Chapter I


       To understand the Irish who settled in Cleveland during the early, middle and late 19th Century, it is first necessary to know something about the country from whence they came and how the centuries of troubled existence on that island shaped the collective character of its peoples,

The Celts

       Just when the Celts, a considerably advanced race of warrior craftsmen at the time of Christ's birth, moved across the channel waters from Gaul is not known with any certainty. What is known is that Celtic legends relating to the island go back almost to the days when Abraham was leading the Chosen People to the Promised Land.

       Traceable Celtic history dates back roughly to the year 2,000 B.C., but for reasons purely romantic, most scholars have tended to set their historical timetables to coincide with the arrival in the early 5th Century A.D. of the man who became known as St. Patrick. Why this should be, Patrick's astounding accomplishments notwithstanding, is a mystery. In the centuries before the Christianizer of Ireland performed his near-wondrous works, the .....





Drawn by Patricia Bashel-Veronesi



Drawn by Patricia Bashel-Veronesi



Celts had established themselves as overlords of Britain and Gaul, as well as the island of their real destiny. Their strength in numbers and skill in battle enabled them to range far across the continent of Europe. Indeed, their war cries rang through many an Alpine valley, including those that now form parts of northern Italy and Yugoslavia.

       Their success on various fields of battle stemmed from their advanced status as craftsmen as much as it did from natural ferocity. The Celts' finely-honed metallic axes scattered the Teutons and others unfortunate enough to get in their way. But it was not only a case of superior numbers and arms winning the day, however, for the Celts were a thinking people, capable of instituting and altering battle plans as the occasion demanded. We can glean this from the very word by which they came to be identified -- Celtoi, meaning "the clothed people," indicating they considered themselves superior to the naked Teutonic tribes that sought to share the continent's western regions with them. In other words, the Celts had long given up the practice of painting themselves blue and hanging naked from trees.

       By the time Caesar's legions invaded Britannia, civilized society in Ireland was already ancient, at least as advanced as the Greeks and, in many ways, similar to the heroic life Homer so notably recounted in his epic tales. Like Greece, Ireland possessed an honored class of bards, men who were categorized into sixteen divisions and whose astonishing memories could store away thousands of verses of romantic narrative. The bards were veritable walking libraries.




The principal Celtic population movement

in the forth-fifth centuries A.D.


Ref.: The Celts. T.G.E. Powell



       The core of Celtic society was the clan. Traditionally, all members of a particular clan were related and bore the same name. As their learning and skills developed over the centuries, other names began to surface within the clans. The name Hickey, for example, came from the Celtic word for healer. We can assume that the ancient Hickeys were specialists whose skill was the dressing of battle wounds and the treatment of other maladies.

       Normally, the size of the clan was based on fighting strength, with each such unit expected to field 30 companies of 300 men -the equivalent of a Roman legion. Each clan had its ri or king, and above the clans was a group of over-kings or ruiri, who, in turn, were responsible to a high king, who held sway over all of Ireland and its dependencies.

       It would be less than truthful to say that Celtic society was without blemish. Jealousies did exist between over-kings and among clans, and many spectacular battles were fought. However, more often than not the clans lived in reasonable harmony, drawn together by their common basis of language, culture and code of laws. Traditions were so strong among the Celts that internecine warfare could be halted by the high king declaring a period of national festivity.

       The Celts, also like the Greeks, early on in their history abandoned their primitive form of religion and adopted a number of native divinities, thereby launching the relatively sophisticated era of Druidism. For centuries the Druids were the elite members .....(continued next page)