EXILE ON BRIDGE STREET: A book with heart

Exile book coverSince the beginning, the historical Exile on Bridge Street was dependent on readers to spread the word. Without much of an advertising or marketing budget, like most successful books that are pushed in front of eyeballs online, we have relied solely on merit and word-of-mouth.

Thanks to so many people in the US, Ireland and UK that have felt strongly about this book, we have been able to inspire reviewers to take a look at it. But we need more help. If you know someone who may enjoy a book about a teenage Irishman who is sent to work in Brooklyn one hundred years ago, get it for her/him. Tell your friends, post it on social media, order it online or at your local bookstore. Booklist logo.jpg

Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association, recently included it
in its widely distributed newsletter. This is a huge win for Exile on Bridge Street. The thousands of libraries and bookstores in the US now know about it and can consider purchasing.

Here’s what Booklist said: “Loingsigh brings the time and place to life with rough action and dialogue in Irish brogue, but he doesn’t just glorify the violence of the gang rivalries. Instead, he portrays the families that struggle with the cold realities of a city more interested in money than the value of human lives.”

wirbAlso, Washington Independent Review of Books, a highly respected national reviewer ran a wonderful piece here.

“An intimate look at criminals whose lives have been hardened by oppression and weathered by storms, while inside their rough shells they hide soft hearts.”

There have been many other reviews as well. On top of the excellent reviews, there have been readings to packed houses in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Below are some photo highlights.


Cranford, NJ library Nov. 14, 2016. Sold every copy we brought!


Cambridge, MA, Nov. 4

Exile on Bridge Street continues to sell extraordinarily well in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. You can find copies at http://amazon.co.uk and search for the book title.


At the Artists Without Walls Showcase, The Cell Theatre Nov. 22. Sold out! photo by Mitch Traphagen


Mysterious Bookshop, Warren Street in Manhattan, Nov. 1.


Famous non-fiction writer TJ English introducing Eamon Loingsigh at Mysterious Bookshop.

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Early Praise for EXILE

Available now for pre-order Exile on Bridge Street, due for release in the middle of this month, is already being talked about all over the place.

Irish Central, the hugely popular New York City based Irish-American magazine said,

“On the surface, Loingsigh’s book mines Brooklyn’s gory and glorious Irish past.
But it is also the quintessential read for 21st century Brooklyn.”

bk-rail-logoBrooklyn Rail, a very popular culture magazine in New York City, raved about Exile on Bridge Street saying;

“Loingsigh has an urgent story to tell. And he tells it well. This is a street-level history of how the other half has always lived, the kind of story rarely worried over in classrooms or political campaigns. Loingsigh’s great strength is his unsentimental take on the immigrant experience.”

goodreadsGoodreads, a website dedicated to books and moderated by librarians and top reviewers, Exile on Bridge Street is very popular with over 600 people scheduled to read the book when it is released.

There are many reviews there already, however, due to some librarians and top reviewers having access to advance reader and digital copies. Here’s what they are saying;

Exile book cover“From the very first pages I was taken back to this time, fully immersed in this time period. . . extremely well written. . . so authentically portrayed and covered a period I hadn’t read before, and I quite liked Liam.”
~Diane S

“At once poetic and gritty, the docks and streets in Irishtown are depicted. . . It’s a
coming of age story as well as a wonderful piece of historical fiction, written beautifully.”

~Angela M.

“This is an astonishing story of the Irish Immigrant families arriving trying to bring their families over and living in New York City. A well-researched, thought out book – with a heart wrenching sad accounting of life in the early 1900’s.” 
~Lynn Demsky



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Book Release: Exile on Bridge Street


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Who was Vercingetorix?

It is nearly always invisible dangers
that are most terrifying. 

With these words by Julius Caesar do we get to know Vercingetorix, a Celtic tribal leader that led a revolt in Gaul against Rome in 52BC.


Vercingetorix as portrayed by Giovanni Calcagno in the HBO series Rome.

After defeat at Avaricum, Vercingetorix and the thousands of Celtic troops that pledged to him retreated with heavy hearts and deep concern to Gergovia, his tribe’s biggest fortified town for a last stand.

On the precipice of extinction, the Gallic tribes trembled. Many knew that if they lost, their ancient culture would capitulate forever. Others though, saw opportunity in begging Caesar’s mercy and assimilating within the conquerer’s culture.

At Gergovia Vercingetorix won triumphantly. The Celts must have been elated. Winter had come, and everyone thought Caesar would head south, back to Italy.

Although Caesar claimed that he hadn’t lost (his account is all we have of the Gallic Wars) it was apparent he’d been routed. Eventually though, in open battle, Vercingetorix was overcome by treachery within his own leadership, lack of resources and outdated war strategies. Among the most important things against the Celts in Europe, however, was time and change.


Marlon Brando in JULIUS CAESAR (1953) wearing the classic ‘Scarlet Cloak’ that he used to intimidate his enemies

Julius Caesar’s siege tactics, superior battle techniques, along with the full might of Rome behind him proved too much, and Gaul fell under the mighty weight in the siege of Alesia.

In the Auld Irishtown trilogy, there are parodies to the rise of Rome and the fall of the Celtic world.

In a place called Irishtown in Brooklyn, in the very same neighborhood where their ancestors landed after the Great Hunger seventy years earlier, a gang keeps the Anglo-American law and culture outside its neighborhood borders.

(Listen to The Story of Irishtown)

In 1900 Christie Maroney, the newest gang leader plans to change Irishtown and allow outsider to run prostitution, gambling, labor tribute in the old neighborhood until Dinny Meehan murders him in 1912.

Statue de Vercingétorix

Statue of Vercingetorix in France

Meehan pulls every gang under his umbrella, and calls it The White Hand, in anticipation of an Italian invasion (just like Caesar) from the south. But it is not only Italians like Frankie Yale that want to take Dinny Meehan down and banish their culture, just as it wasn’t only Julius Caesar that took down  Vercingetorix.


Exile book cover

Due out Oct, 2016, Exile on Bridge Street is the second book in the Auld Irishtown trilogy

Call The White Hand a gang if you like, but they can also be seen as soldiers. Soldiers of the Dawn, who show up early in the morning to load and unload all of the ships that come into the busiest port in the world so that they can feed their people. And stick to their ancient ways, instead of the culture of the Anglo-ascendency in New York.

Dinny Meehan warns his followers in Irishtown not to fear the invisible dangers of their enemy, but to take a last stand, too.

(Pre-order Exile on Bridge Street here)

Video Trailer for: Exile on Bridge Street:


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Video Trailer: Exile on Bridge Street


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Liam Garrity, Storyteller

Liam Garrity is the narrator of the Auld Irishtown trilogy. On his death bed, he is telling the story of his youth. Although the story takes place in the past, it is told in the traditional Irish oral method of present tense. Much of the story details his horsedirect experience with the violent longshoreman gang known as The White Hand during World War I era New York City. Woven within his personal accounts are stories and events he tells that are related to the many elements affecting his life at the time.

In August of 1915, Garrity’s father witnesses the dramatic graveside speech of Patrick Pearse at the burial of Fenian rebel O’Donovan Rossa at Glasnevin Cemetery. Knowing that a rebellion is at hand (his father is a Volunteer) fourteen year-old Liam is sent to work with his uncle (a union longshoreman) in Brooklyn.

(Listen to The Story of Irishtown)
cover lotd

The original cover of Light of the Diddicoy featured Liam on it.

Born William James Garrihy, his last name was mistakenly changed at Ellis Island to Garrity. In fact, at one point he shows frustration at all the different names he has in Brooklyn, a metaphor for his coming of age. He is called Liam, William, kid, child, buoy, muck and Poe, at various times in the books. Also,  everyone in Irishtown is known as “Patrick Kelly,” a moniker used when outsiders want to know a gang member’s names.

Liam has a stable personality in a morally upside down world. He is genuine, thoughtful, has a great sense of humility, but is swept up in the violence of his time. Not until the Easter Rising occurs in April of 1916 does he realize that he must get his mother and sisters out of Ireland before British soldiers come to his family’s farm.

Like so many of the Irish diaspora, he is torn between returning home to fight for his country’s freedom, and starting a new life abroad. Because of the ongoing world war however, it is impossible for him to return. His only chance to get his mother and sisters to New York, both logistically and financially, is to join the gang, who control labor and since getting work is so difficult.

But Dinny Meehan, leader of The White Hand, does not give favor freely. Liam must pay, not in money though. In blood.

Along the way, Garrity describes the many pressures put on a gang that has outlived

Bill Lovett

William “Wild Bill” Lovett

its time. The violent enforcement of the ancient Irish Code of Silence that still exists in 1910s Irishtown has affectively kept outsiders out. But change is coming, as it always does to New York City.

Many want control of the bountiful waterfront docks of Brooklyn including the industrial businesses, Italians from South Brooklyn and the longshoremen’s union. Anglo-American law is also inherently opposed to gang rule. But most importantly, Liam sees the traitor in the gang’s midst, “Wild Bill” Lovett, who longs for Meehan’s seat of power above the Dock Loaders’ Club overlooking the Manhattan Bridge and the city’s skyline.

As a teenager, Garrity is unsure of his future. Primarily concerned with surviving and getting his family to New York, his own aspirations are set aside. But when he meets The Gas Drip Final Diddicoy coverBard, he realizes then that he will tell this story. But because of the terrible things he was forced to do, he does not want it told until twenty years after his death.

His story was begun in 2014 with the release of Light of the Diddicoy. Fall of 2016 it contiExile book covernues with Exile on Bridge Street.








Watch a video trailer for Exile on Bridge Street:

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The Famine Plot (book review)


The following book review appeared on BOOKSLUT, an edgy lit-blog for up and coming writers. Unfortunately the site is closing down this week, so we though it would be a good idea to blog it here.  Enjoy!



Outside of Ennis, in County Clare in the west of Ireland, the wind kicks upon the hills under the same gray sky where once starved children, women and old men were buried callously, if not left by the ditches. Where the weakest of the agrarian poor were communally laid in what are now mere humps of turf. Paupers’ graves that for over 160 years have not been fully honored by truth nor been properly acknowledged. Even if two million of them perished of starvation and common disease, over a million more died jumping desperately into coffin ships. The facts had never made a difference as to the truth of their demise, such as numbers as stiflingly affecting as up to twenty-five percent of a country’s population dead or dispersed.

Now finally comes The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy. This seminal work and its stance on Ireland’s most titanic event, written by its most famous historian, Tim Pat Coogan, has been bantered about for many years: A formal condemnation or blame on English policy and policymakers for the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852 and the “extermination” of so many poor by starvation, disease and emigration.

It has traditionally been with great difficulty for this story to be told, even though the Irish are known as epic storytellers. My grandfather, a gentle man of little emotion, tried but had such a hard time recounting the oral stories that were passed to him from his grandparents and parents that he found it necessary to turn away from me as he continued. In my family’s longshoreman saloon in Greenwich Village around the turn of the century and in our home where the cause of Irish freedom was still debated in my childhood and where copies of Coogan’s biographical work on the Irish Republican Army sat at my grandfather’s table from my earliest memories, I heard story after story of the Famine. Passionate stories, angry stories, and irrefutable facts to support the emotion behind it. Yet in my formal education in the United States, I never heard a mention until I reached university level.

For too long, there has been much gray over the past like the gray skies over the paupers’ graves in the hills of western Ireland. It seems Coogan’s greatest contribution to this calamitous event is to sum up the condemnation for us. To focus in on the intention of those with the ability to help the sufferers, rather than to allow history to remember it as an act of nature. Not to fan the flames of war or rally the revolutionaries, but to explain discreetly, truthfully, and in an Irish voice, why today there is still an open wound.

For all those Americans with surnames such as Connolly, Donnelly, or Kennedy; Australians with Fin, Finnigan, and Flanigan; and Canadians with O’Hara, O’Neill, and O’Leary, the reasons for their original arrival has too often been shaded in gray. But the fear, the death, and the struggle endured by those families of the Great Hunger, condemned to a fate worse than stray dogs, were not gray at all. Ignored by governments, they were forced into the slums of the New York docks in stitched rags or settled in South Boston and other places (and many others died in the Port of Quebec). They recovered quickly, and then went to work and helped build through toil and hope the great cities we know today. Much of their own memories of Ireland were of a sad place where sad things happened. Unnerved, uneducated, traumatized, disenfranchised, these Famine Irish, as they were known, often found more struggle and racism in their new homes.

In time, the frame of their story would be obscured by the politics of the ruling classes. And in telling their own tragic story, the reasons for their arrival in new lands were all too often dis-remembered in guilt, clouded by an oral tradition and a need to not dwell on the past while instead planning for the future.

In The Famine Plot, Coogan explains that it wasn’t until 1916 that Ireland began its true push for freedom and to govern and to express itself of its own history. But during the Eamon de Valera era, much of the academic class in Ireland was still heavily influenced by London and the soft-spoken, non-Republican Dublin professors that did not want to add their voice to the violence occurring in the north.

Coogan’s work is not the first on the topic, though it is the brightest and most obviously damning. There have been many works. Of note is Cecil Woodham-Smith’s 1962 affective work, The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849 (also on my grandfather’s table), which outlined blame particularly on the English civil servant Sir Charles Trevelyan who administered “relief” during the Famine, but fell short of condemnation, stating instead that Britain’s record was simply “hard to defend.” But even that was too much for most academics, who criticized Woodham-Smith’s work for being biased.

Many works have followed, but not quite with the effect of Coogan’s sharp pen. In the opening chapters, The Famine Plot outlines the brewing of a catastrophic event. Religious oppression after Henry VIII’s abdication from the Catholic Church, the outlawing of education for Catholics; English landlords that spent their rent profits in London; failed rebellions including that of 1798; and a tradition of English racism for the Celt as being a lazy, popish, tribal, and feckless people. By the year 1800, after hundreds of years of invasions and oppression from their English neighbors, Ireland was brought under the umbrella of the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Act of Union like Scotland and Wales. But as Coogan rightly specifies, even important English Parliamentarians on the eve of disaster admitted that Ireland was not governed like a kingdom, but instead was only occupied by colonial soldiers that protected English businesses to extract Ireland’s natural resources. There was little governing of the people, especially outside of the Dublin Pale. In reality, the majority of Irish families, supposedly benefiting from the wealth of Great Britain’s economy, were solely dependent on the harvest of one crop: the potato.

However, Coogan saves his best argument for the most pertinent players during the Famine. Taking apart the philosophies of these royal English policymakers and their economic and religious treatises that prevail still today, he points directly to the heart of the matter. Breaking it up with the precision, with the gentle heart of an Irishman and putting it back together with the coolness of an historical analyst, he begins with providence.

“Providence, the divine will, was declared to have a large bearing on the subject, as it generally does when the rich debate the poor, or the strong confront the weak. It was an era in which in America the indigenous Americans were going down before a similar doctrine: Manifest Destiny,” he writes.

In this religious invocation by English political economists, God divinely chooses who shall live and who shall die and governments are not to intervene against His will. That God rarely chose them for death and instead chooses the most vulnerable of the peoples was certainly convenient for the powerful. The effect of policymakers interpreting God’s will and pointing it at the poor would, as we find out, be a large factor in causing Ireland to never again reach the population levels of the 1841 census.

After providence, Coogan points to laissez-faire capitalism as affecting how English colonial rule could justify standing by while a famine raged next door. Years before the Famine, English economists decided that raising cattle in the Irish land would be much more fiscally productive than depending on the feckless Irish to pay rent on it. A plan was needed to exchange the Irish people for cattle. English policy during this time was smitten with the ideas of Adam Smith, the Scottish economist and “moralist” who famously outlined the philosophy of capitalism in Wealth of Nations. The notion that “greed is good,” as director Oliver Stone sarcastically underscored in the movie Wall Street, was the prevailing economic philosophy then, as it is now. As is documented, even Smith was shocked at the perversions that accompany power within capitalism when he witnessed his own countrymen rape the Virginia tobacco fields and garner outlandish profits on the backs of free labor from African slaves without government regulation. In Ireland, the perversions of an economic doctrine guiding morality would justify extermination.

The interpretations of God’s providence coupled with laissez-faire capitalism doesn’t explain by itself how so many people could have been allowed to perish by hunger, and this is where Coogan takes his boldest step.

In recent years, on numerous blogs, Facebook, and in general conversation, there has been great cynicism toward the use of the term “famine” to describe what actually happened. As Coogan points out succinctly, a famine occurs when there is no food to be eaten, which was only true of the potato. But Ireland under Britain’s colonial rule exported grain, corn, cattle, and many other foodstuffs on a regular basis. “Ireland had no shortage of food,” Coogan writes. The London political economists of the time, however, termed these exports from Irish lands “cash crops,” which effectively meant they were the lawful property of the business community and not to be allocated for relief. With evidence such as this, the debate in Coogan’s book turns the description of the Great Hunger from “famine” to “extermination” and even “genocide.”

Early on, in chapter three to be exact, Coogan outlines his thesis when he quotes the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. One of those terms of genocide in particular rings with a great clarity here: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

Coogan’s intent here is not to say that England caused the blight of the potato. That was a matter of nature, of course. Instead he points directly to allowing its people for which it was responsible within the terms of the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain, to be so vulnerable as to be completely dependent on one crop. Furthermore, the deliberate attempt to utilize a natural disaster to “inflict conditions that bring about its physical destruction” is another powerful and ringing interpretation of the United Nations charter.

Here, Coogan levels his stare adroitly on the prevailing economic philosophy and the political economists in London at the time when he uses a famous quotation from the Irish Nationalist John Mitchel, who described the situation at the time as “God sent the blight, but the British sent the Famine.” The Famine Plot then describes Trevelyan’s followers in London as imposing an absurdity when they enforced, sometimes with soldiers and ships, the policy that “Ireland’s property should pay for Ireland’s poverty,” therefore expunging responsibility from London’s colonial lap with no more than a stroke of a pen and fatally placing care for the Famine in the metaphor of the economic market’s cold “invisible hand.”

To impose an illogical, calamitous condition such as Irish taxes needed to pay for Irish relief, Coogan states, is the perfect analogy to the idiom “extracting blood from a stone.” The taxes levied on Anglo landlords in Ireland were high, but when the poor could not pay their rent, they were evicted. Often by force, these starving families were sent to the countryside while their homes were destroyed to make way for cattle grazing. The consequence of eviction was devastating, and the poor were often too weak to travel and so desperate that they tried eating the grass, like cattle. In enforcing this policy, Coogan declares, genocide can be interpreted.

At the time, even some Englishmen agreed that “famine” could not be a truly intellectual description. As Coogan underscores, one English parliamentarian resigned in indignation feeling as though he is “an unfit agent of a policy which must be one of extermination.”

This policy of extermination went on to include the “work scheme,” such as road building, which didn’t pay a laborer enough even to fill his own belly, never mind the rest of his family. Also, the Poor Law Extension Act of 1847 that “effectively undid much of the benefits of the soup kitchens and brought an incalculable amount of suffering and death upon the starving.” The Workhouse, which became only a place for the sick to die, at one point, only allowed “fit” people within its gated doors. This meant that those considered too weak, such as children, the elderly, and women, were turned away, often by force.

All of this in the name of improving the economy and allowing God’s divine will to take shape was well within Trevelyan and many of his peers’ direct plans when he described the Famine as a “mechanism for reducing surplus population.” Trevelyan is also quoted as saying, “The greatest evil… is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the Irish people.” And finally, “The judgment of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson.”

There are many ways to describe what happened. Famine, genocide, and extermination are only a few. But Coogan does well in outlining the motivations and the actions of those responsible under the Act of Union. But the legacy of the Great Hunger still survives today. Nothing can bring back the dead or the dispersed, but some things can be acknowledged. In 1997, British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a halfhearted, politically motivated apologia in order to help talks between his government and the IRA. But still today there are stains that remain on British officialdom. Particularly its chivalric code and order. Sir Charles Trevelyan, at this very moment, is still honored as Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, a distinction awarded to him during the middle stages of Ireland’s greatest tragedy in 1848. The means of removing him from the Order is outlined by Queen Victoria’s 1847 process for revocation due to, “felony, or any infamous crime derogatory to his honour as a knight or gentleman.” Though he is long dead, Trevelyan is still credited as being a Knight Commander of the Bath, even as modern history has uncovered the horrific intentions his quotations reveal or, at the very least, his indefensible failure or lack of willingness to properly manage funds for one of the most devastating colonial catastrophes ever recorded. For him to remain honored as a gentleman is an open wound for Ireland and its great diaspora.

The effect of the Famine on the world has been long lasting and is still quite alive today. The symbol of hunger has persisted in Irish politics and the “hunger strike,” which has a pre-Famine Celtic history called, in Irish, the troscadh. Pádraig Pearse, the poet executed by the British for being a leader of the 1916 Easter Rising mentions it in his famous poem “The Rebel,” when he turns red in shame and anger for his people who “have gone in want, while others have been full.” This symbolized hunger was utilized as an allusion much more directly when in 1920 Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, died in a British prison after seventy-four days on a hunger strike. In 1981 ten IRA prisoners, including Bobby Sands, also died on a hunger strike that radicalized the nationalist movement of the time.

Today, as Coogan prepared for an American tour, the barriers that were propped against him seem to reveal that there may still be discontent over the interpretation of his book and his previous works. It took multiple attempts for Coogan to procure a visa for the American tour, and as he explained on his blog, “Somebody somewhere it appears did not want me to visit the United States to publicise my book on the Famine. It was suggested to me that some securicrats in the U.S. embassy had decided to do a good turn for their buddies in the British ‘Spookdom’ by blocking my attempts to enter the United States on a Book Tour.”

But with the intervention of New York Senator Charles Schumer and a raucous Irish-American community that was outraged by the terrible treatment of an esteemed author, Coogan was eventually granted a ten-year non-immigrant visa.

Maybe the most glaring reminder today of the Great Hunger of 1845-1852 is the cold, factual daily evidence of the Irish surname in foreign lands. Although emigration from Ireland continued in the nineteenth century after the Famine and through much of the twentieth century, what comes to mind when an Irish surname is attached to a cockney accent, or an Australian twang, or the drawl of the Southern United States is the curtain of history that remains mostly veiled. With The Famine Plot, we now have a platform in which to understand the intentions of the policies and the policymakers of an occupying force that helped exacerbate a blight on potato crops that had no business devastating an entire European country, sending the weakest and most vulnerable into shallow graves, onto ships bound for inhospitable countries with purpose and intention as its means. And with this book, my grandfather, who has since passed, raises his chin high in my memory now that the reasons for our family’s arrival is described in terms that are grounded in reality, not politics.

The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy by Tim Pat Coogan
Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN: 978-0230109520
288 pages

Eamon Loingsigh’s book, “Light of the Diddicoy” about an Irish-American gang in Brooklyn circa 1916 is due for release in

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