IN THE FALL OF 2014, I had the good fortune to attend a conference called “The Irish in Massachusetts: Historical Significance, Lasting Legacy” that was co-hosted by UMass Lowell and Queen’s University Belfast. The keynote speaker, Dr. Timothy Meagher of Catholic University of America, gave a sweeping talk that traced the experience of the Irish in American from the Revolutionary War to the present day. The talk was fascinating as was his closing statement: that the experience of the Irish in America “is all very complicated.”
“Very complicated” also describes my own relationship with Ireland. In the 1890s, seven of my eight great grandparents emigrated from Ireland to Lowell and the other great grandparent’s parents came a generation earlier. Despite this singular genetic connection – something confirmed by 23 and Me – my psychic connection to Ireland has been ambivalent. Let’s just say that St. Patrick’s Day is not the high point of my social calendar. On March 17, I’m more likely to write about the British Evacuation of Boston in 1776 than about anything to do with Ireland.
But making the Americanized political and cultural celebration of St. Patrick’s Day emblematic of Ireland is unfair, maybe even irrational. I’m actually intrigued by Ireland and want to know more about it and the people who inhabit it. After all, quite a few must be cousins. That’s why I’m enthused about introducing Trasna (meaning “across” in Irish) a new section of our blog. Edited by Christine O’Connor, Jeannie Judge, and Margaret O’Brien, Trasna will showcase a writer from Ireland each Friday. We’ll learn what’s on the minds and in the hearts of the fiction writers, essayists, and poets today.
One of the wise men of the Lowell renaissance, Dr. Patrick J. Mogan, spoke often about the importance of reconnecting with our countries of origin. He said places like Lowell have social and economic assets in the form of international links through families and friends. By exercising those links, we learn more about the rest of the world and about ourselves. Opening this new link, Trasna, to the writers in Ireland is one way to gain from the relationship of one place to the other. We hope our readers will enjoy this new venture.
Please continue scrolling down to see the inaugural Trasna post, “May: Mary’s Month or Baal’s?” by Joe McGowan of Sligo.