Inside Stories

John James: An Irish “Legend”

Growing up, my mother scoffed my father’s Irish heritage. He did fit many of the stereotypes, if that makes a difference.

Over the years, I have always identified as “American.” I’ve rarely ever fully grasped why so many of us hold our overseas roots from generations ago, so dear.

The older I get, the more I look at my heritage as a book, maybe even a type of diary, filled with stories and life lessons that are there for me to read.

I’ve always been enamored with the legend of my great-grandfather. I say ‘legend’ in that it is mostly conjured in my own mind. The picture sums up most of what I know of the man. I’ve filled in the rest with what I have learned from other ‘Irish stories.’ That made sense to me, as so many immigrant families, while unique, tread common paths.

I consult this ‘legend’ when I consider certain things. I go to John James, a lot, when I think of the American Labor movement. Can you imagine what it must have been like in Boston, in the late 1800’s, when Labor was pulling together? The phrase ‘blood, sweat and tears’ comes to mind?

What have we done with their investment? What do I owe this man, to make sure he didn’t waste his time?

I’m proud of the Irish that flows through me. I’m proud of our past and proud of the strength it gives me to face down oppression and injustice. Some might say that is Irish stubbornness. I prefer to think those before me, somehow inform me and lend to my resolve.

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