Past Events

Below are Past Events of the
New York Irish History Roundtable.

Water And Ice: The Irish Victims

On Saturday, March 3 at 2 p.m., historian Art Mattson will tell the story of terrible shipwrecks in the 1830s that resulted in the deaths of over 200 immigrants just outside the port of New York. Most victims were Irish, many of them women and children drawn to the freedoms and expanding opportunities in America. They had chosen to cross the Atlantic during a treacherous sailing season. And they almost succeeded. This program will take place in the parish house of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, 263 Mulberry Street, in Manhattan. A reception will follow. Suggested donation: $5.

Wreck Of The Bristol

In the winter of 1836–37, two landmark events occurred when 215 people perished in shipwrecks off Long Beach and Rockaway Beach, within shouting distance of shore. Most victims were Irish immigrants and New York was their destination. Passengers on the ship Bristol drowned in minutes when it was stuck by a rogue wave. Those aboard the Mexico froze to death on the stranded ship after their captain and crew abandoned them. These shipwrecks are among the most important ones in U.S. maritime history, and among the most dramatic ever recorded. Sadly, the story was forgotten for 170 years.

But the details were uncovered when Art Mattson discovered a weather beaten obelisk in a tiny cemetery in Lynbrook, Long Island. Barely-legible wording said that this was the mass grave of 139 unclaimed bodies from two shipwrecks in the 1830s. With virtually nothing published about the events, research took Art to archives in New York City, Liverpool, and Dublin, and led to revelation of the full circumstances of callous disregard for the passengers’ lives. Seemingly, instead of being welcomed to America, such immigrants were referred to as “demoralized,” “degraded beings,” and “vagrants.” Today, thanks to Art Mattson’s work, their mass grave is on the National Register of Historical Places.

Art Mattson is the historian of the Village of Lynbrook, N.Y. and a registered historian of the State of New York. He is also a university lecturer and author of two books. These include Water and Ice: The Tragic Wrecks of the Bristol and the Mexico on the South Shore of Long Island, which received the Joseph F. Meany Award for Excellence in New York State Maritime History.

A Girl From Queens

On Saturday, May 12 at 2 p.m., author Eileen Markey will discuss the life—and death—of Sister Maura Clarke, M.M., whose brutal assault and murder at the hands of Salvadorian soldiers in 1980 became the source of international news and years of debate over America’s Cold War policy in Latin America. Who was Maura Clarke, and why was she in El Salvador? How significant for her endeavors were her youthful connections, through her parents, with the Irish? And what about the influences from her early encounters with the people of Latin America? This insightful program will be in the McCloskey meeting room in the parish house of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, 263 Mulberry Street, Manhattan. A reception will follow. Suggested donation: $5.

On December 2, 1980, Sister Maura Clarke and three other women were assaulted and killed by El Salvador’s National Guard. Prior to her death, Maura Clarke, during two decades of service in Central America, had come to support popular movements against dictatorial regimes, first in Nicaragua and then in El Salvador. Why?

The child of Irish immigrants, Maura Clarke was raised in Queens. She grew up in Rockaway during the l930s and 1940s. At home, she heard her father’s stories about the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish Revolution, and the Irish Civil War. And she heard her mother’s tales of the discrimination and intimidation she had experienced growing up as a Catholic in County Antrim. How significant were these domestic experiences? And what about Sister Maura’s early work in Latin America? Were those experiences transformational for her? Living and working every day in poor communities could have changed her from an obedient young woman to a provocative critic of authority who pushed the boundaries of what it meant to be faithful to religious conviction—even if it meant challenging national regimes cruelly exploiting the poor people of their own countries. These and related issues will be the focus of Eileen Markey’s research-based discussion of Sister Maura Clark.

Eileen Markey is an investigative journalist. Her book, A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura, was published by Nation Books.

Getting Sober: Irish Leaders In Alcoholism Recovery

On Saturday, October 21, author Christopher M. Finan will discuss America’s troubled history with alcoholism and its long search for sobriety. The focus of this unique program will be on Irish-American leaders who took up the long battle against the disease and the successful results of their efforts. He will also recount the early roles of Native American leaders who saw alcohol used to steal their lands and the activities of Temperance Movement leaders like Carrie Nation, who destroyed bars with an axe. This program will be held at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House on Fifth Avenue, just south of 8th Street. Starting time is 2 p.m.

The Irish have been leaders in the battle against alcoholism since America’s earliest days. They were prominent in the many Catholic temperance groups formed following the 1849 visit to the United States by Father Theobald Matthew, who led the Temperance Movement in Ireland.

Alcohol destruction


Launt Thompson: Enduring Success

On Saturday, December 2, writer and Roundtable member Michael Burke will discuss Launt Thompson, the Irish-American sculptor who rapidly rose to fame and accomplishment in the United States in the years following the American Civil War. Thompson’s success, however, was dramatically jolted at one of its highpoints and Thompson died in a state asylum. The… Continue Reading

Building Bridges

In the mid-1800s, Irish Catholics arrived in the U.S. in dramatic numbers. They were often confronted with severe and ugly discrimination, and they reacted in various ways. One such reaction—uncommon in its time—was that of Fr. Sylvester Malone. To hear more about this unique man, join us and Geoffrey Cobb on Saturday, May 6 at… Continue Reading

On Inwood—and Being at the War

On Saturday, Oct. 22, the NYIHR will provide a special program on Manhattan’s Inwood, once the largest Irish community in New York. Author Edward Hagan and Roundtable president John Ridge will collaborate to re-capture Inwood, its institutions, values—and its expectations for its inhabitants. This program will take place at 2 p.m. in the McCloskey meeting… Continue Reading

Shaping Culture: The impact of Irish-American Writers

On Saturday, Dec. 3 author Eileen Sullivan will present a talk on changes in the culture of American Catholicism emerging from the works of nineteenth-century writers who created a distinctive—and influential—Irish-American literature. Examining characters and themes in novels published in 1830s to the 1870s, Professor Sullivan will shed new light on how, for example, Irish… Continue Reading

The Garden Spot

Greenpoint, in northern Brooklyn, is today one of the dynamic neighborhoods in New York City. Sometimes referred to as “Little Poland,” it once was home to large numbers of Irish and Irish-Americans who took advantage of its location and resources. Who were these Irish, and why did they settle in Greenpoint? To find out the… Continue Reading

Irish-Language Mass at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral

For the ninth consecutive year, the New York Irish History Roundtable, Glucksman Ireland House NYU, and the Basilica of Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral will celebrate an Irish-language Mass. Father Andrew O’Connor of St. Mary’s Church in Manhattan will be the celebrant. Liturgical music will be performed on the Basilica’s historic 1868 Henry Erben Organ by… Continue Reading

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