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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Irish Roots

Blogger's Note: Unless his fiancee suddenly comes to her senses, my son is getting married today - St. Patrick's Day. I'm up in Osceola Mills, about a half hour's drive from Penn State, trying to fit into a frickin' kilt, as though we're Irish nobility or something. Omar the Tentmaker just dropped off a particularly large canvass so I'll try that. Since I'm a little busy, I thought I'd run a story I wrote about a year ago about my family's Irish roots.

Not long ago, I injured my lower back when some little brat from west end Allentown pushed me over during a basketball game. I rested, took lots of drugs and seemed to be getting better. But this past weekend, I suffered a relapse, making it difficult even to sit at my computer.

On the bright side, I get to take more drugs. So instead of pissing all of you off with my usual political rants, I thought I'd tell you a little story today about my family and why we don't look too closely at our Irish roots.

Black Irish. That's what I am, bippy. Instead of the usual freckle-faced redhead, I'm dark and swarthy. Victorian English were sure these physical differences made us inferior, and who am I to argue? Some say we're the progeny of those lucky few members of the Spanish Armada whose brains weren't crushed in by the Irish themselves. Others claim we're actually one of the ten lost tribes of Israel.

My family is originally from Newtownhamilton in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. I could never get a straight answer, but I'm pretty sure we were kicked out for making bad whiskey. In fact, we had to slip into the US over the Canadian border. Imagine that! We were illegals at a time when they'd let anyone in the country.

Ever hear of shanty Irish? We make them look like nobility.

We eventually snuck into Schuylkill County. My great uncle had a beautiful dynamite plant, but blew half of New Ringold off the face of earth when some idiot (another O'Hare, of course) had the brilliant idea of running a phone line in at a time in our history when a lot of sparks flew off those wires. So much for technology. That was nearly the end of the phone line and any other line for the Armagh O'Hares here in America.

Most O'Hares became nohares, going off like Roman (or should I say Irish?) candles because of all the bad whiskey that fueled their bodies.

One of these skyrocketing nohares was my great-uncle Felix, known as the anthracite bard. I can't find a damn thing he's written, but my packrat brother probably has something in some drawer somewhere.

My grandfather (Bernard V.) and his uncle (Bernard H.) survived. Neither ever went to college, yet both somehow became lawyers. They both ran for political office many times, from DA to Congress. They lost every time. We were like the Orloskis of the coal regions.

Although a staunch Irish Catholic, and a Democrat to boot, Bernard H. denounced the violence used by the Molly Maguires. He preferred the Mahatma Ghandi approach. The Maguires responded to his message of peace and love by burning down his house three times. To make sure he understood, they once beat him to within an inch of his life.

I adored my grandfather. My parents used to dump me on him for a month at a time because I was always running away from home to become a mountain man and would wake up neighbors at 4 AM to recruit them in my adventures.

My pop pop always wore a three piece suit. I think he slept in the damn thing. He would give me pocket watches he made as a hobby and, for some reason, also gave me lots of American flags. He walked everywhere, and would even let me walk to his office with him. But he was very sickly. Every corner, he'd have me stop and wait for a minute or so while he'd get his "shot." He had lots of doctors. He'd come out, smile, and say, "I feel much better now." Not my grandmother. She'd be angry about all that medication my grandfather needed.

My dad actually got to go to college, but the war put an end to that. Although he never graduated, he was allowed to go to law school and became a lawyer. He also married a nurse, a wise choice for any O'Hare. He's the only one of us who ever managed to get elected to anything, but only lasted four years in office.

That's pretty much the high point for our branch of the O'Hare clan in the United States. After my father, grandfather and great uncles passed on, so did our glory. It's been pretty much downhill since. My sisters are OK, but shed that surname at their earliest opportunity. Those of us who've kept it have done it no favors.

Growing up, my cousins were well known to the local constabulary. I think they're better now. Just don't let either one of them near a bottle of glue.

Me? In the military, I once was responsible for a shot from a self-propelled howitzer that destroyed a recently vacated outhouse from ten miles away. Have you ever seen shit fly ten miles? I have. You learn things like that in the army. Our entire unit was expelled from Fort Bragg after that little incident, although they could never pin it on me. I was eventually begged to leave the military altogether, which explains why we're still in Iraq.

I also blew up three labs at Baker Chemical while attending college. Before I left for law school, I persuaded my fellow lab techs to unionize. Now, as most of you know, I'm an alcoholic ex-lawyer with a fragile grip on sanity. Worse, I'm an impoverished blogger, the only person with less credibility than a radio talk show host.

My brother? He's much worse than me - he deserted the seminary to become a frickin' born again Christian who reads the bible every day and goes to church twice a week. He's even converted his dogs. You oughta' hear them howl "Amazing Grace."

My son? He's getting a Ph.D. from PSU in chemistry, and has already blown up his lab once, and in a brand new building, too. He's taken me on a tour to show me where projectiles lodged themselves firmly in the ceiling. I'm very proud of him.

My daughter? She's already blowing things up in the 82d Airborne. I think she'll go far and will probably be promoted to the 81st Airborne one day.

We're a mess.

Now most people like to be able to say they are great great great grandsons of Henry VIII or Moses or something, but I'll never look for my ancestors. I already know we're nutz. What's worse, I know far too much about my distant cousins in County Armagh.

One of them - Dessie O'Hare - is called the "Border Fox" because of his ability to elude capture at the police checkpoints between Southern and Northern Ireland. That's one hell of a nickname.

According to some, his "only 'crime', if 'crime' it was, was to be an active Republican." Of course, he's no Bush Republican, but is - 'er was - an active member of the Irish Republican Army.

Others have a different view, claiming he's killed twenty-six people and mutilated others. He became known as Ireland's most dangerous terrorist. Imagine the competition for that title! When he was finally captured, he was riddled with eight bullets, but somehow survived.

It's hard to kill an Armagh O'Hare. Ask Jim Hickey. Ask Joe Long.

Dessie was convicted of something (not homicide) by one of those "special" criminal courts, packed with English judges and no juries.

I'm a miserable bastard. But my distant cousin Dessie makes me look like a choirboy. Believe it or not, he's been released, and is living at an unknown location. Not here. He's now a student of anthropology, psychology, metaphysics, yoga and tai-chi, and his sign is Scorpio. He's currently looking for Mrs. Right, preferably one with an Uzi. His favorite movie is The Molly Maguires.

If I explore much more of my family history, I'm going to be sitting next to some smiling Mullah in Guantanamo Bay, reading the Koran.


Anonymous said...

You're Irish, we thought you were asshole?

Anonymous said...

Tell me, do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

Anonymous said...

What are you wearing under your kilt?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to your son and his bride. I waited years for you and finally found another.
I too got married on St. Patty's Day so today is MY anniversary. Best Wishes to your son!!!
Lots of love sent his way.

Unknown said...

congratulations on your son.

Tom Foolery said...

Gotta love us Irish.. Happy St. Patrick's day and the best to your son and family..

Anonymous said...

May they live 100 years, plus one day to repent!

Congratulations and warm regards.

Pamela Varkony said...


May the spirit of the Black Irish live forever.

Best wishes to your family.

LVCI said...

Osceola Mills, Pa... I've heard of it and it's supposed to be kept a secret that it even exists. Suppose to be a little peice of rural paradise in Pa. Crime free, etc. Most everything that the Lehigh Valley is not.


Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, I was pulled over by a statie last night who thought I was loaded. He discovered I'm just a shitty driver who goes the wrong way on one way streets. He actually let me off! Obviously, they don't know me up here.

Thanks to everyone for the warm wishes.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to your son and daughter in law, all the best!

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Isn't Barack O'Bama black Irish?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to your son, my sympathies to his wife. Does she realize how often she has to feed you?

Anonymous said...

Bernie, are you a member of the IRA?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dessie was a member of that organization, but I'm a Democrat.