My Irish heritage is something that I’ve always been proud of, perhaps because my mother was proud of it also, and instilled that belief in me. She grew up an Irish Catholic, so it shouldn’t surprise me that her family was involved with the Hibernian Society. The AOH , Ancient Order of Hibernians, was an organization originating in Ireland, that started in America in 1836 and is still active today. In Ireland, and in the early days of America, the society existed to advocate, and even protect, with violence if need be, Irish Catholics from prejudicial treatment. It is still active today, promoting Irish cultural awareness,celebrations, and charitable activities.
I think it is so interesting, that as I studied my ancestors, I discovered my fourth great grandparents, the Scottish Covenanters, fighting against the Catholics for the right to their personal covenant with God. Then here I discover that my Irish ancestors belonged to an organization called the Hibernian Society to fight, if need be, to support their right to be Catholic! It seems I descend from some brave and strong-willed people. It also reminds me that part of the reason they came to America, was to find religious freedom without persecution!
Robert Kerse arrived in America in 1850, as a 15-year-old Irish immigrant. He sailed from the Kilinaboy Parish, in County Clare, Ireland to the Port of Boston with his brother Thady and his mother Ann. They came South and joined another brother already living in Richmond,Virginia. By 1855 at the ripe old age of 20, Robert had married a woman named Margaret and had his first child, a son named Thomas. On the censuses we can see that he worked as a grocer, then in later years as a “turnkey”, a guard in the prison system–perhaps influencing his son James and his grandson Thomas Philip to both become police officers. By 1863, at age 28, he was fighting in the Civil War where we can find records on Fold3.com of his horse being shot out from under him! By 1871, at 35 yeas old, the war is over, and he has buried two of the seven children he already has. (We know that he will have three more children, with two more dying in the next couple years!) Can you imagine? Most of us do not have such incredible experiences in our whole life! Yet, when I went to the newspaper archives on Geneaalogybank.com, what did I find, but a wonderful article about his attending a meeting of the Hibernian Society in 1871, where he was put in charge of organizing people in his part of town who wanted to be in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade! His resilience seems remarkable to me!
I was born and raised in Richmond also, Robert’s great great-granddaughter. One of the most fun things we did as a family was going to the parades which were abundant in Richmond! When I married and later moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, we also attended the St. Patrick’s Day parades, because they were fun and to honor our Irish heritage. So, when I found this article, I was stunned to realize that my family had been enjoying and celebrating St.Patrick’s Day with parades for 143 years at least! Wow! Both of my daughters were in marching bands, and both marched in parades as teenagers–it must be in the genes!
Not knowing about my great, great grandfather’s involvement with the Hibernian Society, I think it is serendipitous that as the hostess for my Red Hat Society Group, I arranged for us to go to the Hibernian Irish Pub for our gathering this week! We had a great time, celebrating an early St. Patrick’s day with many o’ toasts as you n see in the picture below. I was one of four “birthday girls” celebrating this month, and I loved some of the birthday and friendship toasts offered:
“May your troubles be less, And your blessings be more–And nothing but happiness come through your door!”
“Here’s to your coffin! May your coffin have six handles of finest silver, May your coffin be carried by six fair young men! And may your coffin be made of the finest wood from a 100-year-old tree, that I shall plant tomorrow!”
“May those who love us, love us. And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts. And if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles, So we’ll know them by their limping.”
“May God grant you always…A sunbeam to warm you, A moon beam to charm you, A sheltering angel, so nothing can harm you!”
These toasts and many more can be found on numerous sites on the internet by simply googling “Irish toasts and blessings”.
I’ll leave you to celebrate your St. Patrick’s Day with this Irish blessing which is very special to me as it was offered at my husband Max’s and my wedding 43 years ago! Have a wonderful day! Helen
“May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at y our back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.”-author unknown