Tag Archives: fake history

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.

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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!

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!

A Reply To Mark Corbett

One of the things you learn from blogging is that there isn’t much point in arguing with really stupid people, so I don’t intend to get sucked into a debate with anyone on the topic of white slavery. However, I have received a comment from a certain Mark Corbett and I think I will answer it here, just to make sure that everyone understands my position. Corbett says this:

“He’s saying that the way people of African descent were treated was much worse. Which it was.”

If Hogan stuck to claiming that the form of chattel slavery suffered by African slaves in the Americas was worse, there would be little controversy. What he’s actually saying is that people who had their land confiscated, were arrested as vagabonds, shipped to the new world and worked to death on Caribbean plantations were not slaves at all.”

Now, here’s a comment by Liam Hogan in a recently-published article in the New York Times:

Contemporary accounts in Ireland sometimes referred to these people as slaves, Mr. Hogan said. That was true in the sense that any form of coerced labor can be described as slavery, from Ancient Rome to modern-day human trafficking. But in colonial America and the Caribbean, the word “slavery” had a specific legal meaning. Europeans, by definition, were not included in it.

So, let’s please get certain things clear here. Hogan is not a Nine Years’ War denier, or a Plantation of Ulster denier. He’s not saying (and neither am I) that the British brought peace and civilisation to Ireland. He’s not saying that those who were in bonded servitude, or those who were captured as ‘vagrants’ and sentenced to work in the Caribbean, were well-treated. He’s not saying that they all survived the experience (though your claim that the Irish were worked to death seems illogical – if you’re a plantation owner who has one of these ‘vagrants’ for a period of seven years, you would want them to work for the full seven years, because labour was valuable). Any evidence for that claim? Having lived in an area where my neighbours were gunned down indiscriminately by pro-British death squads, and being a fluent Irish speaker, I am well aware that the British influence on my country has been baneful and disastrous and I don’t need to be reminded of that fact.

Here are some of the things Hogan is claiming:

  • That there is no evidence that the Irish labourers or prisoners were treated worse than African slaves.
  • That there is no evidence for the claims that Irish women were forced to reproduce with African men.
  • That the whole notion of Irish slavery has been used in recent times, not so much to criticise the British, but to attack African-Americans – “White Irish slaves were treated worse than any other race in the US: when did you last hear an Irishman bitching how the world owes them a living?” (Obviously whoever wrote this never had any contact with Daniel Cassidy and his odious fan club…)
  • That photographs of victims of Japanese prisoner of war camps or 20th century child laborers (like the photo above) are used with claims that they are pictures of Irish slaves.
  • That a reference to a 1625 declaration by King James II to send thousands of Irish prisoners to the West Indies as slaves is a fabrication. James II was not alive at this time.
  • That figures in relation to this have often been plucked out of the air and are completely unsubstantiated.
  • That the first work dealing with this subject was They Were White And They Were Slaves: The Untold History of The Enslavement of Whites In Early America, self-published in the US in 1993 by an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier called Michael A Hoffman II.

It seems to me that this is a pretty good set of reasons to complain about the way this ahistorical nonsense is being spread, even if it does deprive people like Mark of a little bit of that warm feeling of victimhood which certain members of the Irish diaspora seem to enjoy so much.

So, the fact is, slavery was one thing. And what the Irish suffered in the 17th century was bad but it wasn’t the same as slavery. Interestingly, one comment in support of the Irish slaves meme mentions Goody Glover, a woman hanged as a witch in Boston because of superstition and racism and the fact that she was an Irish speaker and could only manage broken English. She had been sent to the Caribbean at some point, whether as a vagrant or an indentured servant isn’t clear. However, she and her children made their way to America. If they had been chattel slaves, she and her husband, and their children and their children’s children would have continued to be someone’s ‘property’ in the Caribbean. Is that a big enough difference for you, Mark?

The fact is, accuracy is important. We all know that there was a famine in Ireland in the 19th century. Historians argue about whether or not this was genocide. To my mind, the English establishment was to blame for the huge loss of life, whichever way you look at it. We don’t need to invent anything. But let’s just suppose that some lonely looney-tune in a dank apartment in Boston or London or Dublin decides that the truth about the famine was a far more hands-on thing. Suppose he claims that Queen Victoria and Trevelyan and Russell and lots of other English aristocrats caused the famine by floating over the West in hot air balloons throwing poison onto the fields and cackling hysterically at their own racist wickedness. A thousand dumbasses will immediately ignore that fact that this isn’t physically possible, that there is plenty of evidence of the virus that caused the blight, or that there is no record of all these upper-class English people going on a prolonged holiday at the time and they will accuse anyone who doubts the veracity of this claim of being soft, and pro-English, and self-hating Irishmen and traitors to the national cause and blah blah blah yada yada yada …

The fact is, I want historians to uncover the truth and tell it like it is, with all its contradictions and uncertainties. If you want a nice pantomime version of history with pantomime heroes and villains, then that’s up to you. But I personally don’t want anyone turning the tragic history of my people into a fucking cartoon, least of all when their motives have more to do with the Aryan Brotherhood than the Fenian Brotherhood.

Anyway, I’ve said what I wanted to say. Don’t bother replying, Mark. I’ve wasted enough time on this stupidity. If you want anything clarified, you can read it again.