A Letter from Ireland:
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The Irish Traffic Lights of Syracuse

The Irish Traffic Lights of Syracuse, New York. With a long history of immigration behind it, there is no surprise that more people claim Irish descent outside of Ireland, than the actual residents. In this letter we will visit an American city where even the traffic lights are Irish.

Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to this week’s Letter from Ireland. How are things in your part of the world today? It’s Easter Sunday morning as I write this letter and as we say in Ireland on such a day: “The sun in dancing in the sky!” Happy Easter to you and your family!

We’re still on our Irish/UK roadtrip at the moment – travelling between the cities of Liverpool and Bristol. Over the next two days we will visit the places in England and Wales where the Irish Norman lords and surnames originated. If you have a Cogan, Barry, Fitzgerald, Butler, Joyce, Barrett, Walsh – or more such surnames in your family tree – do stay tuned for further letters. I’m having a cup of Barry’s Tea as I write, and I hope you’ll join me with a cup of whatever you are having yourself as we start into today’s letter.

Given that we are travelling in Britain at the moment, the idea of the Irish community originating and living outside the island of Ireland is our focus for the letter today.

Where Have All the Irish Gone?

Our good friend, John Grenham, shared this very interesting post on his blog a couple of weeks back. About halfway down the post, you will find a chart showing the the number of people of a certain heritage in the USA versus the population of their home country. For example, there are almost fifty million people in the USA who claim German Ancestry – but there are twice that number of people living in Germany.

However, when you come to Ireland on the chart, you quickly spot a difference. While there are over 30 million people of Irish ancestry in the USA, there are less than 6 million people living on the island of Ireland. I must say, this illustration really drives home just how much “Irishness” exists outside this island of ours!

Of course, over 90% of the readers of this letter live outside Ireland (maybe you are one of them?) – and we receive so many stories of  a strong-rooted Irish heritage across villages, towns and cities all over the world.

Right, now let’s share just one of those stories! It comes from Mylyn Spooner of Syracuse, New York, and she talks about the Irish institutions of her hometown – and one very unique feature in particular:

“Good morning Mike, hope this message finds you and your family well.

I wanted share with you some of the Irish influence that has made a place in the hearts of the people of Syracuse NY. Syracuse is located in upstate NY and has little neighborhoods that have their own flair of the culture of each nationality. One area of about 12 square blocks is Tipperary Hill – which has retained good old-fashioned values that resonates with my mother’s family surname McManus.

There, you will find quite a few establishments that stand proud to be Irish. Our Irish import store is The Cashel House, located on Tompkins Street on the west end of the city. Across the way is Coleman’s Authentic Irish Pub which was established in 1933. There is also a Celtic influence in Stone Throwers monument park. While this isn’t so much a park – you will find the bronze statue of the Stone Throwers and the famous GREEN OVER RED TRAFFIC LIGHT. It is the only one of its kind in Syracuse, and possibly the only one in the United States.

In 1925, the city of Syracuse was divided into North, South, East and West. New traffic lights were also installed – and in Stone Thrower’s Park a standard red over green light was installed in keeping with the other traffic lights in the city. But there were several individuals that took a stand seeing the Red of England over the Green of Ireland symbol. They would throw stones at the light on a regular basis. So the light was replaced with green over red. And so you will find it there to this day.

In my quest to learn of my family roots I’m interested to see how much of the traditional Irish influence is really there in many of these places. Thank you for letting me share with you a little piece of the motherland that has found a place here in the States.

So with that I wish you and yours a very blessed day. Mylyn Spooner.”

Thank you very much for sharing that vivid picture of Irishness running through your hometown, Mylyn. I must admit, here in Ireland we would probably argue more over the Green and Orange traffic lights!

How about the rest of our readers – what are the Irish sights and institutions in your hometown? Do feel free to respond below and let me know.

And do you know what? We must line up a visit to Syracuse, New York to visit that singular Irish traffic light!

That’s it for this week – as always do feel free to share your stories, comments and Irish surnames in your family.

Slán for now,

Mike & Carina.

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