A conference to be held in July in Tuam, County Galway, will feature a commemoration of the life and career of Governor Hugh L. Carey, whose grandparents emigrated from that part of Ireland to settle in Brooklyn in the 1880s.
The conference, called "The Irish American Link: People, Places and Culture," will focus on the historic links between our two countries, the experience of the emigrants, the lands they left behind, and the mutual support between Ireland and America in times of crisis.
Three days of lectures will include a special program to honor Governor Carey, with Dr. Terry Golway of Kean University in New Jersey giving a lecture entitled "From Ireland to Albany: Governor Hugh Carey's Irish-American Journey."
Carey will be remembered for his support of peace in Northern Ireland, as one of the Four Horsemen with Senators Ted Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan and House Speaker Tip O'Neill. The program will conclude with the unveiling of a plaque in his honor at a heritage walk in the town of his family's origins.
Speaking for the Carey family, Governor Carey's grandson, Erich Carey, reflected on his grandfather's love for Ireland and the important role his Irish heritage played in shaping his life and career:
"It's an honor for my family and I to see the first Irish American Link Conference dedicated to my grandfather. So much of my grandfather's spirit and resilience derived from his Irish heritage. It colored his personality, and his personality colored his career in the public service.
"My grandfather is perhaps remembered most for refusing to declare bankruptcy in the face of the fiscal crisis that faced New York in the late '70s. So much of what my grandfather learned derived from watching his father struggle to meet creditors in great depression era Brooklyn, a resolve in turn passed down from his parents who had emigrated from County Galway. It's no embellishment then to acknowledge the role my grandfather's Irish identity played in his politics -- and in preserving the welfare of the state of New York.
"My grandfather loved Ireland. He was never hesitant to share his love be it either through song, in the public eye or in grace before a family meal. A little less now that a year after my grandfather's passing in New York, there's a certain sense of homecoming to have a commemoration of my grandfather in Ireland. The conference will conclude with the dedication of a plaque to my grandfather in the very parish where his grandparents had lived. Inscribed on the plaque will be a quote where, reflecting on hardship, my grandfather came to the following resolve: 'For what is it to be Irish but to dream great dreams of glory when reality laughs up its sleeve at you.'
"It's an assurance to see his words and character preserved. As much as hardship is a constant, perhaps his words can inspire future generations, as generations before had done for him. My grandfather knew the importance of heritage and history; it would give him a great Irish smile to be so remembered."
The conference is being hosted by the Old Tuam Society at the suggestion of Christine Kinealy, Professor of History at Drew University, Madison, NJ. The idea has grown into a combined effort of Drew, the County Galway Heritage Office, and the Centre for Irish Studies at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Dr. Kinealy will be lecturing about American support for Irish Famine victims in "The Kindness of Strangers." Alan Delozier of Seton Hall University, New Jersey, will speak about the influence of the Irish on American church history. Anne Rodda, Certified Genealogist, will speak about Governor Carey's Galway roots. Delozier is a doctoral candidate in the Drew University Irish Studies Program and Dr. Rodda is a graduate of that program.
Lecturers from Ireland will speak about emigrants from the Tuam area who served in the Civil War. Tim Collins of the National University of Ireland, Galway, will speak about Major Dick Dowling, who served with the South in the Battle of Sabine Pass, Texas, and was later a Houston businessman. Brendan Higgins, of the Old Tuam Society, will speak about Col. Patrick Kelly who served with the Irish Brigade at Gettysburg.
The full program, running from July 13 to 15, with heritage tours offered on the days before and after, can be found on the conference website www.irishamericanlink.com, along with registration forms and contact details.
Follow Chris Rodda on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ChrisRodda1