winded and ignorant rant. Other people will do that better than I could. They will point out that the population of Montserrat were never ‘70% Irish slaves’, that the difference between slavery and bonded servitude is real and existed long before political correctness, that there is no evidence that Goodwife Glover was even a bonded servant, never mind a slave who escaped from anywhere. They will point out that the documents of parentage detailing the organised rape of young Irish girls by Mandingo warriors are a lurid, racist fantasy, and that this nonsense wasn’t discussed before about 20 years ago because it hadn’t been invented yet. This man is a stupid, talentless amateur, not a historian.

As for his ‘poetry’, this rubbish about a Mass Rock is an example of the pathetic doggerel this man writes:

For this was a special celebration,

Testing the faith in which they believe;

Though it was a time of tribulation,

This was the mass on Christmas Eve.

 

How they suffered; how much they gave;

Just so they could worship their God,

They left a lesson for us to save,

And a memory that cannot be marred.

 

Does the rhyme God/marred work anywhere? Even in New York?

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that not only is this man a crap poet and a fake as a historian, he is also a supporter of the late Daniel Cassidy, the fantasist and liar who is the primary target of this blog (just like Niall O’Dowd of IrishCentral and the Irish Echo, Irish America’s answer to Joseph Goebbels, and Donnacha DeLong, the man who put the dick in anarcho-syndicalism.) However, I must say, the way McCormack chose to pay tribute to Cassidy was very odd. Even though imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, plagiarising substantial portions of an article by Cassidy without acknowledgment seems a somewhat dubious way of showing your respect. (Cassidy is mentioned in McCormack’s article, but it certainly doesn’t say that Cassidy wrote much of it.)

Here are the two articles. One (in bold) is Cassidy’s original article from the San Francisco Chronicle of 1998, while the other (italicised) is a 2009 article (republished in 2011) from the Irish Echo with McCormack’s by-line. Read both of them carefully, and note how much was copied, shared or liberated by Mike McCormack from the original article:

http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/

Churches of Fire in Ireland and the South

ALTHOUGH IT HAS been more than 20 years since Alex Haley’s “Roots” first hit the top of the best-seller list, it is still the most widely read novel written about African-American history. What is less known is that before his death, Haley was working on another book concerned with “roots.” This new story would begin not in Africa however, but in Ireland.

Alex Haley was an Irish African American. A people that both communities have chosen to forget, descended not from the shipwrecked sailors of the Spanish Armada but from the slave ships of Liverpool and the coffin ships of the Great Famine of Ireland.

Yet, until recently, few in either community have spoken about their shared past. Author and MacArthur Genius Award recipient Ishmael Reed has written and spoken often of his Irish and African roots. African Americans such as Muhammed Ali and writer Alice Walker have confirmed their Irish ancestry. Other Irish African Americans include jazz greats Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Gough Fagan, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Intermarriage in the 19th and early 20th centuries was certainly not common, but from the very beginning of the Irish and African entries into the New World, the relationship between the two races was complex and intense. A study of the “Bloody Ould Sixth Ward” turned up a number of Irish-African-American families living in New York’s largest Irish ghetto before the Civil War. Flying in the face of conventional wisdom, these interracial couples were able to live there peacefully during a time of massive riots, labor strife and gang wars. Less dramatic than intermarriage is the fact that after the Famine emigration, Irish and African Americans lived together in countless slums and shantytowns. Both were exiled peoples, forced from their native lands. Both lost their language, yet both held onto their identities through their music, their dance and their religion.

Finally, both formed gangs so powerful that they first ruled the streets and were later transformed into powerful political organizations.

Nevertheless, the relationship between Irish Americans and African Americans has been reduced by many to a black-and-white snapshot of mutual antipathy, epitomized by incidents ranging from the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 to the South Boston anti-busing conflagrations of the 1970s.

Omitted from this neat equation however, is a rich and forgotten history that stretches from the ancient fortresses of the Ulster kings, who traded with merchant princes of Africa two centuries before Christ, to Pete Williams’ dance hall in The Five Points neighborhood of New York, where author Charles Dickens was startled by the sight of “Paddy” and black revelers dancing together.

A history that can only be found in New York’s Old Bowery, where the children of the Famine emigrants cheered when the Black Laborer’s Union and the Fenian leader O’Donovan Rossa paraded up Baxter Street together in 1871 to fight for the eight-hour workday. Is it possible that the “lost chord” at the heart of the American experience lies hidden within these forgotten moments? The history that is as filled with dance and music as it is with violence.

Today, many of the obstacles that held Irish Americans back have been surmounted. But the African American struggle against injustice continues.

In July 1998, as Roman Catholic churches were torched all across Ulster, we are reminded of the black churches burned in the American South; the specter of the three Irish Catholic Quinn brothers, incinerated in their beds July 12 by a gasoline bomb thrown into their County Antrim home by Protestant extremists, recalls the fate of James Tate, dragged to death behind a pickup driven by Alabama white supremacists, simply because he was an African American.

The novelist Peter Quinn asked, “Could the parallels between the Irish and the Africans prove more than a coincidence? Might these two peoples share not only a journey, but a destination?”

Perhaps then the night skies of Belfast and Birmingham will no longer burn. Perhaps then, children will no longer perish in the churches of fire. Perhaps then we will be able to hear the echoes of Irish fiddlers and African banjo players mingling over the rooftops of our cities.

 

And here is Mike McCormack’s plagiarized version of the same article, originally published in the Irish Echo in September, 2009:

 

http://irishecho.com/2011/02/the-black-the-green-meeting-at-the-crossroads-of-shared-history-2/

The Black and the Green: meeting at the crossroads of shared history

 

Roots had been about his family tree on his father’s side; his new novel would be about the branch of his family, traced through his grandmother – the daughter of a black slave woman and her white master.

Haley died before he could complete the story, but at his request, it was finished by David Stevens and was published as “Alex Haley’s Queen.”

That story did not begin in Africa, but in Ireland, for Alex Haley was an Irish-African American – a member of a group of people that both the Irish and African communities have forgotten, but a group that deserves to be remembered.

It was a group descended from the slave ships of Africa and Liverpool, and the coffin ships of Ireland’s Great Hunger.

Haley was as proud of his Irish roots as he was of his African ones.

The late Daniel Cassidy, director of the Irish studies program at New College of California in San Francisco, said that while few in either community recognized their shared past, MacArthur Genius Award winner, Ishmael Reed, often wrote and spoke of his Irish and African roots and people like Muhammed Ali – in Ireland just last week – and writer Alice Walker have also held up high their Irish roots.

Other African-Irish American notables include Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan, and Ella Fitzgerald as well as, of course, President Barack Obama.

From the beginning of Irish and African arrival in the New World, the relationship between the two races was furthered by their common social position.

Tired of biased treatment, a group of workers met at John Hughson’s waterside tavern in New York City in the winter of 1740-41 to plan an insurrection on St. Patrick’s Day. The conspirators were a mixture of slaves and low-wage laborers of many nationalities, but the leaders were David Johnson, who swore he would help to burn the town, and kill as many white people as he could (meaning rich people for Johnson was white), John Corry, an Irish dancing-master, who promised the same, and an African-American named Caesar. Eventually they burned down Fort George, the governor’s mansion, and the imperial armory – all symbols of Royal authority and the instruments of ruling-class power in British New York. The British put down the rising and 13 were burned at the stake, 21 were hanged, and 77 were transported out of the colony as slaves or servants.

The corpses of two of the hanged leaders dangled in an iron gibbet on the waterfront as a lesson to others. As the bodies decayed, observers noted a gruesome transformation. The corpse of the Irishman turned black and his hair curly while the corpse of Caesar, the African, bleached white. It was accounted by the bigoted WASP society as proof that there was no difference between the blacks and the Irish.

That event is only a small part of a history of two groups that had suffered the same violence of the lash, the gallows and a ship’s dark hold just for being who they were.

Today, not only is their amicable association being misunderstood and eliminated from history, but tales of conflict between them have been credited to race alone in order to hide to hide the broader truth.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, intermarriage was not uncommon and studies of the Five Points, the Bloody Old Sixth Ward and the Central Park Shantytowns in New York reveal a number of African American families living in New York’s largest Irish ghettos before the Civil War.

Despite the prejudiced attitude of society in general, interracial couples were able to live there peacefully amid crime, riots, labor strife and gang wars. After the Great Hunger immigration, Irish and African American families lived together in the slums and shanty towns of all of America’s largest cities.

Both were exiled peoples who were forced from their native lands and had lost their language; yet both held onto their identities through their music, dance and religion. Omitted from today’s understanding is a rich and forgotten history of mutual tolerance that stretches from the ancient fortresses of Ireland’s Ulster kings, who traded with merchant princes of Africa two centuries before Christ, to Pete Williams’ dance hall in The Five Points neighborhood of New York, where author Charles Dickens was startled by the sight of ‘Paddy’ and black revelers dancing together.

The black dancers swapped steps and rhythms with the Irish, blending into an art form which found expression on the American stage.

In an article in the “International Tap Newsletter,” Jane Goldberg wrote that tap dancing came out of the lower classes, developed in competitive “battles” on street corners by Irish immigrants and African American slaves.

Another writer in the newsletter suggested that only in the great American melting pot could Irish jigs combine with African shuffles and sand dances to form an entirely new and exciting art form.

According to writer and critic Clive Barnes, it was the Irish clog dancers who started tap dancing, but these Irish forms were clearly grafted onto existing dances that came directly from Africa.

An early example of this story was the solo presentations of Johnny Durang, an Irish dance master in Philadelphia, who first gave Irish step dancing a theatrical form through his on-stage performance of the hornpipe. He was also apparently the first Irish person to blacken his face for performances. As blackface led to Minstrel Shows, the music changed from Irish to jazz and tap dancing to new rhythms evolved as well.

Irish and African laborers also created a history that can be found in New York’s Five Points, where the children of Irish immigrants cheered when the Black Laborer’s Union and the Fenian leader O’Donovan Rossa paraded up Baxter Street together in 1871 to fight for the eight-hour workday.

Another great connection was made with the contributions to the anti-slavery debate made by the flamboyant Irish nationalist leader, Daniel O’Connell.

In 1845, black leader Frederick Douglass traveled to Ireland and met and befriended the Irish nationalist leader and was pleased to be called the “Black O’Connell.”

When Douglass went to Ireland, he saw countless dead and millions of starving people eating grass. He wrote a friend of how the people of Ireland lived in the same degradation as American slaves.

He said, “I see so much here to remind me of my former condition I should be ashamed to lift my voice against American slavery but that I know the cause of humanity is one the world over.”

In a letter to William Lloyd Garrison, founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society, he wrote: “I have undergone a transformation. I live a new life. I gaze around in vain for one who will question my equal humanity, claim me as a slave, or offer me an insult.” Daniel O’Connell, the Irish Liberator, had sympathy for the cause of liberty everywhere, and was especially known for his public denunciations of slavery in America.

When southerners sent him money for his work in Ireland, he sent it back, calling it a bloodstained offering, saying he would never purchase the freedom of Ireland with the price of slaves.

Professor Patricia Ferreira, of Norwich University, concludes that although from a young age Douglass possessed the inclination to be a leader, Ireland was the site where this trait blossomed.

Ireland was also the site, according to Professor Bill Rolston, where Douglass honed both his oratorical and political skills. He returned to the U.S. transformed by his Irish experience and went on to become one of the greatest orators of the 19th-century.

The “lost chord” at the heart of the Irish-African experience in America lies hidden within these and many more forgotten moments.

Today, much of the prejudice against Irish Americans and African Americans has been overcome, but occasionally reminders appear.

In July 1998, as Roman Catholic churches were torched all across Northern Ireland, we were reminded of the black churches burned in the American South; the specter of the three Quinn children, incinerated in their beds by a gasoline bomb thrown into their County Antrim home by loyalist extremists, recalls the fate of James Tate, dragged to death behind a pickup driven by Alabama white supremacists, simply because he was black.

We have long prayed for a time when the night skies of Belfast and Birmingham will no longer burn and children will no longer perish in churches of fire.

Hopefully, that time has finally arrived.

 

Mike McCormack is National Historian of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

There you have it! Mike McCormack – fake historian, poetaster, plagiarist and September’s CassidySlangScam Twit of the Month!

Science Matters

One of the best things about cyber-reality is the way that, because of its vastness, you can easily find people whose ideas and beliefs coincide with your own. For example, I recently found a blog by an Irish scientist (Science matters: http://blobthescientist.blogspot.co.uk/), whose daughter had noticed the Rubber Bandits’ post on Cassidy’s ‘research’ and wondered whether it was true:

Meanwhile, in another part of the internet, this casual investigation of etymology by two lads from Limerick has been fueling a shit-storm of indignation. That is because the list of supposed Hiberno-Yankee slang seems to be from How The Irish Invented Slang published in 2007 by Daniel Cassidy. There seems to be no sense of de mortuis nil nisi bonum (Cassidy died of pancreatic cancer in 2008) among certain linguists and etymologists. In 2013, an anonymous gaelgeoir started a blog cassidyslangscam.wordpress.com to debunk, eviscerate and pour scorn [an ignorant, narcissistic fraud with no qualifications] on Mr “Deceased” Cassidy and his one book. This chap has been posting several articles a month ever since on this one topic. That shows commendable stamina in setting things right: “Etymologies from Cassidy’s How the Irish Invented Slang are widely duplicated across the internet. However, many of Cassidy’s definitions have been shown to be wishful thinking or completely made up”. As the blog was started a full five years after Cassidy died, this may seem like bolting the stable door after the horse is gone. But one of his (I presume cassidylangscam is a He, because none of the women I know get so cross about such a small annoyance) points is well taken. If nobody complains when things are wrong, the error will fester away and other people, less careful about evidence, will believe them to be true.

This is a good take on the story. I will ignore the line about maleness and getting angry about trivial annoyances – yes I am a man (though using the divine He is perhaps overegging the mixture a bit and my wife would certainly disagree that there is anything God-like about me), but I don’t consider the Irish language a trivial matter and unlike the author of Science matters, I don’t measure my gripes in nanometres! However, I have to say that I find his blog very enjoyable and interesting. There is a truly astonishing range of subjects, from Matisse to vaccination, from Flannan Isle to family history. He writes well and argues intelligently. Like myself, his default position is scepticism. He also has a very good sense of humour. I don’t agree with everything he says. His ideas on fluoridation seem irrational to me (well, he says that this is because of his ‘tree-hugging’ nature) and I am deeply suspicious of attempts to treat historical linguistics like programs showing the spread of epidemics (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1107054532/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_S_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1TMMT8PVFH50O&coliid=I1MU2OK2I90522)

However, in general, this is a very good blog and well worth a read. However, there is one thing about this blog that I really hate and I hope its author will pay heed. The font is way too small, which gives it an off-putting appearance. It looks more like an academic journal article than something you would read for fun.

Please experiment with different fonts and sizes until you find something that doesn’t offend the eye and doesn’t need to be measured in nanometres!