Continued Expansion: Lace Curtain and Shanty Irish

       The 1870's were to see the Irish spread ever westward, occupying most of the territory from the lake to Bridge Avenue, as far west as West 65th Street. It was called Gordon Avenue in those days and there wasn't much beyond it, except for a few scattered farms. By 1880 a new parish, St. Colman's, was created for the Irish who lived in that section. Thus, the West Side Irish had need for a third church although they were compressed into a territory only 40 blocks long by 20 wide.

       By this time the Irish were getting numerous enough to create sections within their own enclave. They were also beginning to separate as to their degree of upward mobility. It was a time for labeling one another. When those who moved up the ladder of success more rapidly began moving into larger frame houses and taking on fancy airs, they were dubbed "Lace Curtain." They, in turn, referred to there less fortunate brethren as "Shanty" or "Pig in the Parlor Irish." There were yet other derogatory terms exchanged, some reaching back to events or conduct in the old country, which shows that the Irish felt a measure of success here. An especially insulting term was "Achill Irish," which alluded to the supposed traitorous conduct of the people who inhabited that island off the coast of Mayo during the bad days.




       Thoush insults were freely exchanged, the rival factions of Irishtown generally made no big deal of the jealousies that existed. There were, to be sure, occasional physical confrontations, highlighted by fistfights and the breaking of boards over one another's heads, but nothing to get excited about, much less alter one's way of living.

       Of all the Irish who settled here, the most self-conscious were those who lived hard by St. Malachi's spire. Taunted by the more affluent Irish, that is the ones who could afford curtains in the windows of their residences, the "Angle Irish" became the most chauvinistic of the Irish in Cleveland and by far the most resentful of having their turf invaded.

       It was not uncommon for a "Lace Curtain" type, should he chance to meet a lass from "The Angle," arrange to meet her in neutral territory, such as the corner of West 25th Street and Detroit Avenue. This was to be preferred to enduring real and imagined threats from the lass' brothers, cousins and even unrelated members of the Angle fraternity. After an evening of courting, he would say his good night at that corner and watch his beloved disappear into the darkness.

       While it may sound somewhat ungallant, it made a great deal of sense for two reasons -- first, it saved him a possible beating and secondly, there was no need for him to accompany her merely for safety's sake. No one in any section of Cleveland's .....




Irishtown could recall an incident of a woman being molested. Men were mugged and robbed, certainly, but a woman -- never. It was the code and it was respected even by the bad bloods.

       That is not to say that the Irish as a race were miraculously exempted from the fragility of man called concupiscence. They did commit sins of the flesh, as Whiskey Island's bawdy houses attested, but the molestation of a "daycint" woman was considered the most detestable action of man and one of the deadliest sins it was possible to commit. The Irish view of carnality was almost the equal of the Puritans. Besides, to dispel passion they had "the creature," which was, more often than not, up to the Job.

       Chastity was a virtue held in deep respect by the vast majority of the Irish who lived here in the 19th Century, especially the latter half, and it was by no means meant for women alone. The men were expected to be equally chaste and no double standard would be accommodated -- that was for Latins who couldn't control their emotions and South Sea island pagans who didn't know any better. Heaven only knows how many times that message came thundering down from a pulpit on high, complete with vivid descriptions of hell's fires and the souls who would be tortured there for all eternity, all because they had fallen victim to the pleasures of the flesh.