First Posted: 3/9/2013
Before the great immigration wave of Eastern Europeans and Italians in the 1900s and ’10s Pittston was 80 or more percent Irish.
A look at Pittston in the 1890 United States Census shows page after page lined with names like Tierney, Judge, Quinn, Burke, McHale, Kennedy, Langan, Moran, Kelly and Walsh. In the 1910 census there were more than 80 citizens of Pittston named Walsh. No wonder Tom Walsh was the city’s longest serving mayor.
The Pittston Irish were our miners, police, firemen, shopkeepers and politicians.
Though it has been decades since the Irish were that dominate here, Irish surnames are still common and many local people still identify culturally as Irish.
Not to diminish the cultural identity enjoyed by the descendents of other ethnicites, but the Irish seem to embrace their past and their ancestral homeland more than most.
They revel in Irish music, dance, literature. They equate drinking, especially a pint of Guinness, not with drunkenness as the stereotype goes, but with merriment. They take pride in the Irish under-sized, underdog fighting spirit embodied by the Notre Dame University’s feisty Leprechaun.
They wear the green, so symbolic of their ancestors’ homeland, with a much-deserved pride and panache.
Are the Irish luckier than Italians? Do they have hotter tempers than Lithuanians? Are they happier than the Welsh. Not really, but these stereotypes add to the the cachet of being Irish.
And as we learned this week, they are eager to display their Irish. A story in today’s paper describes how Paul Reedy, a Pittston Area primary teacher, raised $2,000 in 48 hours to buy Irish-themed banners for downtown light poles.
It was an amazing campaign because the city admitted, it usually takes months to raise money for themed flags, such as for the Tomato Festival.
The flags will be up in time for St. Patrick’s Day next Sunday.