Chicago Relocation

Chicago’s Perennial Transferees – The Irish

March 17, 2011

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Who has relocated to Chicago more than the Irish?  (OK, maybe the Polish, but I’ll write that article on Casimir Pulaski Day).  And while you may substitute “relocate” for “immigrate,” and it may have been more a result of The Great Hunger than a new white collar career, the Irish have left their mark on my fair city.  In leadership; infamy; slang; hulking steel and concrete…..The Irish have left their mark.  So let’s celebrate -

*A river that dyes its already green river a deeper shade on Paddy’s Day, hosts not one but 3 major Paddy’s Day parades.

*While never a statistic majority in the city, the Irish have fielded 12 mayors, governing my kind  of town for over 80 years.  About 1/2 of that by men named Daley.

*4th largest Irish City in America in the 19th Century

*Sister city of Dublin

*Irish labor contributed largely to the I & M Canal, Stockyards and local steel mills.

*The last wave of Irish (stealth) relocation to Chicago was in the ’80s, with an estimated 40,000 entering Chicago.  SIDE NOTE: If you’re ever on an Aer Lingus overnight flight, drinking with an Irishman – Do NOT offer your place to him to crash for a few weeks.  As I found out with Andy McBrearty in 1994, it was about 4 months on my couch.  You still owe me a couple pints for that one, Andy.

*I’d list all my favorite Irish pubs for you to visit, but believe me, there’s not enough space!!!!

*There are multiple events annually celebrating Irish heritage in Chicago, including Irish Fest,  ongoing events at Gaelic Park, and of course the Irish American Heritage Center.

*Some of the less celebrated characters in our history would include Irishman Bugs Moran (who lost Chicago’s gangland control to a fan of St. Joseph, one Alphonse Capone, on a fateful St. Valentine’s Day); and poor Mrs. O’Leary, who’s cow allegedly knocked down a lantern and set the city ablaze in what became known as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  During that event, the owner of a relatively new (then 16 year old) real estate firm known as Baird & Warner carted all the important documents of his firm across the river in advance of the flames.  The documents were used to help identify lots lines after fire had done its damage (the safe containing many of those documents at city hall had melted).  Mrs. O’Leary was eventually exonerated (but it was obviously a conspiracy, since yet another Irishman, Peg Leg Sullivan, was blamed).

This morning I had a good listen to The Pogues’ tribute in “Thousands are Sailing”

Thousands are sailing
Across the Western Ocean
To a land of opportunity
That some of them will never see
Fortune prevailing
Across the Western Ocean
Their bellies full
And their spirits free
They’ll break the chains of poverty
And they’ll dance….