Category Archives: Irish Slavery meme

Of Irish Slaves and Irish Slang

I have recently had cause to criticise the absurd ‘Irish Slavery Meme’ which has been challenged by a number of historians, most notably Liam Hogan of Limerick. While this may seem like a deviation from the aims of CassidySlangScam, which is primarily about the Irish language and more specifically about the ridiculous fake Irish etymologies produced by the late Daniel Cassidy, there are clear parallels between these two dishonest sets of claims.

In both cases, a meme which is almost entirely rubbish is being circulated virally, often by horrible people with a particular agenda. With Cassidy’s work, many of his supporters are naïve and foolish people who believe they are defending the Irish language when they support Cassidy’s ridiculous made-up rubbish. With the Irish Slavery Meme, many of them are White Supremacists who claim that their ancestors had it worse than African slaves but you won’t find them bitching and moaning and asking for positive discrimination, blah blah blah …

In both cases, the meme is of relatively recent origin. Cassidy’s ludicrous nonsense first started to spread when he published his first articles in 2003. The Irish slavery meme has precursors going back over a hundred years in the work of Thomas Addis Emmett but didn’t go mainstream until  the publication of To Hell or Barbados, a highly inaccurate book written by a journalist (not a historian) and published in 2001. It has never had any currency among genuine historians.

In both cases, there is a core of genuine information surrounded by immense quantities of guff. In both cases, the genuine information is non-controversial and accepted by both sides. In the Cassidy case, there is a handful of derivations which are accepted (shebeen, puss, phoney etc.) by all dictionaries but most of Cassidy’s claims link English expressions to made-up ‘Irish’ phrases. In the Irish Slavery meme, there is no doubt that a certain number of people were essentially kidnapped from Ireland and transported against their will to the colonies (especially for a few years in the 1650s) where they were forced to work as indentured servants for a number of years. The followers of this meme vastly inflate the numbers involved, claim that the indentured servants were slaves or were treated worse than slaves, and that this ‘Irish slave trade’ continued for hundreds of years.

In both cases, we find some of the same names supporting this rubbish: IrishCentral and Niall O’Dowd; Donnacha DeLong; Mike McCormack.

In both cases, the fakeness of most of the evidence presented can easily be established. It’s just that people are either too lazy to go looking for it or unwilling to have their fantasy version of the world challenged by facts.

In both cases, anyone who argues that this meme is fake news and completely untrue is verbally attacked by people who claim that their position is ‘anti-Irish’ or Anglophile, or that they are ‘deniers’, as if denial of lies is a bad thing!

In both cases, this results in the claim that orthodox academia has somehow suppressed the truth about the Irish origins of American slang or the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Irish slaves and that these ‘truths’ should be acknowledged by academics or taught in schools – even though there isn’t a shred of evidence that these things happened.

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!

A Great Article By Liam Hogan

A couple of days ago, Liam Hogan posted a link to a great article of his which comprehensively slams the egregious Niall O’Dowd and his role in spreading the myth of Irish Slavery on IrishCentral:

FYI. The founder of Irish Central attempts to whitewash their influential role in spreading ahistorical “Irish slaves” propaganda https://medium.com/@Limerick1914/niall-odowd-whitewashes-history-by-denying-the-role-irish-central-continue-to-play-spreading-b602522a11f8

Please follow the link! I heartily recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of our country and especially the way that our history has been misused in the service of various dim-witted ideologies which have little or nothing to do with Irishness.

More On White Slavery

I have received a short comment on my post A Brief Update from somebody called James who seems to be based in England and objected to my criticism of the Irish Slavery meme and my support for the position of Liam Hogan, the Limerick historian who has debunked it. I don’t usually respond to this kind of nonsense but what the Hell! Hogan is right. This rubbish deserves to be criticised by all right-thinking people, regardless of their political beliefs. Here’s the comment:

Definition of the word “Seritude” ? Also no mention of Liam hogans links to far left organisation Open Democracy Or Limerick university – that far left philanthropist George Soros also has links with. If African and Irish immigrants were all in jail, and the africans are treated terribly, this implys the Irish are not prisoners, as there treatment was so much better……Bullshit. How do you explain kidnabbing. Were they servitide contracts as well ?

Yeah, I didn’t mention Liam Hogan’s politics because I neither know nor care what his politics are. And I couldn’t care less about Limerick University’s links to George Soros, if they exist. What interests me is whether Liam Hogan is telling the truth or not and as far as I can see, he is being completely honest while the Irish Slavery promoters are lying their arses off. The fact is, I don’t like the racist and far-right politics that seem to motivate those who support the Irish Slavery meme but if I thought they were telling the truth I would admit that and deal with it, regardless of my attitude towards their political beliefs. The argument about Africans and Irish in prison is really foolish. If we’re talking about people being in prison, they’re prisoners. But indentured servitude and chattel slavery are two different things. Indentured servitude was often (though not always) voluntary, it involved people from many different European countries (including England) and these indentured servants had legal rights and their servitude was time-limited.

In chattel slavery, black people were kidnapped, sold and they had no rights. They and their children and their children’s children were the property of the person who had bought them. If they were tortured, raped or murdered, they had no rights and there was no legal redress.

As for the kidnapping which took place in Ireland between 1653 and 1657, that happened. I’ve discussed it here and Liam Hogan has also discussed it at length. Here’s just a taste of what Liam Hogan said about it:

Cromwellian era forced deportations from Ireland to the British West Indies did not begin in earnest until May 1653 and the total number forcibly deported during the Cromwellian era is roughly estimated by scholars (Corish, Watson, Akenson, et al) to have been around 10-12,000 people. The paucity of records ensures that we will never know the exact number. Kerby Miller (Emigrants and Exiles, 143), Robin Blackburn (The Making of New World Slavery, 247) and Matthew C. Reilly (“Poor Whites” of Barbados, 6) estimate that “several thousand” were banished. These estimates are educated guesses based on contemporary population figures for the islands, allowing for a high mortality rate, pre-existing Irish populations and concurrent voluntary emigration.

In other words, thousands of Irish people were sent to the Americas forcibly as indentured servants. This involuntary kidnapping went on for a few years after the War of the Three Kingdoms ended. These kidnapped people (those who survived) went on to be released, as in the case of Downing and Welch, dealt with on a post here (Niall O’Dowd Answers Critics, April 1st 2017). Some of these former indentured servants were involved in the slave trade themselves. In other words, yes, what happened to those people was bad but it was very different from chattel slavery.

Chattel slavery went on in America until the 1860s. It is estimated that around ten million African people were forcibly removed from their homes and sold in the colonies, where, in general, all their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren were also slaves. So, we are talking at least twenty or thirty million people who were systematically denied any kind of rights and who were systematically treated as less than human during the centuries of slavery.

Now, here’s what I don’t understand. A lot of the Irish population was wiped out during the Cromwellian Wars in Ireland – somewhere between 40% and 20% of the population before the wars. Yet that huge loss of life doesn’t seem to be of any importance to people like you. What you want is Irish slavery. You insist that Irish people were slaves and many of your type insist the Irish were enslaved until the 19th century and there’s a conspiracy to hide that fact. And that, my friend, is total bullshit. Do you think the revolutionary patriots of the 18th and 19th century who hated the English so much wouldn’t have noticed this and written about it? You think it wouldn’t have been a major gripe for people like O’Connell, as many of these Catholic ‘slaves’ would have ended up as Protestants in the colonies? The fact is, whatever motivates people like you to believe this crap is generally to do with white supremacist stupidity, not pride in being Irish.

In short, why don’t you go and read a few books on Irish history instead of insisting on your conclusion before doing any research? Get a proper education and stop filling your head full of this half-baked bigotry and hatred and jealousy.

More on Niall O’Dowd …

Recently, I have had a go at Niall O’Dowd and his support for the bizarre conspiracy theory that slavery figured large in Irish history and that this truth has been suppressed by mainstream historians. I wrote several posts on this subject in support of Liam Hogan and other academics who have opposed the Irish slavery myth, not because they are pro-English, but because it is a myth and is being used by racists to belittle the African American experience of slavery. Of course, I have my own motives for piling on Niall O’Dowd and IrishCentral. They have consistently supported the weak-minded nonsense produced by Daniel Cassidy, in spite of all the evidence that Cassidy’s ‘research’ was rubbish and that Cassidy himself was a fraud.

I wrote these posts rather hastily and in the process, I made a mistake, taking a source which contained modern revisionist references to slavery as an accurate account of contemporary court records from New England. Liam Hogan contacted me to point this out and I have now made that clear on the post concerned. (This serves to demonstrate that history is best left to those who know what they’re doing, just as etymology shouldn’t be left to people who are unaware of the most basic facts of historical linguistics.)

In writing these posts, I forgot to mention a point which I had intended to discuss, O’Dowd’s comments on history itself. In his apologia, he says:

We cannot allow racist whites to delineate our history for us, nor politically correct thinking to ignore and deny that any Irish were ever slaves.

This is staggeringly hypocritical. So, it’s somehow letting racist whites win if we change our story and apologise, is it? Or is it those who are politically correct who would be allowed to win? (In fact, forget the politically. It’s people who are correct that O’Dowd doesn’t like, because they show him up!)

He reiterates the same point later on in the same article.

We cheapen it because we are scared of it being taken over by white racists, but we cannot allow them to own our historic reality either.

See how he presents himself as a champion of reason and moderate common sense? This is his focal scoir or parting shot:

History does not belong to any group or individual – it belongs to us all. How the Irish were treated in colonial America is a lesson we should never forget.

How noble! However, let’s just wind back a bit and take a look at the article on IrishCentral which caused all the trouble in the first place. You can find it here:

http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/irish-the-forgotten-white-slaves-says-expert-john-martin-188645531

As you can see, the article simply repeats all kinds of figures which are completely false and belong to the racist discourse. The article is completely indefensible. The most obviously dodgy claim is this one:

The Irish were further exploited when the British began to “breed” Irish women – or girls, sometimes as young as 12 – with African males.

There is absolutely no evidence for this lurid and politically motivated myth which is calculated to make the Aryan blood of rednecked simpletons everywhere boil.

However, it gets worse. This is the last part of the article:

Martin concludes, “In 1839, Britain finally decided on it’s own to end its participation in Satan’s highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded THIS chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.”

So, the Irish were being ‘sold into slavery’ right up until the famine, apparently! What a load of nonsense! History belongs to people who have a commitment to telling the truth. And O’Dowd has shown time and time again that he doesn’t care a damn about getting the facts right. What a creep!

Niall O’Dowd Answers Critics!

A couple of days ago, Niall O’Dowd published a reply to those academics who put their name to Liam Hogan’s open letter criticising him for an article on IrishCentral which supports the idea that the seventeenth-century Irish were victims of enslavement and pointing out that the word slave is an emotive one with a specific meaning. You can find the reply here: http://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/niallodowd/why-the-irish-were-both-slaves-and-indentured-servants-in-colonial-america These Irish people were indentured servants or bonded labourers. Their plight was bad, the circumstances of their kidnap and deportation distressing. But Liam Hogan and others are at pains to point out that they were not chattel slaves the way generations of African-Americans were.

O’Dowd pretty much admits this and claims to deplore the way that the slave label has been used by right-wing groups to play down the legacy of slavery among African Americans.

The controversy has arisen because some far-right groups have claimed that the experience of Irish slaves was interchangeable with (or even in some cases worse than) the experience of black slaves, and have used that as justification for an array of abhorrent racist statements and ideas.

O’Dowd’s answer to his critics is every bit as feeble and incompetent as I would have expected. He mentions a well-known court case where a couple of young men, who were abducted by soldiers and shipped to the Americas against their will from the East Cork area, were effectively sued by their master for a breach of a contract to which they had never consented. To quote O’Dowd:

If we accept that a slave is someone “who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them,” as does the Oxford Dictionary, then I say let’s call it what it was according to those who lived and reported it: slavery AND indentured servitude.

We cannot allow racist whites to delineate our history for us, nor politically correct thinking to ignore and deny that any Irish were ever slaves.

Let’s take a  look at this one case of the Irish experience in the 17th Century in Massachusetts which certainly looked an awful lot like slavery to me.

That the boys were abducted by British soldiers at the end of the Cromwellian Wars is not in doubt. That this was about money and profit is also well known. That it was inhumane and wrong is also obvious. All the actions of the English in overrunning areas of Ireland which had previously been under native control and oppressing and exploiting the people of Ireland in the seventeenth century were immoral. Of course they were!

But we need to be careful about definitions, or we play into the hands of the racists who will claim that the Irish and the African experience are equivalent. In both the court case and the article below, the boys are referred to as slaves. (See the comment below from Liam Hogan. Apparently they were not referred to as slaves in the original document – this is a modern addition.) But when we look at the circumstances, it looks a lot less like chattel slavery as known among African Americans.

Here’s how the court case between William Downing and Philip Welch and their master Mr Symonds came about:

One Sabbath day evening in March, with plowing and planting foremost in his mind, Philip came into the parlor and asked Mrs. Symonds just who would be expected to do all the springtime work. Displeased with her answer he announced that after seven years of service to the family, he and William would work for them no more unless new terms were struck.

William Downing concurred that they had worked for free long enough and both boys reiterated their demands to Samuel Symonds. They knew of other stolen Irish children sent to Barbados who had been released from slavery after just four years. “If you will free us,” said Philip, “and pay us as other men we will plant your corn and mend your fences but we will not work with you upon the same terms as before.”

When one of the servant girls chastised the lads for troubling their master, Mrs. Symonds was heard to say, “let them alone; now they are speaking let them speak their own minds.” Samuel Symonds was not as tolerant of their protests as his wife. “You must work for me still, unless you run away,” he said, leaving no room for further discussion.

The following morning a constable arrived to arrest the boys. Philip Welch softened slightly at the prospect of incarceration and agreed to serve out his time if his master would promise to give him as good a portion of food as any of his children. Even the constable encouraged Symonds to reconsider his strict stance, but the master wouldn’t budge an inch. He filed charges against both slaves and held his ground.

I don’t know about you, but I would have thought that if any black slaves quibbled about their conditions, they would have been flogged to within an inch of their lives. Another point worth considering is that the boys lost the case and were returned to their servitude and O’Dowd leaves it at that. But that isn’t the end of the story. At least two of the four Irish boys mentioned in the case, Phillip Welch the defendant and John Downing, a witness, survived, married and had free children as free men in New England. Their descendants didn’t have to wait until the 19th century to own themselves, and they didn’t have to wait until the 1960s before they were allowed to register to vote. The point is, the very fact that there was a court case at all shows that this was different from chattel slavery. And did you notice the comment about Barbados? The kidnapped children there were apparently released after four years. Nobody disputes that these abductions were disgusting. But the servitude of the Irish exiles was time-limited. And we have to remember that most indentured servants in the colonies were voluntary. They signed up to it of their own volition and the majority of them weren’t Irish.

So, why is Niall O’Dowd sticking to his guns and refusing to back down? Well, I’m still waiting for an apology or retraction for his promotion of Cassidy’s insane book after two years. I personally don’t believe that O’Dowd has the decency to apologise. I believe that because that’s my experience of his behaviour. He’ll keep on splitting hairs and distorting the truth and dissembling, because being Niall O’Dowd means never having to say you got it wrong – even if everybody else can see you got it wrong.

Anyway, I look forward to reading Liam Hogan’s reply to O’Dowd! Hogan is a competent, intelligent man and a genuine historian and I’m sure he’ll make mincemeat out of him …

 

IrishCentral and Irish Slavery

Recently, I came across a fascinating document on line by an academic at the University of Limerick called Liam Hogan. In March 2016, in the run up to St Patrick’s Day, Hogan published an open letter to The Irish Examiner, Scientific American and IrishCentral, criticising the nonsense they have promoted which claims that huge numbers of Irish people were enslaved by the British and that the first slaves in the Caribbean and in the Americas were really Irish. Hogan is pointing out that the indentured servitude and penal servitude of the Irish in the 17th century, while it was harsh and brutal, wasn’t the same as chattel slavery and should not be compared directly to it. He also points out that there are outright fabrications, distortions and exaggerations in the accounts of Irish ‘slavery’.

You can find it here: https://medium.com/@Limerick1914/open-letter-to-irish-central-irish-examiner-and-scientific-american-about-their-irish-slaves-3f6cf23b8d7f#.mqeiu3req

Hogan states that it is important for people in the Internet age to check sources and be responsible in what they publish. He points out that white supremacists and opponents of the Black Lives Matter campaign are using this disinformation to make light of the legacy of slavery among African Americans.

The letter was signed by fifty academics, primarily history specialists. Two of the publications targeted by Hogan, the Irish Examiner and Scientific American, accepted the criticism and changed their output accordingly. What was the response of Niall O’Dowd and IrishCentral? Well, anyone who has read this blog will have a pretty good idea. The response was to ignore it. The original article is still on IrishCentral. You can find it here: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/irish-the-forgotten-white-slaves-says-expert-john-martin-188645531

There are some interesting parallels here to my issues with IrishCentral. For a number of years, IrishCentral has published and republished an article by Brendan Patrick Keane about the theories of the late Daniel Cassidy, who claimed that much American and English slang comes from the Irish language. This article, like Cassidy’s book, is an incompetent collection of lying garbage. I have repeatedly criticised it here, along with IrishCentral’s editor, Niall O’Dowd, who has continued to promote this pompous crap. My criticisms have been ignored. This is only a small blog, so perhaps that is unsurprising. However, the fact that Niall O’Dowd is such a creep that he simply ignores fifty prominent academics who are accusing him of supporting false claims which have been used by white supremacists to further their ends is a surprise, even to me. (And I have actually read Niall O’Dowd’s autobiography. Jeez, what a tedious waste of a day that was! Still, thank God I only read it. I didn’t have to live it …)

There is another interesting parallel. While we don’t know who penned the IrishCentral article on Irish slaves (it’s just labelled IrishCentral Staff) it quotes from a prominent 9/11 Truther called John Martin, who is described as an ‘expert’. Brendan Patrick Keane, the author of the crap article on Cassidy, is also a 9/11 Truther.

An even stranger parallel is that an Irish numpty called Donnacha DeLong supported Cassidy and was criticised by me here. Guess who published an article critical of Hogan on his blog in May 2016? Yep, Donnacha DeLong! You can find it here: https://donnachadelong.info/2016/05/13/irish-slavery-fact-or-myth/

DeLong’s arguments are as imbecilic as the crap he advanced in defence of Cassidy. He describes this as a ‘stupid debate’ and accuses Hogan of making ‘a name for himself condemning those who talk about the Irish history of slavery’. DeLong condemns racism and the racists who misuse the Irish slave meme but then says ‘lumping everyone who’s looking into the treatment of the Irish in the 17th Century in with neonazis and racists is simply wrong.’ He doesn’t explain who exactly is doing this lumping. Hogan is certainly not accusing everyone who believes in the Irish slavery meme of being a racist and he’s not saying that the English treated the Irish well. He’s saying that the way people of African descent were treated was much worse. Which it was.

DeLong recommends that people should look at other sources, like Peter Linebaugh’s co-written The Many-Headed Hydra. Linebaugh, a very mediocre Marxist historian, was also a big fan of Cassidy’s nonsense. Like DeLong’s, Linebaugh’s response to Cassidy’s work shows that he simply can’t be arsed doing the research a real historian or journalist should do.

Anyway, a thousand thanks and a big round of applause to Liam Hogan and to everybody else in this story who has stood up for honest, evidence-based research and journalism. As for Donnacha DeLong, Niall O’Dowd, John Martin, Brendan Patrick Keane and all the rest, shame on the lot of you, you shower of dim-witted post-truth arseholes! People like you make me ashamed to be Irish!