The Bronx being The Bronx, has always been home to many groups of people and that includes our Irish family here in The Bronx.
In Woodlawn, which is one of the largest Irish communities in New York City is also home to many who have settled straight from the old country back in Ireland.
The Bronx has given the world many great individuals of Irish ancestry including:
- Mary Higgins Clark, born Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins, a prolific author with 42 books and counting and known as the ‘Queen of Suspense’
- The late Joseph Francis Shea, born to a working-class Irish-American family who became an aerospace engineer and NASA engineer
- ‘The Great Lady With A Camera’, otherwise known as Margaret Bourke-White was born to a Jewish father and an Irish Catholic mother in The Bronx and grew up across the Hudson in New Jersey
Bronx Irish Americans: American Irish History in the Bronx
The following has been kindly reprinted from Irish American Journey and is an excerpt from the book “The Remarkable Life of Kitty McInerney: How a Poor Irish Immigrant Raised 17 Children in Great Depression New York” by Christopher Prince:
The Bronx is the only borough of New York City situated on the American mainland. Formerly a wilderness of forests, meadows, and streams inhabited by various Indian tribes, The Bronx was settled by the Dutch in the seventeenth century. Marginally separated from upper Manhattan by the narrow Harlem River, The Bronx quickly became a convenient destination for migrants seeking to escape the overcrowding and high costs of Manhattan.
|A Great Depression “Hooverville”|
The Bronx that greeted Irish immigrants in 1930 was a hopeful place, but one that could not escape the growing despair of the age. Despite its charms, The Bronx was hit hard by the Depression. A Hooverville emerged on the Harlem River near Highbridge. New construction dropped 75% from its 1920s highs. Evictions tripled throughout the city.
|Bronx Children Walking to School|
Youngsters descended daily from apartment stoops around Bronx Irish neighborhoods and paraded up the avenues to the school grounds, filling the morning air with shouts and laughter. Mobs of parishioners filed through church doors for mass on Sundays and holy days, or to celebrate a wedding or bid farewell to a loved one. The highlight of spring featured First Communion processions down major thoroughfares, followed by graduating eighth-graders in the early summer. Irish American boys played pool, ping pong or boxing in school recreation rooms and joined girls at church dances on Friday nights. Catholic priests walked the neighborhoods, mingling with parishioners and keeping the children out of trouble. Nuns sold carnations outside churches every May to celebrate motherhood.
|Bronx Children Eating Sno-Cones|
Beyond church grounds boys played in the streets — games like stick ball, hand ball, kick the can, pitching pennies, Johnny on the pony, and marbles. Girls played jacks, hopscotch and jump rope. Kids raised pigeons or flew kites on rooftops and raced gleefully through alleys and courtyards. Adults congregated and watched over neighborhoods from stoops and fire escapes. In summer, kids opened fire hydrants or flocked to sprinklers and wading ponds of nearby parks for relief from the sweltering heat. They rented bikes for 25 cents, jumped on a mobile merry-go-round for a few pennies, and sat on blanketed fire escapes after sundown to unwind in the cool night air. Villagers traversed Bronx Irish neighborhoods on trolleys for a nickel and children hitched on the back for a free ride. The downtrodden sang in courtyards and alleys for coins and bottle caps.
|Bronx Shop 1930s|
Many shop owners offered store credit to poor Irish families in need of bread, milk or meat for their children. Other neighbors and friends offered support when they could, providing small loans or passing along used clothing to needy families.