Irish Roots Run Deep in Suffolk County


By Sara Schabe

Beer, parades and the color green all seem to be synonymous to the Irish in America. On Wed. March 16, Professor David Hannigan and Historian Michael McCormack explained to students and faculty that the Irish had a much more significant impact on America than just a day to party.

An event was held on the 16, the day before St. Patrick’s Day,  to honor the approaching 100 year anniversary of the Irish Uprising that occurred on Easter of 1916.

At the presentation, each audience member was handed a copy of The Irish Republic, a document declaring Ireland’s independence from England. This document was the first declaration of independence  to have included women as well as men in its sentiments. Students and faculty were also invited to try some home-made Irish Soda bread or bagels for those looking for a more domestic treat while listening to Irish war songs and watching clips of the uprising.

Once everyone was settled in, History Professor Denise Haggerty gave a brief explanation on what the day was about and an introduction to the two presenters. Haggerty discussed key points of the influence Ireland has on America and said that on St. Patrick’s Day, “it seems everyone wants to be Irish, at least for the day.” She then went on to give a mini history to why we associate the Irish with music and parades. “[They] allowed immigrants to showcase their pride and earning for that independence from British rule,” Haggerty said. She told the audience that the presentation being given was to highlight the idea that we haven’t been giving the Irish enough credit for their contributions despite their being a strong connection to Long Island.

History Professor David Hannigan, historian and author from Ireland, opened the presentation with an exuberant retelling of the initial stages of the U.S.S Holland, and Irish made submarine crafted for the American Army. Hannigan explained the utter awe and slight confusion felt by the Fenians, members of the Irish Rebel, as they stared at this “strange contraption” also referred to Hannigan as a “metal pill-shaped vessel.”

Responsible for this seemingly far-fetched invention were Irish Professor John Phillip Holland and his engineer, William Dunkerley. The two of these men decided to invent a submarine that could be used to counter-attack British forces in the ensuing wars. The men watching this invention come to life were in complete awe. Professor Hannigan explained their disbelief, and slight terror to be similar to, “Children the first time they witness a magician sawing a woman in half.”

Up until this point, the idea of an underwater vessels was just that; an idea. Since ancient Greek times, many have thought of the concept but never took it farther tIMG_1540

han that. Holland brought the idea to life.

In his speech, Hannigan said the submarine would be used to “vanquish the British” and be named the “Fenian Ram by the excitable New York Press.”

Back in Ireland, the Irish were not typically viewed to be a confident people with a sharp sense of confidence and can-do attitude. Hannigan addressed this and accredited it to the fact that they were in America. In America, “no scheme seemed too outsized or too outrageous for the [Fenian] organization to undertake,” Hannigan stated.

Professor Hannigan then went on explain what this has to do with New York. For one, a vast majority of the Irish immigrants that came to America landed in New York in the wa

ke of the Great Famine. Also, one of the Fenian Rams currently lays at the bottom of the river by the Throgg’s Neck bridge. On the larger scale, “40 million Americans claim Irish Ancestry today,” according to Hannigan.

The area in Mattituck where the first submarine was launched.

 

Bringing it closer to home, one of the Holland Submarine prototypes was launched off of the coast of Mattituck, at the end of New Suffolk.

After Professor Hannigans story about the submarine, Historian Michael McCormack spoke about the Easter Uprising and the events leading up and following it.

Michael McCormack, an Irish-American, whose grandparents were born in Ireland, explained the steps and struggles the Irish went through to gain their independence and that they used American funding and support to carry it out.

The Irish Uprising occurred on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. This uprising helped Ireland gain more independence.

Historian Michael McCormack speaking about the uprising.

Historian Michael McCormack speaking about the uprising.

By January of 1919, Ireland formed their own assembly and by 1922, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was in full effect. “Ireland was then a self-governing dominion like Canada until they finally removed all ties on Easter Monday of 1949,” McCormack explained.

 

One man directly associated with the Irish Uprising and part of the Irish Republican Brotherhood was Thomas J. Clarke, a man who lived right on Long Island as a farmer in Manorville.

This presentation was organized by Professor Hannigan and fundraised for by the History Club. “Knowing this history is important because every year people celebrate their own version of Irishness without knowing the history or what it’s about,” Hannigan said, “we really need to educate students and I wish there were more events like this and less drinking and parades.”

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