“Engage with your genealogy, understand your family history, embrace that rich origin tapestry. It will build bridges to all sorts of other things.”
Of course, the joke about the US is that it has no history. That there are sheds in Kidderminster that pre-date the Founding Fathers. That anything over 50 years old is considered a museum piece in Milwaukee.
Of course, nearer to the truth is the notion that the US actually contains all the histories of Europe within its people. It is only the buildings that are new.
Certainly, John Lee (of Connecticut) and Martin Nutty (Dublin) exemplify this latter option as they take in the sweep not just of the Irish-American journey over the last 175 years but also the place that their forebears had within the growth of the country as a whole. As John points out, the experience of exploring the Global Irish Nation with their Irish Stew Podcast has “opened me up to other tribes.”
So far, so melting pot – and not a bad thing in itself – but listening to John and Martin engage with their ancestry with such offhand expertise brought another thought to mind.
Why can’t we do the same?
I’ve recently been journeying back and forth to Liverpool a fair amount for The Mersey Mash project and one of the more consistent impressions I’ve had is how much everyone is a local historian, ready to argue minor points of centuries-old grievances as though they were yesterday. But it feels like Liverpool’s the exception rather than the rule.
Which is how they like it
While it often comes up in these interviews that the British have little to no education in Irish history and this country’s part in it, it strikes me that the same is true of British history. There are dates and significant moments – learned by rote and forgotten after exams – but outside of the Tudors and World War II, there is a void in understanding of this country’s past.
Maybe there’s too much history?
I hold my own hand up here. Despite a decent A’Level in the subject, I remain more or less ignorant of not just previous generations of Devaney but also of Delaney and Murphy and Gonzales and Hettiarachi and Singh. The social history of this country – not the tidal events but its individual eddies – is a daunting subject but it’s worth exploring. It makes a culture vibrant, it illuminates the future.
With Irish Stew, John and Martin are raising a beacon, which is kind of fitting for adopted New Yorkers. It has been a pleasure to share in their light.
Interview with John and Martin