Though scattered all over, Irish are region's 2nd-largest nationality
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald downplays his Irish heritage, noting he's six generations removed from the Emerald Isle and also part German, Croatian and Italian.
“Today you see a lot of people with mixed ancestries and ethnicities. I think that multicultural aspect of Pittsburgh is something we can all be proud of,” said Fitzgerald, who plans to walk in today's St. Patrick's Day Parade.
About one in six Pittsburghers claims Irish ancestry, making them the region's second-largest nationality behind Germans, according to Census data.
Yet, Pittsburgh no longer has any Irish neighborhoods like it once did in areas of Downtown, the North Side, Oakland, Lawrenceville and other places.
“The little pockets or enclaves that used to be common in and around the city are gone for the most part,” said Jim Lamb, president of the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh and the honorary consul of Ireland in Pittsburgh for Western Pennsylvania.
Instead, the Irish are everywhere, say local leaders and Irish heritage experts.
“The Irish of today are more in the middle class. They can afford to go elsewhere. Many have moved out of the city and scattered all over the place,” said Jim Graven, who runs Squirrel Hill's Irish Centre of Pittsburgh but lives in Greensburg.
Membership in the group plummeted from a high of about 400 in the 1960s and 1970s to about 80 today. It promotes Irish culture through Irish language instruction, dance classes and various arts and crafts, music, drama and athletic groups.
“The Irish had a distinct advantage over many other immigrant groups. Because they could speak English, they were less likely to stay in their little enclaves past the first or second generation. Once you get some money, you tend to move out of the old neighborhood,” said Joseph Coohill, an assistant professor of history at Duquesne University who wrote the book, “Ireland: A Short History.”
The first wave of Irish immigrants flocked to Pittsburgh in the first half of the 19th century to live on the frontier and work as traders and merchants, while the next big wave occurred in the latter part of the century for mill and factory jobs, Coohill said.
Contrary to popular belief, few Irish came to Pittsburgh because of Ireland's Great Potato Famine from 1845 to 1852.
“Most of the Irish who came to Western Pennsylvania were from northeastern Ireland and didn't suffer as much from the famine,” Coohill said.
Jim Green, president of the Allegheny County chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, didn't start to feel a deep connection to his ancestry until after his grandfather — an Irish immigrant — died when Green was a young adult.
“When I was growing up, I was just a Pittsburgh kid. I wasn't even aware of my ethnic heritage,” Green said.
Green said he joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians to help with genealogical research, but his involvement quickly grew. The fraternal organization, which was created to combat discrimination and poor working conditions facing Irish immigrants in the 19th century, has about 1,000 male members countywide and about 500 in a ladies' auxiliary, he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Icy roads, cold causing school delays, wrecks in Western Pa.
- Second African penguin chick hatches at National Aviary
- German firm Nextbike to provide first 500 bikes for Pittsburgh sharing program
- Pittsburgh fraud case, Uganda-based counterfeiting racket linked
- Fall from Hazelwood roof kills man
- Motivation in slaying of Penn Hills couple remains unclear
- Strip District merchants say pay stations will drive out shoppers relying on free spots
- PennDOT to begin changing Glenbury Street Friday, part of Route 51/ 88 intersection rehab
- Pennsylvania constables need oversight to reduce problems, officials say
- Tax exemptions cost Allegheny County governments $620M, auditor general reports
- The Exchange offers reward for information that leads to the arrest of person who shot Ross clerk