Posted by: Dahni | March 17, 2008

Luck of the Irish

Irish 1   Wear Green (or technically Wear Orange if you are protestant), drink green beer, attend parades, take the day off (if you can), and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (if you are so inclined), but consider the phrase, ‘Luck of the Irish.’ What does that mean?

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   During the critical days of July 11-13 in 1863, I doubt anyone from Ireland was feeling particularly lucky. What kind of luck did the Irish have in Ireland in the 1840s? What was lucky about a famine that spread across their nation? Many fled Ireland in such numbers that by 1860, one of every four of New York City’s 800,000 residents, was an Irish-born immigrant. Why did they choose to come to the United States? Was it only to escape famine, disease and death or the promise of a bright future, full of hope and opportunity? What did they find?

   Many lived in such deplorable conditions that they were often far worse than the land of their births; the nations they left. Instead of opportunity they found poor paying jobs, cramped and insufficient housing, unsanitary conditions and little food. The pressures of a daily existence grew within and without. The final blow was conscription into the military. Even many barely off the boat were being called to fight in the Un-Civil War. A mob grew and the worst of mankind surfaced for three days in 1863. This reptilian riot destroyed much; injured and killed many.

   Lynching took place in public and black children were thrown from windows of an orphanage set ablaze. Symbols of blame were associated with the black race and almost anyone of means that could pay their way out of serving in the military. Looting, destruction of property, and all manner of violence erupted. The city smoldered with ash and smoke for days. A poet from the home of his mother watched in horror and wrote in despair, “Black, Black, Black!”

   No race or ethnic group was spared or unaccountable. The city was ripe for a takeover and had it not been for bad weather, General Robert E. Lee may have entered and taken New York City amidst the confusion.

   4,000 troops returning from the Battle of Gettysburg were ordered to take back the city at all costs. Costs were high as in some cases, brothers shot and killed their brothers literally, to secure order. Where was the luck of the Irish in any of this? This riot was to this point and to this day, the worst that has ever occurred in this country. I find nothing lucky about any of this.

   A belief in something greater than all the destruction survived. Something declared in 1776 would be celebrated during the centennial, but only a part, for it took ten years later before its symbol would be wholly seen. Her promise was poem-ed three years prior to her placement upon a permanent pedestal.
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Torch and Arm of the Statue of Liberty on display at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876. Photo: Centennial Photographic Co., 1876.

   A gift from the French people and a joint commitment of the United States would stand testament to the American experiment. This experiment that began early in the 1600s, declared publicly in 1776, endured among its own people at war with each other, had by luck or providence, persisted to this point.

   She would stand in front of the world as a welcoming friend and a beacon of freedom. She would draw all manner of peoples to her shore. If there was such a thing as the luck of the Irish, she was the symbol.

   On October 28th 1886, the dedication of the Statue of Liberty took place in front of thousands of spectators.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883

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   The luck of the Irish is Lady Liberty and Lady Luck belongs to all people of the United States of America and to all those that will come, WEAR GREEN

Just Imagine,


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