Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Irish Celtic Legacy...

Image result for Bernardo O’Higgins
Bernardo O’Higgins

One of the more endearing traits of the Irish is that they rarely take themselves...or anyone, else too seriously.

One of the things the Irish DO take seriously is freedom/independence and they generally do so with a revolutionary fervor. They did so at home and they've done so elsewhere. (…/the-irish-who-fought-for-latin-ame…

While most people are familiar with the Irish diaspora, many mistakenly believe that it was largely confined to America and Australia. That's not the case at all, as the Irish have been a presence in Latin America for eons, thanks to their being welcomed by places like Chile and Argentina. (…/ten-things-you-might-not-know-abou…

Chillán, a village in Chile is famous for being the birthplace of Bernardo O’Higgins, one of the country’s founding fathers, who'd played a major role in that nations wars against the Spanish in the early nineteenth century and served as Supreme Director of Chile for six years.

Bernardo was the illegitimate son of Ambrose O’Higgins, who'd scrambled up the social ladder from rural poverty, as a tenant farmer’s son in Ballynary, County Sligo, to become the Viceroy of Peru, the most powerful Spanish governor in South America.

Bernardo’s mother was Isabel Riquelme, born in Chile to a family of Basque ancestry.

Ambrose O’Higgins sent his son to Europe. It was there that the young Bernardo, still intensely proud of his Irish ancestry despite his poor relationship with his father, he became infused with the revolutionary spirit that was pulsing throughout the continent at the time. He resolved to return home to free Chile from Spanish control.

In the nation of Uruguay, a frigate is named after Peter Campbell of County Tipperary. The memory of Daniel Florence O’Leary, the son of a butter merchant from County Cork, who left Ireland to fight with Simón Bolívar in the jungles, plains and mountains of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, is recalled in a city-centre plaza in Caracas.

Burdett O’Connor province in Bolivia is named after Francis Burdett O’Connor, from Bandon, who fought to secure the independence of his adopted country.

The founder of the Argentinian navy, William Brown, from Foxford, Co Mayo, is another South American hero of Irish descent.

As author Tim Fanning notes, "...I realised that for every Bernardo O’Higgins or William Brown, whose fame carries across oceans and centuries, there were thousands more less well-known but equally fascinating stories of Irish men and women who came to Latin America during the independence era in the first decades of the nineteenth century. They were emigrants and soldiers, merchants and spies, priests and farmers."

In my time, the FDNY introduced me to many exceptional men of Celtic descent; Eddie Keating, Mike Finer, John L Sullivan, Jimmy Graney, Paul Mannix, Paul Rogers, Ed Hefele, Vinnie Halloran, Pat Concannon, Brendan Manning, the late Brian McCarthy, to name only a few.

Eddie Keating, the late Captain of Engine 50 in the South Bronx, was one of my favorite figures among many I met in the FDNY. When I was in 43 Engine, he was in "the R group," covering occasional tours in that Company.

Every time Ed entered the firehouse he'd yell out, "2,000 YEARS! Never AGAIN!"

I'm 3rd generation American, part Irish, part Italian and a bunch of other things thrown in. I was not raised ethnic in any way, so I was curious about the Captain's routine refrain.

One day, I asked him directly, "Cap, what's that mean? Is that some kind of Holocaust reference"? That was the only reference I'd ever heard the phrase, "Never again," associated with.

He looked at the Irish name sewn on my uniform and stared at me balefully and crestfallen, then asked, "Son, you don't even know your own heritage"?

I was going to reply, "My heritage is American," but he looked so doleful, I merely shook my head. He went on to regale me with the mournful history of the Irish Celts, and of Oliver Cromwell's attempted genocide, culminating in the Irish slave trade to the America's, mostly the Caribbean.

I came away from that encounter stunned and doubtful. I'd never heard of such things. I vowed to look them up and found he was right and his historical accounts were well documented in books like, "White Cargo" (White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America…/B…/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i3tRAb796HQJV
), "To Hell, or Barbados" (To Hell or Barbados: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland…/0…/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_V5tRAbPG0ZSM8
), and many other accounts.

It was a group nearly exterminated by Cromwell, who brought Ireland's population from 1.7 million to under 500,000 during the 17th Century. It was a country torn apart, its people exiled across the globe, BUT the Irish story ISN'T just one of despair, of oppression and man's inhumanity to man, it's also one of redemption and transformation and the ability to overcome and adapt.

In that regard, it is a universal story.

It's humanity's story. One EVERYONE can relate to and celebrate.

No comments:

American Ideas Click Here!