Irish everywhere

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER I (21) start of chapter

Arrived at the Albion Mine, permission to visit which had been previously obtained, Peter and I assumed the requisite but unbecoming costume, and were in rapid yet easy descent, under the cautious guidance of the head banksman, an Irishman from Wexford. To one who goes down into a mine for the first time, the aspect of everything in a quite new world is necessarily strange, and even startling. The meteoric lights, the long and murky galleries, the lofty chambers faintly illumined and replete with dense shadows, the rattle of the cars, the cries of the drivers, the stroke of the pick, and the other noises of a coal mine in active work—all produce for the moment a bewildering effect. Below as well as above were Irishmen employed in every capacity, the majority engaged in the ordinary manual labour, but not a few entrusted with positions of responsibility, or employed in work of a higher class.

The manager, Mr. Hudson, spoke of them in terms of praise, as steady, industrious, sober, and trustworthy. 'There is a man,' said the manager, 'who came here a labourer; he has charge of property worth several thousand pounds. If he was not a good man, he would not be in that position. That man, like many more of his countrymen, has brought up a family with great care; and the young people are now profitably employed, some as engineers, some in other skilled branches.' Go in what direction I might, I met with a countryman. To an emigrant of eighteen years back I imparted the latest tidings from Dunmanway, in Cork county; to a 'boy' of thirty from Connemara I was able to communicate the agreeable intelligence that his old Parish Priest was 'alive and hearty,' which was received with 'more of that to him!' and on assuring another 'boy,' not long from 'sweet Tipperary,' that the 'members stood by the people in Parliament,' he prayed 'that the Lord might strengthen their endeavours, for, faith, the poor people wanted friends, sure enough.' The Irish took great pride in the celebrity of the mine, and the amazing depth of its working seam, over 44 feet; which was to be 'shown to the world' at the Paris Exhibition by the pillar, 37 feet 10 inches in height, which was hewed from this magnificent bed of coal. They were as proud of that pillar as if they were the owners of the mine.

Owing to the increasing number of Catholics at the mines—for there are several others, including the Albion and the Acadian, the latter the property of an American company—an addition was being made to the Catholic Church, which is conveniently and conspicuously placed: nor is it improbable that, in a few years hence, when this mining parish is more perfectly organised, a fine building of brick and stone will replace the neat structure now barely sufficient for its congregation.

In the presence of Peter, and much to the delight of that enthusiastic Irishman, a Scotch gentleman gave an admirable account of our countrymen. Peter glanced at me with a look of radiant triumph, and demanded, in a manner at once corroborative and clinching—'Didn't I tell you, sir, there wasn't a single blackguard amongst the entire of them?' And Peter might well speak with authority, for he knew or was known to nearly every man in the district.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America