I Heard They Went to New York

Community breakfast on June 12, 1950

By Tara Dougherty,Music Editor
June / July 2008

By the 1930s, an influx of Irish immigrants from Monaghan to New York had brought with them a great deal of the cultural and social traditions of their homeland. In the Monaghan County Museum, Ireland, a photographic exhibit opened on April 17, 2008, which tells the tales of many of these families and their lives in New York.

The exhibit, which runs through July, represents the strong connection these immigrants had to their heritage and their dedication to maintain a sense of Irish culture for their children. The distance from the land that was once home resulted in many lost connections and open-ended stories of relatives who had gone abroad. But thanks to Terri Cook, the story of how the Monaghan Society helped keep Irish culture alive in New York has been revealed through the medium of photographs.

The Society, which is still in operation, was founded in 1891as a social and cultural organization, and grew to include a Gaelic football team and fife and drum band. Cook began to research the continuation of the Monaghan Society in America, after contacting the Monaghan Museum Curator, Liam Bradley, about old photographs her cousins had discovered.
“In the 1930’s, members of the Monaghan Society created a magical circle and immersed their children in their culture and traditions. They kept all the traditions established in the 1890’s when the society was first established – the annual Communion Breakfast, the November Ball and the grandest celebration of all – St. Patrick’s Day,” Cook told Irish America recently. “The exhibition holds many of these images along with press clippings reflecting their assimilation into New York Society.  But the reality was they never really left Monaghan, and I thought the best way to thank them for our cultural inheritance was to bring them home.  Their spirit – indomitable and courageous – never ceased to inspire us and it can be felt as visitors stroll among images looking for familiar faces.”

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