FanFiction: The Tunic, William Brosnan

February, 1919

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William Brosnan has seen it all in Brooklyn, but can’t seem to keep his son-in-law out of the coming labor war.

As I look out the tenement window, I’m reminded of the first year I was a patrolman
in Brooklyn during the Great Blizzard of 1888.
In the wake of this type of weather, there is always tragedy.
I sip on the hot tea and listen to my grandchildren playing downstairs.
And I fear for their father, my son-in-law Daniel Culkin.
I fear for his life, not from the weather itself, but from what he has caught himself up in.

A bloody war is coming to New York over control of labor, and the gang known as The White Hand of Auld Irishtown will not go quietly.

When the old Anglo-ascendency of New York created the Waterfront Assembly, headed by Jonathan G. Wolcott, it was decided that they wanted control of labor.
But the Irish-American gangs have long held power here and under Dinny Meehan, they’re as organized and violent as I’ve ever seen them.
But if experience has taught me anything, it’s that when the Anglo puts his mind to something, he’ll leave the resistance in a welter of blood and bones.
When the two sides meet, the white snows covering Brooklyn outside my window will be stained crimson.

Daniel, the father of my beautiful grandchildren, is too young to die.
But he doesn’t listen to me anymore, he’s too damned eager to make his mark.
Now, not only does Dinny Meehan pay us to look the other way, Daniel is also accepting money from Wolcott himself.
He is out there now, Daniel is.
Scaring up wretched, terrible men to burn down Dinny’s home under Wolcott’s order.
My God, he doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into.

Let me light up one of my old Na Bocklish cigars, and I’ll tell you more about the coming war and how the Anglo-American will scrub the old Irish ways clean from Brooklyn.
Banish them to stories.

Final Diddicoy coverI was born in Dublin, Ireland.
But there wasn’t much for me there.
In Brooklyn, my father-in-law got me a spot on the patrolman force of the old Fifth Ward.
Back in the 1880s, the gangs wouldn’t even let the cops within the walls of Irishtown.
In fact, they paid me not to come round at all.
Not that I minded, of course. A man could do worse than getting paid NOT to do his job.

Every once in a while though, a new captain would come in and want to invade Irishtown and so we’d gear up and arrest thirty gang members.

Exile book cover

The first two books in the AULD IRISHTOWN trilogy.

In custody, all of them, and I mean every single one of them, claimed their name as Patrick Kelly.
Everyone was Patrick Kelly in them days, and none of them talked to us.
They just sneered and called us “tunics.”

Then in 1900, when Christie Maroney was in charge of the rackets, he invited the whole world to make money in Irishtown.
As long as he got a nibble of it, that is.
Come to think of it, that was the same exact year I first saw young Dinny Meehan, hmm.

The Irishtown natives, Gaelic speakers many of them, hated Maroney and sung old-world chants for his demise.
You see, the original settlers of Irishtown were from the famine itself.
Showed up here in these neighborhoods as children; shoeless, starved, desperate.
I heard they lived in holes in the earth over in Fort Greene Park, that’s how bad off they were.
These people though, superstitious to the core of them.
They chanted and prayed to the old gods for a new chieftain and, as I’ve mentioned, it was then Dinny Meehan suddenly showed up out from nowhere.

At five in the morning on March 12, 1912, I heard a gunshot from Jacob’s Saloon between the bridges.
Maroney lay there dead in the women’s entrance, a hole between his eyes.
I helped apprehend Pickles Leighton, Dinny and his righthand man McGowan as well as Vincent Maher, who was but seventeen years of age then.

A sensational trial ensued and all sorts of questionable characters filled the Adams Street Court to capacity.
I was notified that the Marines would be supporting us on the day the verdict was to be read.
I protested the need for such a drastic measure, but they ignored me.
Dinny was expected to be convicted of murder, and that meant the gangs and the thousands of faithful to him were certain to riot.

It was the first time the Marines had been called in to Brooklyn since the great Whiskey Wars of Irishtown in the 1860s and 1870s.
All on account of one damned insignificant diddicoy, an absurdity that defied all logic, if you ask me.
With the show of military force, no one accounted for the possibility that the jurors could be intimidated by the likes of that freak of nature they call The Swede.
Only Pickles was charged.
McGowan, Maher and of course the revered Dinny Meehan were all released.
And Irishtown rioted anyway.
In celebration of its new leader, the answer to their old-world prayers.
That was the day Dinny Meehan’s reign over Brooklyn began.

Almost immediately, the White Hand consolidated all of the gangs under their umbrella, even Wild Bill Lovett’s Jay Street Gang, to my surprise.

Every morning, from the second floor of a saloon called the Dock Loaders’ Club underneath the Manhattan Bridge, Dinny sent out what became known as his “Soldiers of the Dawn.”
Dockbosses ruled each terminal from the Navy Yard down to Red Hook with right-handers and many followers that supported them.
Enforcers beat or killed anyone that didn’t pay tribute to the White Hand, and a great code of silence was once again enforced in Irishtown right on down the waterfront.
And, just like in the old days, everyone was Patrick Kelly.
Men like myself once again were known as “tunics,” and were paid to keep quiet.

Then one day in early 1915, my daughter came to me and said she was with-child and in love.
Jaysus, that one really threw me.
I fired three questions her way: “Is the father a good Catholic?” “Is he willing to marry you right off?” “Have you told Father Larkin?”
The answers were Yes, Yes and No. Just as I’d hoped.
So I got them married on the fly at St. Ann’s on Gold and Front streets, and put in a good word for the young buck with my captain.
The child came six months later.
“Must be premature,” I told Father Larkin.
“Nine pounds and premature, is it?” he looked at me skeptically.

Daniel was too eager from the start.
In November of 1915 he got his uniform, and by the end of December he found out first hand what the gang could do.
Bill Lovett shot and killed a man inside the Dock Loaders’ Club.
And for what? For pulling a cat’s tail, that’s for what.
Meehan and Lovett had been going at it tit-for-tat, and so I told Daniel the gang was like the Kilkenny Cats themselves, that they’d fight themselves out of existence eventually.
But that wasn’t really true, I suppose.
Of course, no one saw or even heard the gunshot, not even the bartender.
With no witnesses, the judge had to let Lovett go.
“We have to get them,” Daniel said, outraged. “One way or the other, we have to take them down. We live in this neighborhood with my children and I won’t allow them to rule my family.”

Over the next few years he watched as crimes and dead bodies came and went without Dinny or the White Hand suffering for them.

One day Daniel got a tip that all the thousands of dollars worth of shoes the gang stole from Hanan & Sons was being stored in a restaurant owned by the brother of a gang member.
Instead of going to me or the police captain, Daniel went to Wolcott and the Waterfront Assembly.
He’s out of my reach now, Daniel is.
Now he’s getting paid by both Dinny and Wolcott.

Well Dinny and a few others have been arrested and are awaiting trial.
That’s when the snows came.
And the terror I feel now as I look out the window.

I thought Bill Lovett had died fighting in the Great War.
We all did, in fact.
But apparently he snuck back into Brooklyn and murdered Dinny Meehan’s cousin.
He even had the youngster Richie Lonergan the deed to make sure he and his followers were with him.
Now Dinny and Wild Bill will go at it, head-to-head.

And Daniel?
Wolcott has him working with his giant, Wisniewski and the psychopath Garry Barry.
They’re trudging through the snow as we speak, going to burn down Meehan’s home, as I mentioned.
Apparently Wolcott prefers Wild Bill over Dinny Meehan.
Probably just to shake things up, divide the gang in order conquer it easier.

I told Daniel to steer clear, but as usual he’s not listening to me.
Downstairs the children are playing with their mother.
I’m damn-near fifty-six years old now, I don’t have enough time in this world to be their father.
I’m not all that superstitious, I’ll have you know.
But if it was some pagan prayer that conjured Dinny Meehan to bring back the old ways of Irishtown, then what will happen when the war between the two factions begins?
How many men will have to die?

And that Wild Bill character, he was cold as ice before surviving the Great War.
God help us if he takes over Brooklyn.
He’s come back more disciplined then ever now.
If not a more calculated murderer.
If he wins he may have Wolcott to thank, but they don’t call him Wild Bill because he does what his superiors tell him to do.
Things will get even worse in Irishtown, if you ask this old-timer.
I just hope my son-in-law survives the welter of blood and bones that’ll be left in the wake.

 

 

 

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About eamonblog

I am Eamon Loingsigh, author of the Auld Irishtown trilogy. The first book in the trilogy is "Light of the Diddicoy," which was published by Three Rooms Press St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2014. The second is "Exile on Bridge Street," also published by Three Rooms Press, October, 2016. This blog is mostly concerned with the books and the history of Brooklyn, the Irish-Americans and the gangs of Brooklyn and New York. I have also written lots of other stuff, namely two other books, the first called, "An Affair of Concoctions" and the book of poetry, "Love and Maladies." There are also articles sprinkled around the internet about anything from the anarchist movement of the Spanish Civil War to the French Symbolists of late 1800s Paris to the Irish Famine. With a degree in journalism and a passion for writing, there are lots of topics I have covered. To get in touch, send an email to: eamonloingsigh@gmail.com. Oh by the way, my last name is pronounced "Lynch." Eamon Loingsigh
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