The Gas Drip Bard – Auld Irishtown

The Gas Drip Bard – Character in the Auld Irishtown trilogy

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The Gas Drip Bard, Irishtown’s shanachie of the late 1800s, early 1900s (art by Sebastian MacLaughlin).

“The Bard slowly sits in his rocker and pushes back his long brows, tilts the candle to redden his cuddy and leans forward to a place where myths still carry. And where words are like birds in their flight from Irish to English.”
~Liam Garrity

The Gas Drip Bard (b. 1839, County Mayo, Ireland) also known as The Bard, is the augur and shanachie (storyteller) of Irishtown who summons the storied past of the Irish in Brooklyn and interprets the visions. With sea-green eyes and an animated personality, he is very popular with children and the aging famine survivors who originally settled Irishtown in the 1840s. When he was eight years-old in County Mayo, Ireland, his mother keened for him while he was dying of starvation in 1847, yet he awoke on a leaky ship headed to Brooklyn. Shoeless and emaciated, he lived in a scalpeen in Jackson Hollow with thousands of motley survivors from the Great Hunger. He worked at Brooklyn Union Gas Company for fifty years in Irishtown, witnessing the violent gangs that defended the waterfront neighborhood’s borders from the Anglo-American, who they distrusted because of their similarities to the British. When despised gang leader Christie Maroney came to power in 1900 Irishtown, he and other aging famine survivors fell to ancient prayer for a hero to save them. As they chanted, a storm came at dawn and a ferry capsized in the East River where they found a drowned child. The women began to sing the old keening songs over the boy and the next day, he disappeared. He was seen with brothers Pickles and Darby Leighton soon afterward under a rotting pier. The boy’s name was Dinny Meehan.


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Light of the Diddicoy
Does not appear.
Exile on Bridge Street
In 1918, wanting to spend more time with kin, a few gang members (including Liam Garrity) brought their families to listen to Irishtown’s shanachie tell stories, as had been done for centuries back home in Ireland. After the children fell asleep, The Bard told the story of the sensational murder trial of 1912 when Meehan and the White Hand gang murdered Maroney and took power in Irishtown.

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The Swede – Auld Irishtown

The Swede – Character in the Auld Irishtown trilogy

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The Swede terrorizes Brooklyn in the name of the White Hand and violently protects Dinny Meehan (art by Guy Denning).

“Pushing faces back so the circle widens, kicking with boots at men with blatting disgust, The Swede makes his territory: The fighter’s circle. Spitting at its edges, daring a cross of it; until finally in his comfort, puffs his long trunk and the angular slant of his splayed chest and shoulders for a grunt in the air that of a bull ape’s summoning.”
 
The Swede (b. 1889), is not Swedish at all, but is a gangly 6’5″ Irish-American with blond hair and gigantic fists. Born James Finnigan, The Swede is an enforcer for White Hand gang leader Dinny Meehan. With a permanent “gaunt scowl” and a ferocious temper, he is known in Irishtown for his raging tantrums and is inordinately protective of Meehan. In the early 1900s, he lead a group of young thugs in Red Hook, Brooklyn. In 1912, Meehan paid the Italian Black Hand a $500 ransom when The Swede’s sister Helen was kidnapped. Afterward the gang, including The Swede, robbed a Black Hand undertaker of thousands of dollars. He beat Darby Leighton “to death’s door” after the sensational trial for the murder of Christie Maroney. When Charles McGowan was killed by Pickles Leighton in Sing Sing, The Swede became Meehan’s righthand. Rumors of his having a child with his sister Helen have persisted.

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Light of the Diddicoy
In 1915 The Swede beat an Italian immigrant to death at the Fulton Ferry Landing. He also led the way during the Donnybrook in Red Hook.
Exile on Bridge Street
In 1917, Wild Bill Lovett secedes from the gang and claims part of the White Hand’s territory. After a swarm of enemies surround the gang, an ominous warning from Detective William Brosnan, and building pressure to provide for his family, The Swede attempts to commit suicide by shooting himself in the heart. Now his left arm is lame, taking away his ability to fistfight while the pressure continues to mount. Later he, along with Meehan, Vincent Maher and Lumpy Gilchrist are arrested for robbing a shoe store when Mickey Kane is murdered.

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Thomas Burke – Auld Irishtown

Thomas Burke – Character in the Auld Irishtown trilogy

Burke

Thomas Burke desperately needs work, but feels trapped in the coming gang war for leadership of the White Hand.

“Harry looks down toward the parlor where the Burke boy stares and groans, his mother speaking to him in warm, sweet tones even as we can see her cold breath in the room. She rubs her hand up and down his arm to keep the cold off him, then looks toward Harry and I.”
~Liam Garrity


Thomas Burke
 (b. 1893) known simply as Burke, is small of stature, but has a large family. Having stumbled into the White Hand gang and the Brooklyn underworld, he is apprehensive and nervous about their shadowy, often violent dealings. Living in a rundown building by Prospect Park, Burke had terrible difficulties finding regular work to feed and shelter his wife and four children. His eldest son, stricken with what is deemed “The Palsy” in Irishtown (Multiple Sclerosis), is in need of serious medical treatment. Wanting to help, two White Hand gang members offer him a job as a longshoremen. Even though he is not strong enough for the type of physical demands required to unload ships, he is eager to work and his wife becomes friends with a gang member’s family, securing his position. Burke wants no part of the violence the gang is involved in, but he is in too deep now.


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Light of the Diddicoy
Does not appear.
Exile on Bridge Street
As Harry Reynolds and Liam Garrity fix up a dilapidated room in anticipation of Garrity’s mother and sisters’ arrival from Ireland, they notice an eight year-old child strapped to a chair, which is strapped to a wall. Later they notice the chair and table are missing. Burke tells Reynolds and Garrity that due to the severe coal shortage in Brooklyn, they burned the table and chairs in the fireplace during a freezing night. Hearing this, Reynolds offers Burke a chance to work on the docks and proves himself loyal and hard-working. As tenement neighbors, the Burke and Garrity families become close. When several gang members are jailed and Liam is forced into being a dockboss, Burke watches fearfully as Garrity and others beat immigrants who challenge them. With a gang war looming, he feels trapped.

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William Brosnan – Auld Irishtown

William Brosnan – Character in the Auld Irishtown trilogy

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Detective William Brosnan fears his son-in-law Daniel Culkin has fallen into an arcane, malevolent prophecy.

“They’re comin’ now, just slow. Gatherin’ up like a giant swell, they’ll swallow ye like the great suck o’ the ocean and leave ye bathin’ in a welter o’ yer own blood and bones, all o’ ye. Oh they’re comin’, sure enough. Slow and sure o’ themselves.”
~William Brosnan


William Brosnan
 (b. 1864, Dublin), also known as the Tunic, is a detective with a dark past and father-in-law to eager, blackjack-swinging Patrolman Daniel Culkin. While his young wife was giving birth during the Great Blizzard of 1888, Brosnan was on patrol in Irishtown when he found a baby in the rubble of a fallen tenement. He desperately ran the baby to a hospital, where he found out his wife died during childbirth. Moments later, he was told the baby he found in the fallen tenement survived. Despondent, Brosnan came to believe that a darkness followed him. The baby he saved turned out to be Garry Barry, the grimmest, most malevolent of street urchins. Barry, Brosnan believes, is a wraith and has a role to play in the dark, pre-Christian prophecies he heard as a boy back in Ireland, “When the veil between life and death is thinnest during the storms of dawn, we are exchanged like pieces on a chessboard.” Brosnan concludes that his wife’s life was taken for Barry’s to fulfill a prophecy that has its origins in Ireland’s Great Hunger (potato famine) where “the keening songs of the banshees croon hastens an ascension, like the rising of the moon.” A single father, Brosnan raised his daughter on a patrolman’s salary until she married the eager Culkin. Since Barry was reported to have died in 1918 of injuries from a White Hand gang beating, Brosnan’s superstitious fears were allayed. But in 1919, during the “Storm of Slanting Snow,” Culkin finds Barry alive. Shaken again, Brosnan is convinced another death must be exchanged for Barry’s life and worries it’ll be Culkin. Or worse, as his daughter is pregnant.

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Light of the Diddicoy
In 1915, Brosnan and Culkin show up in the Dock Loaders’ Club after Wild Bill Lovett murdered an immigrant for pulling a cat’s tail. Before the Donnybrook in Red Hook, Brosnan was forced to accept payment from the White Hand to look the other way.
Exile on Bridge Street
In 1916, Brosnan is promoted to detective for getting the conviction of Non Connors, who wrongly was named leader of the White Hand. A year later he is publicly reprimanded by the Waterfront Assembly’s Jonathan G. Wolcott and the newspapers for looking the other way while gangs run the waterfront. Brosnan and Culkin show up at the Dock Loaders’ Club and make demands of White Hand gang leader Dinny Meehan for an increase in their hush money and angrily describe how they are all going to fall prey to the Anglo-American ascendency, who has the real power in New York.

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Sixto Stabile – Auld Irishtown

Sixto Stabile – Character in the Auld Irishtown trilogy

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Sixto Stabile was raised in South Brooklyn, educated at Harvard.

“They shooed the whore away an’ tied me to the bed. Then this Ivy League dago comes in, duded up like he’s some gaudy business man with a pinky ring. But you can’t put a blond wig on a guerrilla and convince me her name’s Mary.”
~Vincent Maher

Sixto Stabile
(b. 1893), also known as the Young Turk, is a self-assured, sardonic and overly polite South Brooklyn Italian who graduated from Harvard University. Sixto’s Italian father paid for his schooling via a bawdyhouse (brothel) he owns, the Adonis Social Club on 20th street & 4th avenue, protected by Frankie Yale and the Black Hand. In 1916, Yale’s man Il Maschio was murdered by the Irish White Hand. For safety reasons, Yale agreed to send young Al Capone to Chicago. Still angry that Red Hook is populated with Italians, yet the dock winnings are collected by the Irish, Yale decided to temporarily emphasize friendlier relations with the powerful White Hand gang’s Dinny Meehan. Highly educated Sixto was a perfect fit to smooth things out. Working with the ILA’s Thos Carmody, Sixto helped put together a brilliant three-way peace deal, which gave the Italians the southern terminal of Red Hook in exchange for the murder of Wild Bill Lovett, while both the White and Black Hand longshoremen unionized.

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Light of the Diddicoy
Does not appear
Exile on Bridge Street
With the assistance of Jonathan G. Wolcott‘s NY Dock Co, and headquartering his new gang in Red Hook, Lovett seceded from the White Hand in 1917. Dinny Meehan was backed into a corner, so Sixto sprung into action. At the Adonis, Sixto and Carmody kidnapped White Hand enforcer Vincent Maher and gave him peace terms that would break Lovett’s stronghold in Red Hook and kill Wolcott’s strategist and muscle, Silverman. The plan succeeded. Even though Lovett survived, he was sent to the Great War in a plea deal after murdering a Black Hand assassin. In 1919, after Maher is jailed, Sixto and Yale visit him and offer him a job in Chicago, warning him that Meehan plans on setting him up for the robbery of the Hanan & Son shoe factory, just as he’d set up Pickles Leighton, Non Connors, and even Lovett before him.

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Sadie Meehan – Auld Irishtown

Sadie Meehan – Character in the Auld Irishtown trilogy

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Sadie Meehan must choose between her husband, and her son (art by Sebastian MacLaughlin)

“Sadie looks up into my eyes and smiles. She wipes a tear away and hugs me. And so does L’il Dinny, hugging me by the leg. She whispers to me, ‘Now you need to start makin’ a plan for yourself an’ your family, to escape Brooklyn.’”
~Liam Garrity

 

Sadie Meehan (née Leighton, b. 1891) faces a terrible decision: Staying with her gang leader husband, or leaving him in order to keep her son safe. Sadie was raised in the terrible poverty of East London. In 1910, her cousins Darby and Pickles Leighton paid her passage to Brooklyn, New York where she again lived in desperate conditions. She was courted by both Dinny Meehan and Harry Reynolds of the White Hand gang, but when Meehan was arrested for the murder of Christie Maroney, Reynolds came to her the night before the trial. Her cousin Pickles was then convicted, while Meehan, McGowan, and Vincent Maher were exonerated. Feeling closer to Meehan and seeing that he could best pull her out of poverty (Meehan also promised to get her cousin out of prison), she shunned Reynolds. Sadie cared for three orphans that Dinny brought home and helped groom them as productive gang members. Within months of Meehan’s release, she gave birth to a son, Li’l Dinny.


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Light of the Diddicoy
Sadie takes in the homeless immigrant teenager Liam Garrity.
Exile on Bridge Street
Sadie gives Garrity a haircut, flowers and advice on courting women when Dinny attempts to betroth him to Anna Lonergan. She is startled when her cousin Darby sneaks up on her and L’il Dinny, who shames her for marrying the man who banished him and set up Pickles for the murder of Maroney, then offers her a cryptic warning. When Darby and Anna throw rocks through Sadie’s window while Dinny is in jail, she goes to Garrity, but Reynolds says he “can’t talk to Sadie.” Garrity then pays for her and L’il Dinny to stay in a hotel on Long Island. Scared to go back to Brooklyn and the coming gang war, she plans on keeping her son far away.

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Darby Leighton – Auld Irishtown

Darby Leighton – Character in the Auld Irishtown trilogy.

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Exiled, Darby Leighton lives with the shadows (art by Sebastian MacLaughlin)

“Knowing things is what I’m known for, and I’m the guy waiting in the long shadows to use them against you.”
~Darby Leighton

Darby Leighton – (b. 1890) is a man of the shadows. Sickly and with calm, dead eyes, he has the look of a lost soldier as he’s been banished from the White Hand gang. He has never been able to decide his own fate, but now is married, has a daughter and is ready to emerge. Having been abandoned as children in 1900, Darby and his brother Pickles Leighton lived under a rotted pier in Brooklyn until joining an early version of the White Hand gang. When a young Dinny Meehan appeared, they became profitable. Darby was the one who saved money to bring his cousin Sadie Meehan (née Leighton) to Brooklyn. Darby looked up to Meehan, but was made to follow his brother Pickles in joining Wild Bill Lovett‘s Jay Street gang one block over. When Pickles was convicted of murdering Christie Maroney, Meehan’s enforcer The Swede beat Darby to “death’s door” and “eightysixt” him to the shadows. Having lived under cover for so long, he’s learned to spy on the gang and has worked in the background to gather valuable information against it.


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Light of the Diddicoy
In 1915 Darby is seen running from The Swede again on the streets of Irishtown. Later, a gang member who openly questioned Darby’s exile was murdered.
Exile on Bridge Street
From the shadows, Darby snuck up on Sadie and son, L’il Dinny. Feeling she’d left him to rot while marrying the man who banished him, he gave her a cryptic warning, “One day Bill Lovett’s gonna kill ya husband, and I’m gonna know about it ahead o’ time.” But in 1917, Lovett’s revolt against Meehan failed, leaving Darby deeper in the shadows than before. In 1919, Lovett reappeared, seemingly from the dead, and gave him his .45, telling Darby to get it to Richie Lonergan in order to kill Meehan’s cousin, Mickey Kane. With Lovett returned, Darby hopes to overthrow Meehan and become a dockboss to support his young family.

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