Monday, 28 October 2013
The Pogues song Thousands are sailing should be compulsory listening for all. Listen to the words - if you have no idea of the meaning read below. The island it is silent now (Ellis Island was where immigrants first arrived in America but it is no longer used for this purpose) but the ghosts still haunt the waves And the torch lights up a famished man (the torch hel by the Statue of Liberty that welcomes immigrants in New Yotk Harbour) Who fortune could not save. Did you work upon the railroad? (many Irish immigrants did when they left Ireland because of the famine) Did you rid the streets of crime? (many more joined the New York Police force) Did your dollars come from tje White House (Presidents of Irish decent are numerous - notably JFK's family but there are a lot more) Or from the five and dime (the man who started Woolworths which was the first famous five and dime store was of Irish extraction) Did the old songs haunt or cheer you and do they still make you cry? (immigrant communities, in particular the Irish, maintained their musical heritage) Did you count the months and years or did your tear drops quickly dry. Ah no, said he, twas not to be, in a coffin ship I came here (the ships that carried the Irish immigrants to America were referred to as coffin ships because the had a mortality rate of one in three - except when it was a bad crossing) And I never even got so far that they could change my name. (when immigrants arrived on Ellis Island they were given their papers - most of those who landed were illiterate and often could barely speak English so the semi literate customs officers spelt their name as they heard them resulting in families having effectively new surnames.) Sufficient unto a feast. The point to be made is simple - immigration made an amazing country out of the USA. It has done the same for the UK - yet losts of those who reap the benefits bitch about it - hey ho, it is a wonderful world.