March is Irish-American Heritage Month
by Bill Halpin, President, Virginia State Board, AOH
U.S. Presidents have proclaimed March to be Irish-American Heritage Month for twenty-seven consecutive years. The Governor of Virginia also traditionally proclaims March to be Irish-American Heritage Month in the Commonwealth. There’s good reason!
In the mid-19th century, during An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger), the Irish people watched as the English used armed guards to escort tons of Irish grain and meat to Irish ports for export to England. This food could have saved them; however, more than two million Irish starved to death or emigrated. Those able to escape An Gorta Mor fled Ireland, most to the U.S. They were poor, illiterate, mostly Catholic, and not welcome in many cities. Across our nation Irish aide societies were formed. One society was the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America. The AOH helped the Irish assimilate, learn the English language, and find employment. During the U.S. Civil War thousands of Irish immigrants fought for their adopted nation. Ultimately, the Irish became inextricably linked to the development of America in fields ranging from literature, education, science and politics, to military leaders and Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. Today more than 40 million Americans claim Irish ancestry.
There are 14 AOH divisions and about 1,000 Hibernians in the Commonwealth. For more than 30 years, the General Thomas F. Meagher Division has represented AOH in our area. Under the motto “Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity” the Meagher Division has donated nearly $100,000 to local charities and for scholastic awards. Funding derives from community support for the annual Trip for Two to Ireland Raffle and the Shamrock Charity Golf Classic.
The theme for the 2018 Irish-American Heritage Month, “Evolution of the Irish in American Society”, will be shown in colorful and informative displays at:
Central Rappahannock Regional Library (March 6-8 from 12-6 PM)
Howell (formerly England Run) Library (March 13-15 from 2-6 PM)
Salem Church Library (March 21-23 from 12-6 PM)
Hibernians will be available to discuss topics ranging from this year’s theme to other topics related to Irish/Irish-American history.
The Sixteenth Annual St Patrick Day Parade honoring the memory of Hibernian and Fredericksburg brewer, Jeff Fitzpatrick, will kick-off at Noon on March 17th and will proceed along Main Street (Spotsylvania Business Park on Rt 2). The parade is followed by a traditional Irish festival at the Bowman Distillery. For more information on the parade and festival see https://adventurebrewing.com
Read more about AOH at: www.aohfredericksburg.org and www.virginiaaoh.org