Chapter 11


       Sociologists and scientists of many other disciplines tell us that our society today is a mobile society. Without going into detail to describe that mobility, it seems safe to say that many of the descendants of the immigrant Irish who came to Cleveland no longer live in this area. The other side of the coin appears to be just as true: there are many people of Irish origin who live in this city today whose ancestors and consequent unique Irish experiences are to be found in cities other than Cleveland. One might honestly wonder how these Irish from other parts of the country have blended with the Cleveland Irish, and how displaced Cleveland Irish have blended with the Irish of other major U.S. urban centers.

       We simply have no real data which might speak to the second group mentioned above. We do have some data about the first group, that is to say, the people of Irish origin who have come here from other cities in the United States. Concerning them we find two somewhat conflicting historical and contemporary developments.




       As we observed earlier, Irish settlement In Cleveland at the time of the 1845-53 Famine took place because those who came here first could find no place for themselves in the cities of the Eastern Seaboard. This was due to the lack of job opportunity and to the basic poverty of all the Famine Irish. The Famine Irish in New York, for example, were hardly in any position to help the late arriving Irish victims of that same Famine., All they could advise was to go West. Cleveland's Famine Irish came here because they accepted that advice. Twenty years later, in 1878 when the second wave of Famine Irish immigrants came to this country, they never even bothered to stop in New York; some did stop here. Many more were on their way West, going both by train and boat to settle lands which the government had made available to them in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. As they passed through Cleveland, their countrymen who had been here no more than one or two decades met their trains and boats, fed and clothed their westward bound countrymen and did all they could to aid them in their journey.

       One thing these Cleveland Irish did not do, however, was to urge these westward bound immigrants to stop or settle in Cleveland. It would seem that there was some selfishness in this: jobs on the docks and in the mills were simply too scarce. For the 1878 immigrants (called Connemara immigrants, signifying that they had had as their place of origin the counties in the West of Ireland), the Cleveland Irish showed great good will but little more. Some Connemara immigrants did stop and take up residence .....




in Cleveland, usually on the West Side, and they formed the nucleus of St. Colman parish. But as we have already seen, they were the poorest of the poor. They lived in hovels on the outskirts of the city and they were often regarded by the Irish of the Famine time as the offscourings of their own country, sometimes lumped together with the Poles and Jews who began to come here at about the same time, in the early 1880's.

       At a later time the Cleveland Irish showed a great deal more hospitality to their immigrating fellow countrymen. This was particularly true of the Irish who came here after World War I and the concomitant Irish Revolution. By the 1920's Cleveland's 19th Century Irish immigrants felt sufficiently secure in the United States to freely refer to newly arriving Irish with some good humor as "greenhorns." Nevertheless, the 1920 "greenhorns" received a great deal more help -- especially temporary housing in the homes of earlier arrivals and aid from them in finding jobs -- than did the 1878 Connemara immigrants. It would seem that this has been the case ever since.

       Today immigration quotas limit the numbers of Irish who may immigrate to the United States, and their number is but a fraction of what it was one hundred years ago. But when they do come here they are welcomed and helped and they seem to fit quickly into American life. Irish immigrants today are literate; they are generally skilled in some sort of craft or trade. They continue to speak the language of our country and are products .....



of a country vastly improved industrially over what it was in the middle of the last century.

       Oddly enough, the Cleveland Irish do not show the same hospitality to American-born Irish who come here from other cities in the United States. Indeed, these new Clevelanders often are far more lonely than are their countrymen who come here directly from Ireland. One is inclined to look to the loss of the sense of neighborhood, and often of parish, to explain this phenomenon. A person of Irish background who comes here from New York or Chicago is treated as a welcomed newcomer by the Cleveland Irish, but he becomes one with them only if he was perhaps a member of an Irish fraternal association in New York or Chicago or wherever. Otherwise he is regarded basically as an outsider. One suspects that all of this might indicate that there is still a clannishness existing among the Cleveland Irish which is as hard to break into as it ever was.