Letter to the Editor: Irish Isn't Just for St. Patrick's Day
For my father's, father's, father and my children's, children's, children.
I have thought more about my Dad these past few months than I have in the last few years. I’ve always wondered what was he like or what would he do or say about his life experiences or possible advice he could give to me as a young parent or now a middle-aged grandfather. He was an easy going man I believe, quickly to laughter and never held a grudge. That is of course what I have been told by my elders. I say this because my Dad or Da passed away when I was only eight years old. There are stories that the older cousins, aunts & uncles shared over the years. Mom too passed away when I was 16 so I never really got to hear her stories of her man from her. Heck I never really got to know mom well… at least not like my children have gotten to know me.
George E. Farley Jr is someone I hold near and dear to my heart without truly knowing who he was. He was a war veteran having served in the Army Air Corp in the Pacific during WWII. He worked for the Parks Dept for the City of New York on Staten Island. I remember him in many glimpses from the past. I tried to get a copy of his service records. I thought knowing some of his experiences would help me understand the man better. Unfortunately they were burned in a fire along with countless other WWII Veterans records. So to this day I always wonder what was important to him
Juny or Casey as his nicknames were married an Irish girl named Mary Chambers from Newport, Co Mayo Ireland. Mary was a beautiful lass with a golden voice. She loved to sing and I always remember her singing while entertaining, cooking, driving. Mom loved to sing and I know that her beauty and her singing enchanted my father RIGHT? And yet I think back and believe there may be more to this story, more to my Da than I ever thought about before. You see when my parents began having children there seemed to be a wee tug of war over names. My mother wanted to name her boys after her brothers in Ireland; Mick, Frank & Tony. On the other side my Da wanted Irish names like Kieran, Dermot & Terence. Eventually they settled a compromise on Kieran Michael, Dermot Francis and Terence Anthony. But my mother had issue with the name Dermot. She obviously agreed to it under the condition that the O was pronounced as such and not like the proper pronunciation Dermit with an I or Diarmuid in Irish. Dad gave in and I was called Der-mot much to my Da’s chagrin I am sure. When I was old enough to know better I quickly corrected the pronunciation to the I. It is Dermit damn It! Or as my Aunts and Uncles referred to me as “Damn-it Dermit”!
I began to think about this over the years and what if my Da was here right now would he say to me. I am sure he would want me to love my family, protect and serve them as best I can. But I also think it was important to him to hold onto his Irish Heritage. Dad did grow up in an Irish-American household but they really were Americans by this time. I bet Da had some of those romantic Sean Thorton notions of where the Farley’s came from. Grandpa was American as well but I believe his parents were 1st generation here. Dad bought the Farley Crest from the County Meath Farleys as that is said where they came from, another sign that being Irish was important to him and that he wanted to share this with his children. Unfortunately Da wasn’t around long enough to share this through.
There is no greater feeling than tying your family roots together and experiencing them with your children. Surely this is not a romantic notion but really something tangible that you can put your fingers on and see, feel and live if that is what you choose to do. There are many people who claim to be Irish or Irish American but I fail to see what that means. What does it mean to you? Is being Irish having an Irish name or celebrating St Patrick’s Day with corned beef & cabbage?
Francis Chambers my grandfather on my mom’s side would have fought and died for his Irish. He was after all Irish right? And his father, and his father’s-father and my Great Grandfathers, Fathers, Father and for generations they all suffered and in fact many died to protect being Irish. To me they did not fight and toil their lives hoping we would forget them. And remembering them was not a prerequisite for their love or their deeds. They do not want me to owe them anything and yet I do owe them everything. Their blood is my blood and through their holding fast to their Irish Culture & Traditions over many 1000’s of years is what gained me my freedom today. How could I forsake all that they have done by simply forgetting about what was important to them to be able to cast their seeds down through the centuries as free Irishmen, not English or Jewish or anything else.
I am a proud Irish-American and what that means to me is that I will continue to keep the fight alive here in America to preserve the same Irishness that they fought so hard and died to preserve; the Irish Religion, Irish Language, Irish Culture and all that made us Irish. The freedom that they fought so, so hard for was for my benefit and not theirs. They paid that ultimate sacrifice of prejudice, genocide and death for me to live free hopefully as an Irishman. What else can I do but to honor them with my efforts?
Being Irish in America is not like being Jewish or Muslim or Chinese or English. Those races do much better at holding onto their fathers’ heritage. AND OF COURSE I AM AMERICAN FIRST and I find that balance. BUT PLEASE Just think about it for a moment… what does being Irish or Irish-American mean to you? And how important would it mean to demonstrate to your children your homage to so many great fathers before you; lest we forget.
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Dermot Francis Farley
Chairman ~ Claddagh na nGael