Thursday, March 16, 2023


By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Ronald Reagan

Americans have embraced all things Irish, from Irish stew to their love for potatoes, from the shamrock to wearin’ of the green on St. Patrick’s Day, from the high-stepping Irish gig, to the statuesque Celtic cross etching America’s clear blue sky across our parks and landmarks. Yes, embedded in all Americans is that uncompromising Irish perseverance.

The influx of Irish immigrants beginning in 1845, planted an indelible mark on American soil. Their Irish roots strengthened America’s liberty as they pounded their patent-leather police shoes on many a town’s sidewalks.

They answered freedom’s call during the Civil War; afterwards, they galloped across the plains in cavalry blues. During World Wars one and two, they donned themselves in army greens and blues and shed their blood bravely for liberty’s sake.


Never backing down from a fight, their gold-crusted helmets sparkle across the football fields. The Fighting Irish, as depicted on the columned corridors of Notre Dame, have displayed their heritage proudly.

The Irish would know this best, because they had to fight their way up inch by inch from dire poverty, disease, and ignorance to get where they are in American society today.

         In Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Gerald O’Hara mentions a wee bit of his ancestry, singing “The Wearin’ of the Green.” But what he tells is a fraction of the truth pertaining to the Irishman’s plight in their native country. I do more than this in Swept into Destiny, writing a few stanzas of “Wearin’ of the Green”—wearin’ green was punishable with hanging—women and children alike.

         We can blame ourselves for this. Because when American colonies decided to unite and fight for their independence from England in 1776, the Irish, hearing about the ragged Continental armies and bare feet imprinting the snow with their blood, battling against the sleek, well-dressed and well-fed British soldiers—decided if the Americans could do it, so could they!

         So, off to war went the ill-equipped Irish. They carried a banner with a slogan similar to the American Revolution’s—except in the middle etched against a green banner shone the cross of Christ. The Irish Rebellion origins began with the Society of United Irishmen.

         Theobald Wolfe Tone became the leader of the Irish Rebellion because he helped found the new republican brotherhood. They used the color green as a symbol of their cause, in much the same way we Christians wear a cross about our necks as a symbol of our devotion to our Lord, Jesus Christ. Here are the lyrics of “The Wearin’ of the Green.”

“Oh, Paddy dear, did you hear the news that's going 'round?
The shamrock is forbid by law to grow on Irish ground
Saint Patrick's Day no more to keep, his color can't be seen
For there's a bloody law again' the wearin’ of the green.
I met with Napper Tandy and he took me by the hand
And he said, "How's poor old Ireland and how does she stand?"
"She's the most distressful country that ever yet was seen
For they're hanging men and women there for wearin’ of the green."

She's the most distressful country that ever yet was seen
For they're hanging men and women there for wearin’ of the green.

Then since the color we must wear is England's cruel red
Sure Ireland's sons will never forget the blood that they have shed
You may pull the shamrock from your hat and cast it on the sod
But 'twill take root and flourish there, though underfoot 'tis trod.
When laws can stop the blades of grass for growing as they grow
And when the leaves in summertime their verdure dare not show
Then I will change the color too I wear in my caubeen*
But 'til that day, please God, I'll stick to wearin’ of the green.

She's the most distressful country that ever yet was seen
For they're hanging men and women there for wearin’ of the green.

But if at last our color should be torn from Ireland's heart
Her sons, with shame and sorrow, from the dear old Isle will part
I've heard a whisper of a land that lies beyond the sea
Where rich and poor stand equal in the light of Freedom's day.
Ah, Erin, must we leave you, driven by a tyrant's hand
Must we seek a mother's blessing from a strange and distant land
Where the cruel cross of England shall never more be seen
And where, please God, we'll live and die, still wearin’ of the green.

She's the most distressful country that ever yet was seen
For they're hanging men and women there for wearin’ of the green.”

*"Caubeen" is an Irish word for a certain type of hat, similar to a beret.

As you can imagine by these lyrics, the rebellion was a terrible disaster. They failed miserably in their uprising, partly because they were a divided country over religion and politics, between Catholics and Protestants.

         Another problem was Britain’s Penal Laws which outlawed Irish Catholics from owning land, voting, or owning firearms. This put them at a serious disadvantage.

Unlike the Americans, who were adept with their firearms, the Irish Catholic was ignorant, as the British hoped the Irish Catholic would be.

          The plight of the Irish Catholics grew worse, reaching a climax in 1845 when the potato blight swept Europe. Remember, Irish Catholics could not own land, so they fell into dire poverty because of their British Protestant landowners.

The Irish Catholics depended on their potato crop for their survival food. Seven terrible famine years pursued. Wild dogs fed on human corpses. Typhus, dysentery, tuberculosis, and cholera tore through the countryside.

British laws prohibited Ireland’s Catholics from worshiping, voting, speaking their language, and owning land, horses, and guns. Because of the famine, the Irish were denied the food they harvested. Under armed guard, food convoys exported wheat, oats, and barley to England while Ireland starved.

On March 1849, the Illustrated London News wrote, “Great Britain cannot continue to throw her hard-won millions into the bottomless pit of Celtic pauperism.”

Many Irish decided to leave their homeland. The British landowners were more than happy to ship these undesirables off to America. All the Irish knew about America was that it had to be better than this hellhole called Ireland.

The mass exodus began with about 5,000 ships that became aptly nicknamed “coffin ships”—some had been used to transport slaves in the past. Herded like livestock, each adult had eighteen inches of bed space, children were allotted half that.

The ships set sail for their three-thousand-mile journey, which would last at least four weeks. Nearly a quarter of the 85,000 passengers never reached America’s shores. Their bodies, wrapped in filthy rags, were weighted down with stones and tossed overboard so they would sink into oblivion.

Those who did survive were weak, disease-riddled, and starving. And unlike our immigrants of today, were not housed, fed, or clothed. They had to fight every waking minute for their survival. With determination and perseverance, they crawled their way up from utter deprivation—from being America’s outcasts and undesirables to becoming respected citizens in American culture.

Why hadn’t God heard Ireland’s prayers? Why did they lose their Revolution while God allowed us to win? America’s plight could just as easily be Ireland’s.

But as God and our Savior Jesus would have it—it turned out to be Britain’s loss—and America’s gain. We have more Irishmen living in America than Ireland does today!

Our Irish citizens have proved their worth as presidents, statesmen, military, and navel men. They’ve dredged our swamps, built our railways, fought in wars, and showed their love for America by writing patriotic songs! Even though many of those Irish immigrants died upon our shores due to lack of food and want.

Sixty percent of children born to Irish immigrants in Boston died before the age of six, and adults died in an average of six years after entry into the States. Irishmen died by the thousands, dredging the snake-infested swampland of the South, mining copper in the East, sweating in shops of the North, and building our railroads crossing the West. Yet, the Irish never harbored any ill feelings toward their adopted land.

The Irish, like the thousands upon thousands of Germans, Polish, Italians, Swedes, Norwegians, French, Scots, Jews, and other earlier immigrants, never expected charity—only a chance, just a wee bit of a chance at the American Dream. The right to worship the way they chose, to vote, to own land, to have all the horses they wanted, and, yes, to own a gun to defend themselves. But most importantly, fairness—their God-given, unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. With uncompromising perseverance, they achieved this and more! They helped form America into what it is today, one nation under God, indivisible—for all its citizens.

The Irish perseverance and courage are unsurpassed and their loyalty is undeniable. They paved the way for other immigrants and taught a newly formed nation the art of forgiveness and perseverance.

It was God’s plan all along—to keep America fighters. After all, we are the land of the free—because of the brave!

We might as well nickname ourselves “The Fighting Americans”! History would prove to us throughout the years that God hears our prayers and will battle alongside the brave for liberty’s cause.

This St. Patrick’s Day display your shamrock and wearin’ of the green proudly and never take God nor the cross of Christ and His blessings for granted!  

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in a bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our grandchildren and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” Ronald Reagan

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is—there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

Swept into Destiny, Book 1: An Irish immigrant and a gutsy Southern belle find they are more alike than different.

Destiny’s Whirlwind, Book 2: A death-bed promise, a dashing Rough Rider, the Parable of the Sower take on unimaginable consequences as Collina fights to keep her father’s legacy of Shushan alive.

Destiny of Heart, Book 3: Civil unrest, an incurable sickness, and a lost love, plunge the McConnells into a battle for survival.

Waltz with Destiny, Book 4: A story-book romance swirls into a rendezvous with destiny when World War II erupts.

Wilted Dandelions: Rachael agrees to a marriage of convenience with a man she hardly knows and learns God doesn’t create coincidences—He designs possibilities.

Love’s Final Sunrise: Fleeing for her life Ruth finds herself in an hourglass of yesteryear. Can Joshua’s Amish ways help them survive these final three-and-one-half years?

“I have read all of Catherine Ulrich Brakefield’s amazing novels, and this one [Love’s Final Sunrise] without a doubt, captures not only your heart, but keeps the reader engrossed as you feel the tension rising in your body, anxiety in your chest, countered by the deep love, forgiving, unconditional love that only God can give and place on a repentant heart! Linda Smith

You can purchase above books at a savings at: 



  1. Thank you for posting today. I have always loved reading novels about the Irish immigrants and admired their tenacity. Your article sums up the qualities I have been struck by over and over; that they were a people willing to work to better themselves, and they were still proud of their heritage but willing to serve their new country. I don't know that I have a drop of Irish blood in me, but I pray that I would display their courage when I am called to do so.

  2. Connie, you have summed up beautifully the American spirit! At least that spirit I knew growing up. I pray we always have people like yourself who feel this way! May God bless you richly in every part of your life!

  3. What an incredible salute to the Irish. Thank you