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Liberty for the Lion Shield

Updated on August 10, 2011

The story of the Irish in America by Joanne Kathleen Farrell

They came in torn clothes and on dirty leaking ships. Some were in chains. Some were bonded debtors. Others were political prisoners or survivors of the great famine. Many walked through Ellis Island in hope of a better life. No matter how they got here or why, their presense changed America forever.

During the English Civil War of the 1640's, Oliver Cromwell was elevated the the title of Protectorate of England. His army ripped across the land tearing apart England, Scotland, and Ireland. During the 1649 campaign of the battle of Drogeda, Ireland the Ironsides tortured Irish war prisoners beheading their bodies and making a fence around the Catholic Church with human remains. Prisoners of the war who were from Ireland as well as Scotland were sold to Virginia and Barbados as slaves. Each generation of Irish suffered great. Yet, they possessed a strong will to survive that never seemed to fail them.

In our American Revolution the Irish made major contributions to the worthy cause of seeking our freedom. They were more than happy to battle the English on a new front. No wonder one quarter of Wasington's regiments were Irish.

In the fall of 1845 a blight appeared destroying the potato crops across the land. This had been their only food source for many, many years. The English confiscated Irish land leaving the Irish as renters in their own country. Cromwell granted huge estates of land to his Generals and elites leaving the Irish landless renters on their own soil. For many, many decades the American plant, the potato was their only food source. Men ate nearly 16 pounds of potatoes a day. Women ate aroung 8 to 6. Children 6 to 4 pounds per day. It was assumed that in the spring of 1846 the blight would die off and the new crops would grow free and clear of the blight. However, that was not the case. The blight spread all over the land. The starving families were left with little choices other than to immigrate. Thousands and thousands starved. Many died at sea on a merchants dirty coffin ship. Others died in the quarentine camps aside American ports. Those lucky enough to live to see America often found themselves in dire conditions in US ghettos.

The Irish took employment as meat packers and railroad builders. They worked deep in the coal mines and were the hands on every northern farm. The Irish fought on both sides of the Civil War. They built roads and bridges and were often discriminated against here in America. In the 1880's the most popular song sold on music sheets or played in New York City pubs was " No Irish Need Apply".

To honor my grandfather, Dr. John A. Farrell and my Irish ancestors who lived long ago I wrote my novel Liberty for the Lion Shield. I encourage all to read this Irish roots story. It is the story of the many who came before us and suffered great hardships. Remember, they gave to us the freedom we have today and often take for granted. By historical fiction writer Joanne Kathleen Farrell


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