Spoilers! If you have not read Light of the Diddicoy and Exile on Bridge Street, the first two books in the Auld Irishtown trilogy, you will find out all kinds of secrets below.
Men are animals. There’s no use in romanticizing it.
All he wants is territory, whether that be dominating his place of work, or a woman’s body.
Put it on my gravestone, I don’t care: Men are animals.
Well, I’m eighteen now and I can stand up for myself. And I don’t have to do things the way my mother Mary did.
I mean just look at her, the picture of a defeated woman: scarred from head to toe by a man’s abuse.
My father threw a pan of hot grease on my mother when I was a four years-old.
Now, after giving birth to fifteen of his children, she carries the wounds of man’s ownership like a branded cow.
I will not follow her lead.
From the beginning I was a religious girl.
I prayed to God that he would save us from the poverty of Brooklyn’s Irishtown and I spent almost as much time at St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church as I did caring for my younger siblings.
My older brother Richie though, he is going to be a great man.
When I was seven years old, he was run over by a Brooklyn trolley.
Bill Lovett was there. He pulled off his tie and wrapped it around Richie’s leg so he
didn’t bleed to death.
Richie just stared between the trolley tracks where the bottom part of his leg laid there, motionless.
Richie was never the same after that, but he owed his life to Lovett.
One day when I was fifteen, my mother made Richie go see Dinny at the headquarters of the gang that dominated labor on the Brooklyn waterfront, the White Hand, they were called.
I was in the alley with her and my siblings, since women aren’t allowed in there.
When Red Donnelly, the dockboss of the Navy Yard made fun of Richie, Richie beat him into submission in front of everybody.
It was then and there that Dinny and Lovett decided that Richie was the future, and promptly began a war between each other to win him.
Meehan struck first: he opened a bike shop for my mother, but with terms: Richie would work for the gang.
And kill for it, too.
Right around the same time the Easter Rising occurred in Ireland, great changes came to the Brooklyn waterfront as well.
The International Longshoreman’s Association tried recruiting us Irish laborers in the north and the Italians of the south to work together under their banner.
In response, Jonathan G. Wolcott from the New York Dock Company hired the White Hand to kill the recruiter, Thos Carmody.
The fact was, however, that the White Hand Gang was losing power.
So Dinny Meehan took control.
He had Richie kill some worthless piece of garbage.
Mick Gilligan was his name.
Gilligan had stepped between Lovett and Meehan and broke the code of silence.
Not only was Meehan taking back control within the gang, but he was also showing everyone that my big brother Richie was loyal to him, along with all the other teenagers that followed him and the many boys in the Lonergan family.
All hell broke lose after that.
Dinny Meehan’s Irish bhoys ran through the old dock neighborhoods beating anyone that was loyal to the Italians or the ILA or the NY Dock Co.
Lovett even helped him do it.
It came to be known as “A Day for Legends,” when the Irish took back the docks.
But Meehan set up Lovett’s righthand man for all the damage that was done.
Non Connors, an old and very loyal friend of Lovett, was jailed.
Although Lovett was weakened, he vowed revenge on Meehan.
As the dockboss of Red Hook, Lovett organized a revolt and proclaimed sovereignty there.
But Meehan is a powerful man, and he manipulated the waterfront winds in his
By making a deal with the Italians (that lived in the Red Hook neighborhood) and the ILA, Meehan allowed an Italian hit man to kill Lovett.
But Lovett is a gamey fellow, and he turned the tables on Sammy de Angelo.
Though Lovett was charged for murder, he plead out by joining the army and heading “over there” to the war in Europe.
With Lovett gone, we Lonergans had no choice but to declare our loyalty to Meehan and the White Hand.
Eventually we learned Lovett was killed in battle. I was crushed by the news.
Meehan then sent a suitor for me to marry our family to the White Hand, but I sent Liam Garrity away against my mother’s wishes.
“Why not consider it, Anna?” My mother pleaded. “They feed us, you know. And times are bad for our like.”
“I won’t marry that Liam Garrity boy because we ain’t no gypsies,” I yelled at her.
The winters were harsh back then, and two of my younger siblings died.
When the men came back from the war, they brought with them some terrible disease that swept through Irishtown and beyond.
With the war over, the waterfront had less shipping contracts and the poverty that always loomed over us intensified.
My mother again begged me to consider marrying the Garrity boy.
Although times were tough, it was burying babies that broke me once and for all.
Especially Tiny Thomas, who had clung to me as if I was his mother.
All of this drove me back to St. Ann’s where I spent many hours inside the candlelit church praying for my family.
Father Larkin promised to help and talked me through my tears.
More importantly, he cried for me when I said I wanted to kill Meehan with my own hands, which swayed me from doing it.
I had never seen a man cry before.
And then a miracle happened: Bill Lovett rose from the dead.
The man who saved my brother Richie’s life and fought against Meehan had suddenly appeared like a spirit, although he was damaged from the celestial journey.
Right away Lovett wanted Red Hook again and had Richie show him his loyalty by killing Meehan’s cousin, Mickey Kane, who had taken over as dockboss there.
I know that Bill Lovett cares for my family, and although he’s an animal like all other men, I see fate in him. Kindness even.
Well, maybe there isn’t much kindness in him, but at least I know he’ll care for us and he has God on his side.
I can feel it.
I’m going right now down to Red Hook to see him. I’m eighteen now and I know what a man likes, and I’ll give it to him too.
I’ll give him what a queen has, her temple.
After he marries me, of course. I am Catholic after all.