Irishtown – Web Series Introduction

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Irishtown – Web Series Trailer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PRESS RELEASE: Irishtown series

Note: We are working hard on the trailer for “Irishtown”! Almost there. A week late, but hey, better late than… you get the point.
This Friday, 5/12/17 (fingers crossed), a trailer for a new Youtube series called “Irishtown” will appear.

~

eamon774

Liam Garrity’s innocence is highlighted as he narrates the books as an old man looking back on his teenage years while in a Brooklyn gang during the 1910s. (Sketch by Anthony Ernest Kieren)

 The episodes of “Irishtown” take place immediately following the end of EXILE ON BRIDGE STREET, the second book in the AULD IRISHTOWN trilogy, which is February of 1919.
~
The dramatic stories will be told from the perspective of characters in the books, which, as many of you know, were based on real Brooklynites from the 1910s.
 ~
Sketch artists, voice-over actors, musicians and video editors working with author Eamon Loingsigh have all come together in what is being called the “needcollective.”
 ~
For all of you who have been reading the books and following this page, “artofneed, Blog for the Auld Irishtown trilogy,” and have been asking when the third installment is due to hit bookstores, this series should satisfy those yearnings.
 ~
“Irishtown” will provide some detailed information about character backgrounds, highlight important events in the first two books, shed light on pre-Liam Garrity scenes that have only been referenced in the LIGHT OF THE DIDDICOY & EXILE ON BRIDGE STREET, and take an ominous look forward to the gang war that looms over Brooklyn in the last offering of the AULD IRISHTOWN trilogy, which will be called: DIVIDE THE DAWN.
 ~
Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 9.56.05 AM“Irishtown” is a bare-boned, black and white noir from artofneed Productions that uses the talents of sketch artists to invoke the imagination. Voice-over actors to guide you through the chaos of life in the heavily industrialized, port city of New York. And music to bring the images and words to life, raising their world up from the obscurity of memories, family stories passed down through the generations and old photos which only hint at the horrors they faced and the ghosts that haunted them from the old world from which they fled.

 ~

78180492e73c44d60aeacf2b9f66cb52

Life in New York City was very different from what we know. Above, reminiscent of the scene in LIGHT OF THE DIDDICOY called “McGowan’s Wake.”

The main characters in the books (Liam, Dinny, Wild Bill & Richie Pegleg) will be topics in the series, but interestingly enough, the point-of-view narrations will be from the perspective of second and third-tier characters, such as Sadie Meehan, Sixto Stabile, Darby Leighton, Anna Lonergan, Thos Carmody, The Gas Drip Bard and the Waterfront Assembly’s Jonathan G. Wolcott, among others).
 ~
Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.38.43 PM

A clip from the trailer for Irishtown.

Influenced by Game of Thrones, Mad Max and The Godfather series as well as The Walking Dead, The Outsiders, Blood Meridian, Banished Children of Eve and Heart of Darkness, among others, “Irishtown” promises to connect the struggle to survive in Brooklyn 100 years ago, with the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who were given a chance at life after their ancestors fought brutally in “the long shadows” of their time for the “Hope of Summer.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FanFiction: My Son, by Sadie Meehan

February, 1919

My husband has goodness in his heart.
He may do terrible things from time to time, but they are for the benefit of the poor, the dispossessed, and the needy.
IMG_1610If courage is defined as overcoming fear, then breaking the law that keeps people poor and hungry is what I call an act of true bravery.
That is what goodness is, and that is my husband, Dinny Meehan.

I know what people say about him, the newspapers and all the others that want what he has earned.
And I don’t care, I’m the one that knows his heart and knows his hands are gentle.
It’s a broken system that forces good men to do bad things in order to provide for his loved ones.
Oh, but life is filled with contradiction and treachery.
And even I am guilty of being angry with Dinny Meehan at times.

As the wife of a gang leader, I’ve had my share of scares.
But lately, things have gotten so much worse.
I didn’t cry when Dinny was arrested recently.
IMG_1613But I did cry when I found out he’d organized the robbery of Hanan & Sons shoe factory after the poor Lonergan child died because he was playing barefoot in the rubble of a fallen tenement.
I cried because I was so proud of my husband.
And for the goodness in his heart.
Dinny and I will never be invited to the Waterfront Assembly dinners on Wall Street.
But even we know that the blessed are the poor and the hungry because those who cry need our compassion most.
Wolcott and those immoral landowners of the Waterfront Assembly would rather see the poor enslaved.
Or butchered by the machines they want to replace them with.

But since Dinny’s been in jail, his enemies have harassed and threw rocks at me and L’il Dinny, my son.
Liam Garrity, one of the young men I helped raise, sent us away with plenty of money along with the one-legged war veteran Happy Maloney to protect us.
It was too dangerous, Liam said, I had to leave Brooklyn and now I’m in hiding in a hotel in Rockville Centre, a beautiful little rural town on Long Island a taxi-ride away from the pier on Long Beach.
I love it here. I want to move here and buy a house for our family.
But Dinny is a driven man.

And now, terrible news comes from Brooklyn.
Heart-rending news, Mickey Kane, Dinny’s cousin and heir to the gang, is missing.
Dead, most assuredly, as rumors has it Wild Bill Lovett is back in Brooklyn.

And I’ve only made things worse!
Way worse, by giving money to my cousin Darby to help get Pickles out of Sing Sing.
Oh God, when Dinny finds out he’ll be so upset.
But I was only helping the needy. Helping my family, just as he is known to do.

Dinny owns the saloon under the Manhattan Bridge called the Dock Loaders’ Club.
That’s the gang’s headquarters.
And guess what? Now the law, which never helps our like, is after us again.
They’ve ratified an amendment that will be enforced next year, a prohibition on the sale and distribution of alcohol.
From all angles, do they come after us.
When your aim is to help the poor, the rich target you and your family.
You’d be smart to remember that.

Now our time is running out.
But if I know my husband, he’ll run headlong right into it.
Because Dinny Meehan’s greatest enemies are time, and change.

Final Diddicoy coverBut I haven’t even told you the worst of it.
I don’t know if I can. Don’t know if I can admit it to what I’ve done.
I miss Father Larkin, the priest of Irishtown.
In Confession, I told him everything.
L’il Dinny, my son, is innocent of it all.
But I don’t know if even I’ll be able to explain what I’ve done when he grows up.
I’ll try to tell you, but I can’t make any promises.

After I was born in East London, 1895, my mother Rose went to Brooklyn with two of my cousins, Pickles and Darby.
The plan was to send for me as soon as they could, but she came back to London a year later without them.
I didn’t know the full story for many years, but apparently she abandoned them in Brooklyn. The poor boys.
When I was fifteen in the year 1910, they paid for me and my mother’s passage to New York.
It was then I found out she abandoned them, but apparently they never held it against her.

Exile book cover

The first two books in the AULD IRISHTOWN trilogy.

Like many young men in our time, Pickles and Darby were desperate for a mother figure.
Sad, if you think about it.

I didn’t know it, but my cousins were right in the middle of a violent takeover in Brooklyn. And they were both coveted in the insurgence against Christie Maroney.
I was courted by both Harry Reynolds and Dinny Meehan, who were close friends.
I was struck by how similar they looked, Harry and Dinny, both very handsome and attentive.
When Maroney was murdered in 1912, Dinny and Pickles were arrested, along with McGowan and young Vincent Maher.

I was left alone with Harry Reynolds, who told me he was in love with me.
I . . . I was only seventeen, turning eighteen back then.
I didn’t know what to do as my mother and I were facing eviction and Harry promised to help.
Dinny was going to be sent to Sing Sing and. . .
You can’t blame me!

Harry took me to the sensational trial, and from what I heard, The Swede had intimidated the jurors.
The court was overflowing and people filled the streets in anticipation of the verdict.
Hundreds of cops were there, and even the Marines were sent in.
To everyone’s surprise, Dinny and McGowan and Vincent were set free.
Harry’s plans for us changed, in the snap of a finger.

But my cousin Pickles was charged for murder and sentenced to life in Sing Sing.
Now, I understand that Pickles is psychotic, everyone knows that.
But the rumor was that Dinny had set Pickles up through Dead Reilly, his lawyer.
I confronted Dinny about it, angrily.
And he promised to help get Pickles out, since he was the only one powerful enough to do anything about it.
He promised!
Then he asked me to marry him.
Harry Reynolds was crushed, but I had to let him go.

My son came in April of 1914 and Vincent Maher, who was a homeless orphan, moved in with us on Warren Street.
The gang quickly expanded, but instead of banishing Harry, Dinny made him dockboss of the Atlantic Terminal and told him he had to prove his loyalty.
Everyone was surprised Dinny didn’t kill Harry for trying to marry me while he was in custody.
But I think Dinny has big plans for Harry, I just don’t know what those plans are.
I’ve tried to find out, but Dinny lives by the codes he enforces in Irishtown, like the Code of Silence.
And his plans are often so complex that people never think that far ahead, like he does.
And they’re always successful. Just look at all of his accomplishments through the years.
I told you, Dinny Meehan is a driven man.

On Christmas Eve of 1915, Dinny brought home Liam Garrity, who was right off the

2146 new york old days boy preparatory drawing

Thos Carmody

boat from County Clare, Ireland.
The cutest child little Liam was, but starved and with the eyes of a beaten puppy.
Another orphan Dinny brought to us, the third in fact: Harry, Vincent and Liam.
All three have made great contributions to feeding the needy in Irishtown and the waterfront neighborhoods, and I’m proud to have helped nurture and raise them.
But as I’ve said, helping the poor never goes unpunished.

Everyone seems to be turning against the gang for doing right by the dispossessed.
And many are those that want Dinny taken down:
The law and that stupid tunic, William Brosnan.

IMG_1608

William Brosnan

Wolcott’s Waterfront Assembly and the Anglo-ascendency of New York, who want to take over labor in Brooklyn.
The International Longshoreman’s Association, whose top Brooklyn recruiter Thos Carmody was recently promoted to treasurer.
The Black Hand Italians in the south, led by Frankie Yale and the upstart, Sixto Stabile.
Although thinly veiled, even Father Larkin’s latest homily was against Dinny.

But the scariest of them all is that creepy Wild Bill Lovett.
We all thought he was dead; the military showed up at his parents’ tenement, hats in hands, and Father Larkin even gave a service for him at St. Ann’s.
My stomach turns every time I think of that sick man, Lovett.
The old-timers in Irishtown say he’s been resurrected for a reason.
And the Italians, who are even more superstitious than us Irish, call him Pulcinella, which is some sort of vicious clown-like character in their lore.

Now, he has killed Dinny’s cousin, Lovett has.
Guaranteeing a war.
And that little wench Anna Lonergan showed up at our Warren Street brownstone

Darby Leighton

Darby Leighton

and threw rocks through our window.
And she was with, of all people, my own cousin Darby Leighton!
My own family!
I even heard Darby used the money I gave him to hire Dead Reilly, Dinny’s lawyer who set up Pickles in the first place.

L’il Dinny and I are safest out here, on Long Island.
We go dress shopping for me, little soldier outfits for him.
And we take long, quiet walks along the ocean when it’s not so cold.

But it snowed heavily on Brooklyn recently, and I know Mickey Kane is dead.
I can feel it.
I just hope Lovett doesn’t attack while Dinny and his enforcers are in jail.
Can you imagine? Arrested for putting shoes on children’s feet and while you’re in

anna-praying

Anna Lonergan

jail, your cousin is murdered, your wife is driven from your home and then your headquarters attacked by a rival?

But if I know Dinny, he’ll war with Lovett.
He’ll never give up. It’s not in his nature.
He’ll recruit every “Soldier of the Dawn” under his command.
He’s a driven man.
By what, I am unsure, even after all these years of being married to him.
But driven, is he.
By some sort of spirit of the past, so say the old-timers in Irishtown.

When anyone in Brooklyn is asked by the police who he is, the answer is always the same: “Who? Who is Dinny Meehan? Never heard of him.”
I get the chills when I think of it, but sometimes I’m not even sure if I know who he is.
I only know that his hands are gentle on me.
And I know his heart, which is filled with goodness.
Beyond his hands and his heart, I don’t really know him at all.

But my son.
I don’t know what will happen when Dinny rallies his soldiers and seek those that killed his cousin.
Killed Mickey Kane, his hope and heir.
I’m scared to think of Dinny without hope, because without hope a soldier becomes a martyr.
The greatest of Irish traditions.
For the only Irish hero is a dead one.
So, I will ask that my son and I stay here on Long Island so I can protect him.
Protect him, my hope in life, from the war that is coming to Brooklyn.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FanFiction: The Tunic, William Brosnan

February, 1919

IMG_1608

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.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FanFiction: Darby Leighton’s Soft Revenge

Spoilers! If you haven’t read the first two books in the AULD IRISHTOWN trilogy. This POV character story is also at FanFiction.com (https://www.fanfiction.net/book/Auld-Irishtown-Trilogy/)

February, 1919

I’ve been banished to the shadows of the night.
It was Dinny Meehan’s doing, I blame him.
At morning’s light I retire and revel in dreams of vengeance.
I pride myself on pragmatism and knowledge, but even I know he’s an ancient.
I could never beat him one-on-one, for he is a fashioner and an artisan of the material world, as they say in Irishtown.
But there is such a thing as soft revenge.
And soft revenge I shall have.

Darby Leighton

Darby Leighton, the loner and the outsider. Even his Aunt Rose left him when he was a child.

In 1891, I was born within earshot of the Bow Bells.
London-Irish, though I moved to Irishtown when I was four years-old with my psychotic older brother, Pickles.
Our Aunt Rose hated Brooklyn, so she left us there to fend for ourselves.
The streets of Brooklyn’s Irishtown made us. We weren’t the only ones, either.
But in those days, Irishtown was filled with stories and divinations and old-world spells.
And gangs.

There are many in Brooklyn who believe Dinny Meehan is the result of pagan prayer.
He doesn’t seem to come from the same place as the rest of us.
I first noticed way back in the year 1900 when myself, Pickles and a few others followed Coohoo Cosgrave, the first leader of The White Hand.
Child thieves and cutpurses, our headquarters was underneath a windy, decaying pier.
The police called us “water rats.”
Dinny seemed to come from nowhere, an 11 year-old mystic who could beat up grown men seemingly without effort.
And boy could he provide, a valuable gift for a kid among the swarm of poor in New York.

Final Diddicoy cover

The first book in the Auld Irishtown trilogy LIGHT OF THE DIDDICOY (2014), includes Darby Leighton.

Coohoo knew Dinny Meehan was chosen, and so he elevated him above both myself and Pickles.
I wanted to follow Dinny too, but Pickles wouldn’t hear it.
Dinny became Coohoo’s right hand, and the gang earned enough money to feed the desperately poor in Irishtown.
Of course, that caught the interest of the gold-toothed chieftain, Christie Maroney.

Coohoo had to pay tribute to Maroney, who ruled Irishtown and the dozens of dock gangs in Brooklyn at the time.
The thing was, everyone hated Maroney because he invited the police and the Italian and drugs into Irishtown.
Even prostituted the Irish girls.

The old-timers in Irishtown, who originally settled the neighborhood during the Great Hunger, had prayed for a new leader to kill Maroney and reinstate the old Brehon ways.
But everyone thought the old-timers were superstitious fools.
I did too.
But Dinny Meehan with his stone green eyes rose up like a prophet, answering their pagan prayers.

One day in 1912, my brother Pickles, Dinny, McGowan and a very young Vincent Maher shot and killed Maroney in a saloon between the bridges.
At the murder trial, Harry Reynolds sat next to Sadie, my cousin, although she was in

On the Docks

Dead man, Brooklyn 1912.

love with Dinny.
Then something crazy happened and right then and there I knew Dinny was destined.
He was exonerated! while Pickles was set up for the whole thing and sentenced to Sing Sing.
The old-timers of Irishtown were in shock, their prayers answered and a wild celebration was set off.
That’s when Dinny banished me to the shadows, never allowed to work on his docks.
Ever.
Too close to my brother Pickles, I suppose.
And too close to his wife Sadie, my cousin.

Ever since then, I’ve been on the periphery.
“Eightysixt,” as they say in Irishtown, while Pickles sits in a Sing Sing cell.
Now I’m always on the outside, looking in.
I can’t even work with Bill Lovett, the dockboss down in Red Hook.
But I made my way.
And I paid attention to what was going on, from the perimeter.

Then I dared to stand with Bill when he revolted against Dinny Meehan in 1917.
But everything went wrong, Dinny had manipulated the waterfront winds against us.
And that’s when I learned about the powers of Dinny Meehan and “Auld Irishtown.”

Exile book cover

The second book in the Auld Irishtown trilogy, EXILE ON BRIDGE STREET, includes Darby Leighton.

Dinny made a deal with the ILA allowing the Italians of South Brooklyn to cross the Gowanus Canal and take over half of Red Hood.
Next thing I know some moon-faced ginzo is pointing a gun at Bill’s head.
But we turned the gun around on Sammy de Angelo.
Bill shot his .45 in that ginzo’s face as I held him down.
I felt the life blow out of him, scariest thing I’ve ever seen.
And now I’m deaf in one ear.

But things got even worse after that.
Bill was charged with murder and was sent to fight in the Great War.
So I decided right then and there, I’d get my revenge on Dinny Meehan.
Although I could never beat him one-on-one, there are other ways at bringing him down.
I finally realized my talents as an outsider, so I started spying on the White Hand from afar.
Everyone needs information in Brooklyn.

But then I heard Bill Lovett was killed in battle.
The worst news I could’ve gotten.
My revenge on Dinny Meehan suffered another setback.

Now though, my brother Pickles owns the inside of Sing Sing for Brooklyn and 100 valuable soldiers are at his command if he’s ever released.
I decided to start talking to my cousin Sadie again, who married Dinny and has a child with him.
I suppose guilt makes people do the damnedest things, and without her husband knowing it, she started giving me money to hire a lawyer to help get Pickles out of prison.
So I hired Dinny Meehan’s lawyer, Dead Reilly.
But Pickles is no gang leader and if I was going to get revenge, we’d need a real commander.

Now don’t ask me to explain it, but Bill Lovett came back to life again.
Back from the Great War, but damaged from his journeys.
He’s putting together a gang to fight Dinny again.

Bill Lovett

William “Wild Bill” Lovett. Bel

In the shadows where I live, he handed me his .45.
The gun that would guarantee another war here in New York.
I gave it to Richie Lonergan, who then killed Dinny’s cousin and Red Hook dockboss, Mickey Kane.
It’s gonna get bloody in Brooklyn, it’s gonna be a horror, I know it.
But this is my chance. My chance to make it on the inside.

Nobody knows this, but I’ve started a family of my own.
I’m in love and it’s brought hope back into my life again.
What? Am I supposed to be an outsider forever?
No, I’ve been saved by her and have reemerged, kind of like Bill Lovett.
Me and her? We got married in New Jersey so no one in the gangs would find out.
And we just had a baby, her name is Colleen Rose, Colleen Rose Leighton.
My God, what a little miracle is she.

I can’t wait to tell Bill Lovett what I’ve been doing for him in his absence.
That I’ve set it up so that he’ll not only get Pickles as a soldier, but 100 ex-cons on parole.
Not to mention, I got his arch-enemy Dinny Meehan’s wife to pay for it.
This is my chance.
Once I get established with Lovett and we win the war against The White Hand, I’ll get my own territory.
I’m going to be a dockboss.
I’ll be able to provide for my family then and I won’t have to live on the outside ever again.
And I’ll have my revenge too.
I’m no lost soldier anymore.
And I’ll be on the right hand side of Irishtown’s newest leader, Wild Bill Lovett.
You watch.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When We Were Immigrants

Boro Hall SpeechOn St. Patrick’s Day, 2017, I was invited to speak at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall with Borough President Eric Adams at the traditional Al O’Hagan breakfast. Below is the speech given. 

St. Patrick’s Day has become a day of green top-hats, orange beards.
For many, an excuse to over-drink.
For some, it is still a day to honor the saint himself, who brought Catholicism to Ireland.
For most of us here today, it is a celebration of the Irish in the United States, particularly New York.
So, with my historian cap on.
On the only day when everyone is considered Irish, I wanted to talk about when we were immigrants.

When we were immigrants, things were different.
Mmm, not really.

After the Irish rebellion of 1798, The Acts of Union of 1800 enveloped Ireland into Great Britain.
By then, Britain’s flag the “Union Jack” was colloquially deemed by Irish women and men as “The Butcher’s Apron.”
Soon, life would become untenable at home when the blight of the potato came to Ireland in 1845.
Worse were the economic policies that came from London in response to widespread reports of starvation in Ireland.

Here in Brooklyn, the vast majority of its population was the Dutch and Anglo-Ascendency.
Almost no Irish, certainly not Catholic Irish.
In fact, less than 1% were Irish-born.

borough hallTen years later, in the census of 1855 after Ireland’s greatest tragedy had mostly resolved, there were over 56,000 Irish-born that had settled, mostly along the waterfront area of Brooklyn.
This comprised an incredible 27.5% of Brooklyn’s population.

Historians have often debated what was more difficult: Living on the tenant farms in Ireland during that time period? Or crossing the Atlantic Ocean?
We are the result of those who survived both.
Now, there are 40 million Americans who claim Irish ancestry.

But if I could ask you to do anything today, it is this: Please try and imagine the conflict that would’ve arose from the Dutch & Anglo gentry and the Irish immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s Brooklyn.

This Dutch and Anglo ascendency though, can you picture them with the top hats and tails, some wearing high knee-socks and the funny-looking slippers? The white wigs and the fluffy collars?
People who saw themselves as “high-born” or “well-bred” and “genteel.”

Now imagine the Irish that had just been dumped on the waterfront: Shoeless, wearing patched-up rags, strewn with lice, weakened by cholera, yellow fever and dissentery, gaunt and starving, only about half spoke English, all of them though had that terrible, hated Irish accent.

We take for granted that the Irish accent is so loveable. Back then though, it was a sign of extremely low caste. And worst of all, they were Catholic! The hated religion that their English forebears had so boldly rebelled against!

One of the most difficult things for us to do is to reconcile the past. But we must remember that at every second of every moment, we are creating a new history. Therefore we have to remember that so many of us Irish are the offspring of refugees.

We come from “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. . . the wretched refuse. . . the homeless, tempest-tost” for whom Emma Lazarus wrote her famous poem, describing how the United States lifted its “lamp beside the golden door.”

In this very neighborhood where we sit today. Right here, is where those Irish settled. Not in brownstones or apartments or duplexes. Not even in tenements.
No.
They squatted in empty lots.

Back in Ireland during the Great Hunger, known widely if not falsely as the “Potato Famine,” after being evicted, families had to dig holes in the ground and covered the entrances with sticks and brush. They called these “scalps” or even worse, “scalpeens,” which were the smallest, most rudimentary dwellings.

In fact, there is evidence that the same thing happened in this neighborhood, particularly over by Fort Greene Park, where our ancestors holed-up like the most desperate of refugees we see on television today on the news.

A New York Times article described the area in 1848 – I’ll quote from it, but I’d like to point out the perspective of the writer, which was that of disgust toward these homeless and starved people:

“There was an extensive colony of Irish people who had settled on the vacant lots of Fort Greene, which… from the number of pigs and dogs there, was known as ‘Young Dublin.’”

The article then rudely describes how the police made a concerted attack upon this “pigdem” which “rooted” out the Irish living there.
The comparison of Irish to pigs and dogs is palpably described in the article.

With nowhere to go, the Irish refugees then moved to Jackson’s Hollow, an area consisting of empty lots and hills at this time between Flushing and Gates avenues east of Fort Greene Park.

The same New York Times article said of the makeshift dwellings there, “Nine out of ten of these shanties have only one room… which does not average over twelve feet square” and “the cradle is seldom empty.”

In a Dec. 18, 1863 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jackson’s Hollow was described thusly

“Lying in the very heart of the city, and given over to hogs and cows, and to the squatter sovereigns who have erected wretched shanties upon it.”

From these humiliating and loathsome origins grew a culture, extraordinarily similar to the gypsy and rebellious subcultures of Ireland.
What sprung up from these scalpeens and shanties were hundreds of the original murderous Brooklyn gangs.

I have argued for a few years now that these gangs were not created out of some love of crime or a result of alcoholism, but that these gangs were formed solely for the purpose of feeding families. Pooling resources. Combatting poverty and oppression. And how else to do that?
Dominating labor.

The next generation of young Irish of the 1860s through the 1890s roamed Brooklyn in big numbers before unions came to power.

They built buildings, and bridges, loaded and unloaded ships on the waterfront, manufactured sugar, coffee, shoes and soap. The working class Irish. Wearing boots, working hard, playing harder.

The word “gang” as we know it in Brooklyn originated in the different types of longshoreman groups that worked together, such as “deck gangs” that stacked goods in a net on the deck.

“Hatch gangs” that lowered the goods into the ship. And “Hull gangs” that worked inside the ship and organized the goods inside.
Eventually, the word “gang” came to describe the longshoremen in general, who violently protected their jobs from the owning class and other ethnic groups.

For instance, there are many reports of ships being burned from Wallabout Bay down to the Erie Basin because the shipping company did not go through the right channels in procuring a labor force.
They’d never make that mistake again.
I mean, who were they going to complain to, the police? The predominantly Irish police force?

Now, I won’t take up much more of your time but, if you hadn’t already heard what I am about to tell you, then I’m very proud to introduce you to it.

Brooklyn’s old Fifth Ward, which is now known generally as DUMBO and the Vinegar Hill area, was once commonly referred to as “Irishtown.”

There were many enclaves that were originally settled by Irish Catholic immigrants in Brooklyn from Greenpoint down to Gowanus, but Irishtown became the most famous.
Why?
Because of its refusal to assimilate into Anglo-American culture.

Irishtown had a cast of comical characters that retained their Irishness to the core and collectively, they had an incredibly deep sense of distrust toward law, itself. Particularly English law (since it was English law that starved them in Ireland, evicted them and forced them to emigrate).

But in New York at the time, the people of Irishtown would have certainly seen law as once again hostile toward them and their ways.
Therefore, gangs of young ruffians in Irishtown (working class men) kept policemen out, or paid them not to do their job.

In the 1870s things began to slowly change. The Civil War took many young men out of Irishtown for cannon fodder.
More importantly, the US government was not getting taxes from the lucrative black market inside Irishtown, the distillation and sale of whiskey and poitin.

Long before Prohibition, there was the Whiskey Wars that took place in Brooklyn’s Irishtown between the police and Irish gangs that kept them out.
In 1873 though, police, federal agents and marines invaded Irishtown through the Navy Yard. And this time, they had the numbers and had rations. They were going to occupy Irishtown until every last whiskey still was thrown into the East River.
The battle had begun.

As usual, the people of Irishtown took to the rooftops and threw bricks and paving stones down on the cops and soldiers, (better known as Irish confetti).
Women opened their kitchen windows and with a child in one arm, threw more Irish confetti on the “invaders”,

Eventually they left, having arrested and beaten back the dominant Irishtown gang of that era, a gang known as the “Velvet Caps of Irishtown”
But over time the steady flow of locally distilled liquor came to a trickle.

By 1900, Italians, Jews, Poles, African-Americans and Russians began living in the area and the legends of Irishtown began to fade, but many of the attributes remained and one last Irish-American gang from Irishtown took-on those traits as their own, such as:
The Code of Silence
The inherent distrust of law
The domination of longshoreman labor
And a very distinct Irish flavor

With surnames such as Meehan, Lovett, Lonergan, Connolly and Donnelly, the gang became simply known as The White Hand in response to the Italian Black Hand of South Brooklyn.

Willie Sutton was born in Irishtown in 1901. He became famous in the 1930s, and not the good-kind-of-famous either. He was a bank robber and when asked by reporter why he robbed banks. Sutton answered, “That’s where the money was.”
In his very popular memoir, aptly titled “Where the Money Was,” Sutton described Irishtown as having “made him,” and how it was the White Hand Gang that forced Brooklyn’s own Al Capone to move to Chicago,

Quote: “Because the Irish mob played too rough.”

Sutton also described “a code of silence was observed in Irishtown more faithfully than omertà is observed by the Mafia… Nobody ever talked in Irishtown.”

Unfortunately for Irishtown, it’s most famous residents were almost always thugs, corrupt politicians, gangsters, chiselers, skimmers, illegal whiskey distillers, faro and craps dealers, ladies of the evening, refugees and bank robbers.

Sounds like it might make a good book series, doesn’t it?

Over the last few years I’ve fielded emails from hundreds of people wanting to know where to look up information about their Brooklyn Irish ancestors, and if there’s a pattern to what they’ve found out about their great-uncles and great-grandmothers, it’s that they were involved in nefarious, illegal and often surprisingly devious situations.

I’ll say it again.
One of the most difficult things for us to do is to reconcile the past.
But we must accept the truth.
After accepting the truth, it is up to us how to respond.
Remember, we are making history, right now.

Thank you and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment