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Ireland past and present

Irish in American Independence Day

James Smith, 1719-1806

American Independence Day July 4th couldn’t have happened without us Irish! We may be a comparatively tiny country but did you realise 4 of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were in fact Irish? 3 born on the island and one a 2nd generation irish man.

JAMES SMITH (1719 – 1806): 
Smith was born in Co Armagh, Ireland in 1719 and went to Pennsylvania as a young boy. He recieved his education in Philadelphia before going on to become a land surveyor and a lawyer. A member of the Continental Congress 1776-1778, he served in the War of Independence as a Colonel of Pennsylvania Militia 1775- 1776. Obviously, Smith is the name of many English settler families in Ireland, but is also a synonym of the Irish surname ‘MacGowan’.

GEORGE TAYLOR (1716 – 1781):
George Taylor was born in Co Cork Ireland in 1716. He went to America in 1736 as an indentured servant. Indentured servants were people whose passage was paid by the colonists already living in America, and in exchange for the passage, they had to agree to work for free for five to seven years for the people who paid their way. A Mr. Savage, who ran an iron foundry outside Philadelphia, paid for young George to come over, in 1736. When Mr. Savage found that George could read and write, he made him a clerk in his foundry. A few years later, Mr. Savage died, and George then married his widow, Anne Savage, and took over the iron business in Pennsylvania, in Bucks County. He was a member of the Committee of Correspondence, 1774-1776, and of the Continental Congress, 1776-1777. Taylor, of course, is an English occupational name, numerous in Ulster and Dublin since the fourteenth century.

MATTHEW THORNTON (1714 – 1803): 
Born in Co Limerick, Ireland in 1714, his family emigrated to the USA when he was just 3 years old. When their ship landed in Maine in mid-winter, the passengers had no place to live, so they remained aboard ship. In the spring, the family decided to go to Worcester, Massachusetts, where Matthew grew up and became a doctor through the time-honored tradition of studying with an established physician. He went on to practice medicine in Londonderry, New Hampshire from 1740. There, he met his wife Hannah who at only 18yrs of age was almost 30 years his junior. Thornton was active in pre- revolutionary agitation and became a member of the Continental Congress in 1776 and in the following November signed the Declaration of Independence, one of the last of the 56 men to do so.

EDWARD RUTLEDGE (1749 – 1800): 
The youngest of the signatories at just 26 years of age, was born in Charleston, South Carolina but was 2nd generation Irish as a son of Dr. John Rutledge who emigrated from Longford, Co. Tyrone (Ulster) to South Carolina in 1735. Edward’s mother was Sarah Hext. The couple had five sons and two daughters. At the age of 27 Sarah became a widow with seven children when Edward was about one year old. He went on to study law at Oxford university before returning to Charleston to practice. His mother gave him a 640-acre plantation in Saint Helena Parish that had been her father’s and thus enabled him to meet the property qualification for election to the Commons House of Assembly. It wasn’t long before Rutledge was one of the leading citizens in Charleston, and owned quite a bit of land and had almost 50 slaves. In 1775 he represented South Carolina as a delagate to the second Continental congress.

So there you have it! Irish men were very much part of the American declaration of independence. Happy 4th of July all!

soup kitchens during the Irish Famine

By 1847 soup kitchens were feeding nearly 3 million people daily, out of a population of around 8 million. The Quakers were one organisation who worked tirelessly to bring relief to many areas. Even native Americans sent food aid. The soup was made in huge vats or pots,called boilers.

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Michael Collins Irish Leader

Michael Collins was killed in an ambush in west Cork on August 22nd 1922. It was an act was a mystery for many years, but confirmation that Denis ‘Sonny’ O’Neill , a native of West Cork, took part in the ambush is contained in files from the Military Archives was released in 2014. O’Neill, a former RIC man who was wounded fighting with the British army in the first World War, joined the IRA in December 1918. Collins was killed when his convoy was returning to Cork city from Mallow at about 7.15pm on the evening of August 22nd.

Michael Collins Irish Leader

The famous Irish brown bread

So if you’re planning a trip to Ireland this summer be sure to sample some of the very many tasty delights this little country has to offer. Among the favourites has to be brown bread. Try it with fresh seafood chowder and it’s a match made in heaven. There’s something so special about the aroma of freshly baking brown bread that evokes happy memories of mixing the dough by hand with granny as she wipes her floured hands in her crossover apron before cutting the tradional cross in the top, which was said to ward off the devil and protect the household. To this day there is nothing quite like a slice, warm from the oven, slathered with pure kerrygold butter! Ah I’m salivating at the thought! Check out the recipe below and be sure to tell us what other Irish foods you’d like to see covered on the site.

Traditional Irish Brown Bread
Ingredients:
4oz plain white flour/cream flour
12oz coarse wholemeal flour
1/2 to 3/4 pint of buttermilk (sourcream is a good substitute)
1 teaspoon bread soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:
Preheat oven to 200°c/400°f/gas 6

Sieve plain flour, salt and breadsoda in a bowl

Add wholemeal flour and stir

Mix in the buttermilk to form a soft dough

Turn onto a floured board and kneed until it comes together

Place on a floured baking sheet and shape into a round and cut a cross in top (don’t go too deep!)

Place in centre of the preheated oven for 40 mins

To check its fully cooked, knock on base of bread and it should sound hollow

Wrap in a clean dry (non fluffy) teatowel while hot and allow to cool to achieve a softer crust

Serve with lashings of kerrygold and enjoy!

How to make brown soda bread

Brown Soda Bread Straight from the oven
No yeast, so no rising time. Simple and wholesome.
Ingredients
• 3 cups whole wheat flour
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
• 1 large egg, beaten
Honey (optional)
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200°C (400°F). Mix the flour, bread soda and salt together in a bowl. Combine the egg with the buttermilk and honey then mix into the flour. Add a little more buttermilk if the mixture is dry – it should be a soft dough. Then pour the lot into a lightly oiled loaf tin. Sprinkle the sesame seeds or porridge oats over the top of the loaf if using. Bake for 45-50 minutes. To know when it is cooked simply tap the bottom of the loaf – it will sound hollow when it is fully cooked. Remove from the tin and wrap in a clean tea towel while cooling. This will keep the crust soft.

Brown Bread

John Morrissey Irish american founder of Saratoga racecourse

What do Saratoga Racecourse in New York and the film Gangs of New York have in common? John Morrissey.

John Morrissey

John Morrissey was born in Templemore, Co. Tipperary in 1831 and his family moved to America in 1833. By the time he was 18 he was working for the Irish gangs and got a reputation as a fighter. As leader of the Dead Rabbitts he came across William Poole (Bill the Butcher) and the Bowery Boys when given the task of stopping them from rigging an election, something he achieved.

He also taught himself to read and write. During a lifetime of adventure, he was involved in the gold rush in California, fought for the heavyweight boxing title and became a state Congressman. He then set up a casino in Saratoga and then founded the famous racecourse.

John Morrissey died in 1878, aged just 47. From a small town in Ireland to becoming one of the most famous achievers in America.