My great grandfather immigrated with thousands of other Irishmen during the Great Potato Famine of the 1830s. From the northwest rocky coast of Ireland he left his home in Donegal to eventually make his way to central Pennsylvania. He eventually settled in a small town called Smoke Run, population then and today about 200 more or less. The Irish were not welcome from all I have read. Like so many "refugees" who left their homes in search of better lives, so it was with my ancestor.
It is hard not to think about this today on St Patrick's Day. I pull out my green, send Erin Go Bragh and Top of the Mornin' greetings to most of my Irish and Irish friendly friends and family. Tonight I will feast on corned beef and cabbage, roast potatoes, maybe scones and drink some Guiness or Harp. It is indeed a fine day for celebration. But I also will remember how my family came to America as refugees from a land that was stricken by a great famine. Eventually they were assimilated and became as American as anyone born here.
In the year 2000 I went to that rocky coast in northwest Ireland. I hoped to find something of my ancestors there. Not much was to be found. I searched the Donegal cemetery, went to the Donegal Castle and spoke with some locals. A man who worked at the cemetery told me that he remembered something about the McMurrays. They were mercenaries from Scotland who worked and defended another great estate on a promontory point nearby. He said the ruins of their modest cottage were still there. Of course, I suspected he may have told this story to many an ancestor searcher, so I took it with a grain of salt. I also knew we probably had immigrated from Scotland to Ireland, so, who knows for sure?
Being Irish by birth or adoption or lineage, I treasure my "green" blood. I love to tell tall tales and occasionally tip a mug of suds. I too have immigrated as did my ancestors from my homeland in Michigan to California, a much different experience to be sure; but seemingly in keeping with the ways of my forefathers. It is a grand day to be Irish, so I will relive the legends of the past as I choose and carry with me the hearts of my father, grandfather, great grandfather before me. To this I say, God bless and remind you that today, because St Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, we are all Irish and Cead Mile Failte, a thousand welcomes!