This past Monday night at the Westchester Board of Legislators, we celebrated Irish-American Heritage Month. This is an annual celebration of Irish history and culture in our county. We enjoyed watching terrific Irish step dancers and a musical performance. As the senior legislator of Irish descent (yes I’m half-Irish, my mom’s maiden name was Loretta Joan Margaret Considine, and she attended this event ever year before passing), I offered some fun thoughts about Irish culture and history – here is my speech:
10 ways you know you grew up in an Irish-American house:
1 - In any crisis large or small, you called out the following 3 names: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”
2 – There was a patron saint for any problem…for example, if you lost something, pray to St. Anthony.
3 - Prominently displayed somewhere in your house was holy water, a shamrock, an Erin Go Bragh sign and a picture of JFK.
4 - You were sent to a school where the meanest public school teacher could never be tougher than the nuns and Irish Christian Brothers. (By the way, someone in your family was probably a priest, brother or nun).
5 - The scariest item in the house was that darn wooden spoon.
6 – The most important question of the weekend was: “When are you going to mass?”
7 – You knew that a good funeral is always better than a bad wedding.
8 – You had a lot of cousins.
9 – It was not a proper dinner unless it had potatoes in it.
10 – Guinness was not just a beer – it also helped make a good stew or cake.
Some interesting Irish-American history:
1 – An Irishman was the first of Christopher Columbus’ crew to step on American soil – several Irish guys were with Columbus, but Patrick Maguire was the first guy off the boat.
2 – At least 15 U.S. Presidents have confirmed Irish ancestry.
3 – The first American general to die in the Revolutionary War was Irish – Brigadier General Montgomery was killed in the Battle of Quebec during the 1775 invasion of Canada.
4 – Three of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were born in Ireland - James Smith, George Taylor and Matthew Thornton, and all three bravely fought in the Revolution.
5 – We can thank the Irish for the White House – not only did an Irishman design the White House, but the White House was built by the hands of many Irishmen.
6 – The White House has a twin in Ireland – the White House was designed by Irishman James Hoban, but not everyone knows the White House has an Irish twin: Ireland’s Leinster House (which currently serves as the Irish Parliament).
7 – A blind Irishman composed the Star Spangled Banner – though British composer John Stafford Smith is credited with composing the Star Spangled Banner, the tune is actually based on music composed by a great Irish blind harper named Turlough O’Carolan.
8 – An Irishman is the father of the US Navy - John Barry is known as “The Father of the American Navy.” Barry was appointed a Captain in the Continental Navy on December 7, 1775 and was the first commissioned officer after the war by President Washington.
9 - An Irish-American was the first woman from the U.S. to walk in space - Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan from Paterson, NJ is a former NASA astronaut and the first American woman to ever walk in space.
10 – Trivia Question: After New York City, where is the second largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in America? Most people answer with Boston or Chicago, but the correct answer is Savannah, GA.
(Thanks to www.irishcentral.com for much of this information).
Jim Maisano is Vice Chair of Westchester Board of Legislators. He represents District 11 covering New Rochelle and Pelham. You can follow Jim on Facebook, Twitter or his website. You can contact Jim at 914-636-1621 or CtyLegJimMaisano@gmail.com