Begorrah a March folklore
column without a visit to the Emerald Isle?
The divvil, says I not
while there's a single blade of grass for these aging celtic
hands to grab hold of!
Once again, faithful readers,
to Ireland, then specifically, the Ireland of mid 1848.
A grim time for the Irish, to be sure. They were in the midst
of the great potato famine, which decimated the population, drove
countless others oversea, and was, to a large extent, preventable.
It was a good time for the
centuries-old enmity between the native Irish and their British
conquerors to flare up again. This time around, the flaring was
centered around something called the Smith O'Brien Rebellion.
Smith O'Brien was a middle-aged
Member of Parliament who had become leader of a rebel group called
Young Ireland, whose goal was nothing less than freedom and Self
Rule for the Emerald Isle.
This grand cause culminated in a single Great Battle, called
variously the "Rising at Slievenaman", or the "Battle
of the Widow McCormack's Cabbage Patch". A great and glorious
cause, a romantic history, and those with more pride than humor
who wish to remember the romance and glory unmarred would be
wise to skip the next paragraph.
Essentially, Smith O'Brien
exhorted his poorly-armed followers to attack a police barrack,
whereupon one of said followers is supposed to have replied,
"Is it what your honor wants us to go up there to
be shot?" As the story goes, his followers then promptly
deserted the luckless leader.
At any rate, farce though the
whole thing was, the British wanted to make an example out of
the rebels. Smith O'Brien was captured and sentenced to be hanged
and quartered (a sentence never carried out), and certain others
prominent in the group became Wanted Men, and likely candidates
for the gallows as well.
One of these Wanted Men fled
what was assumed to be almost certain death at the hands of the
British for the New World - New Orleans, specifically.
He fell in with several others
who had heard rumors of a prosperous Irish Settlement up the
river a ways. They set off to find this settlement, inquiring
as to its whereabouts from those they passed along the way, and
were always told "just a little bit further"...
By the time they got to what
is now Iowa, they looked at each other and realized that THEY
were the colony, and with said realization left the river behind
and put down roots in the fabled Heartland.
Our Wanted Man who undertook
this journey (with those who would prove to be his future in-laws)
was my great great grandfather, Adam Walsh.
Happy Saint Patrick's Day to
you all, and a health to your enemies' enemies...