SIXTEEN ON SIXTEEN
When Sociologist Reginald Byron visited Albany, New York in 1989, he was “struck by its Irishness.” Albany, he wrote, is “one of the most Irish places in America and has been so for a century and a half.” Byron then used Albany as the case study for his book, Irish America, published in 1999.
The Irish have been shaping the Albany area since the days of the Dutch. The British Governor, Thomas Dongan was an Irishman and his Dongan Charter contained unprecedented social freedoms for the colony. The Irish formed St. Mary’s in Albany, the second Catholic Church in the state of New York during the early years of the new American Republic; they played a major role in the construction of the Erie Canal; and they changed the demographics of the region in the years of the famine. Michael Nolan was the first Irish mayor of the city of Albany in 1878 and, Times Union publisher, Martin Glynn, the first Irish Catholic governor in 1913. Through the 20th century, the Irish continued to come to the Capital District forming vibrant AOH Halls in Troy, Schenectady, Watervliet, and Albany. The opening of the Irish American Heritage Museum in 1986 stands as testament to the impact the Irish have had in the Capital District, New York State, and, indeed, to the entire county.
It is not surprising that the connections between the Irish in the tri-city area and Ireland were fluid and active through the 20th century and remain so today. As part of the centenary commemorations of the Easter Rising of 1916, the Irish American Heritage Museum is posting a column of family connections that sixteen Capital District residents have to the Revolutionary years in Ireland, years that charted the course of Ireland for the future. The memories involve not only 1916, but the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.
We will continue to look for more family memory and stories. If you have a story to tell about your own family’s connection to the Easter Rising in 1916 or the revolutionary decade that followed, please contact us at the museum and share your story with us!