Richie Lonergan is a main character in the Auld Irishtown trilogy. Quiet and wild-eyed with a terrible limp, when Liam Garrity (narrator of the series) meets him, Richie is fifteen years old and leader of a group of teenage pickpockets that hang out in a three-story train station at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge.
(Listen to: The Story of Irishtown)
Garrity watches Richie get into a fistfight with a Dockboss named Red Donnelly and is shocked to see the teenager whip the man in the fighter’s circle.
What we know of Richie’s past never comes out of his own mouth, since he rarely opens his mouth. Although everyone around him speaks of him as if he’s a legend. According to his mother Mary Lonergan, Richie was sent to get bread for her when he was only eight years-old in 1909. Shockingly, young Richie was run over by a trolley, severing his left leg at the knee.
Showing up on the scene was Bill Lovett and patrolman William Brosnan. According to the story, Lovett took his tie off and wrapped it around Richie’s leg, saving his life.
In Light of the Diddicoy and Exile on Bridge Street, the first two books in the trilogy, there is a battle for Richie’s loyalty (and all his followers) between the White Hand Gang‘s leader Dinny Meehan, and Richie’s childhood friend, Lovett. Unable to make this difficult decision on his own, he is regularly advised by his righthand man, Abe Harms and his mother Mary and sister Anna.
To read about the real-life Richard Lonergan, go here. Although, wikipedia has some mistakes concerning his bio.
The conflict between Meehan and Lovett is played out through Richie himself. His eventual decision comes not from any advisor, but from need itself. Richie has fourteen siblings that suffer through terrible poverty, malnutrition and must feed his family any way he can.
With the help of Meehan, he opens a bicycle shop that his mother and sister runs while he works on the docks for the gang. But he must forever prove his loyalty, and is therefore often tasked with the bloodiest of jobs.
Richie is a cold, brutal young murderer that is not intimidated by anything or anyone. He is known in Brooklyn as Pegleg, since he wears a wooden peg with a shoe nailed to it. With his help, the future can be won. Through him, Meehan and Lovett fight for superiority.