Toledo Irish: Thoughts About the History of the Toledo Irish
by Maury Collins
I came across a book titled, “The Irish in Toledo – History and Memory” by Seamus Metress and Molly Schiever. My sister (Sister Peg) gave me the book on St. Patrick’s Day 2005. What a wonderful gift.
I re- read Mary Ann Buckley’s chapter; “From Erin to America.” This was Mary Ann’s story of leaving Ireland to work in London first and then on to America. Toledo was her choice because her brother, Pat McNulty, lived here.
Mary Ann met my cousin, Maurice Buckley, and started dating. Maurice wasn’t sure about staying in America. He decided to go back to Ireland. After a short while, he decided to return to Toledo.
They started dating again. Mary Ann made a trip back to Ireland for a visit. While there she met Maurice’ family. They were married in 1954 and have raised six sons and one daughter.
My thoughts went back to Maurice Buckley’s arrival in Toledo. Our house was full of excitement. Johnny Grady, my father’s friend, added a bedroom to the huge home we had on West Woodruff so Maurice (Moss to us) could live with us.
My Grandmother was a Buckley and my Father sponsored Maurice. I had the ability as a child to sit quietly and listen to my Father and his friends, most of them also born in Ireland, tell their stories. After listening for a while, my Father would tell me to go play.
In my adult years, I became a friend, as well as cousin, of Maurice Buckley. He told me stories of life in Ireland and facts about my Irish relatives. He told me stories about two of my uncles, Uncle Jack and Uncle Bill, fighting on opposite sides during the Irish civil war.
He mentioned that one of my other uncles, Uncle Pat, was wanted by the British and on the run during the Irish uprising; he escaped to Canada. He entered The USA illegally, got caught, was sent back to Ireland and eventually came back legally.
He also talked about how the Collins family almost lost the homestead, Mullintoura. The farm was put up for auction. Maurice’s’ father, my grandmother’s brother, bid one pence. No neighbor would bid against him or allow anyone else to bid. The farm was put in my grandmother’s name and the family remained there.
Memories of Growing up Among Toledo’s Irish
One of my favorite Maurice Buckley stories is the one about him applying for a job at the old Chevy plant (now Toledo Power Train). There was only one position open, a glazer. Maurice assured the man that he had experience as a glazer back in Ireland. He got the job and went home to look up glazer in his dictionary.
Another chapter was, “Memories of Growing up Among Toledo’s Irish,” by Kate and Mike Cassidy. What memories! Mike mentioned Tommy Mackin, who was a good friend of his father’s. The back room at Coyle’s Funeral Home (either the one on Broadway or the one on Collingwood) was like a stage for Tommy Mackin and my uncle, Pat Collins.
Pat with his pipe, and Tommy would be seated next to each other, matching story for story and laugh for laugh. Suggestions that they quiet down in respect for the dead person were met with Irish logic: “the dead person was better off and in a better place. And the noise doesn’t bother him or her a bit. I still hear comments like; “do you remember the seven-minute rosaries led by your father?”
Mike Cassidy and John Mackin both wrote of the Irish Benevolent Club, bringing back memories. If you were out of work or had hospital bills or just down on your luck, the Irish Benevolent Club would find a way of helping. The benefit dances were held at the Catholic Club. I must admit, I was one of those rowdy kids running across the dance floor. What a wonderful group that was.
And who could forget the good times at Biddy Mulligans? Every weekend would find the place filled beyond capacity. There was a festival like attitude as the Irish music, the jokes and the stories went on and on.
Ted McHugh, who was a great friend of John Connolly and co-host on the Echo’s of Ireland radio show for over thirty years, met his wife Sue at Biddy Mulligans. Ted’s daughter, Molly McHugh, is now co-host with John. I asked John about helping me write a column on Biddy Mulligan’s. He told me that there are many stories, many of which can’t be repeated!
There is a need for a follow up book. There are stories of Dan McCarthy getting the Toledo AOH going and Ann Dollman not only leading the growth of the Toledo LAOH, but also moving up through the various state level offices to become the Ohio state LAOH president.
There are stories of Tom McCabe making the Toledo Hibernian St. Patrick’s Day celebration better and larger each year and then establishing the Glass City Feis, and making it grow each year. There is my story about being at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration committee meeting to volunteer.
Matt Cassidy was telling how there was only six paid members of the Lucas County AOH Division. He made the statement; “I don’t know how it could worse.” Sister Ann McManus chimed in with, “Make Maury Collins the president.”
This began the teamwork of Matt Cassidy and me, which resulted in having over seventy paid members two years later.
Other stories included D Michael Collins and John McHugh, two first generation Irish Americans serving as mayors of Toledo; the tragic death of Mayor Mike Collins; so many stories not told too.
Maybe I’ll write that follow up book. I made this appeal years ago on the Hibernians of Toledo Newsletter. There are stories that you could tell. Send them to me or call me and tell me; I’ll put the story here in the OhioIANews for the enjoyment of all.
Please pass the heritage on to your children and their children. Join one of the Irish groups: The Ancient Order of Hibernians, The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, or the Toledo Irish American Club. These are all fine organizations that honor our heritage and pass it along to the next generation. Please get involved; you will have fun and learn more about the Toledo Irish.
A long time ago, one of my granddaughters asked me if she was Irish, because she thought that she was American. I told her that she was an American with an Irish heritage. I told her that her great grandmother and her great grandfather left their home when they were just eighteen years old, knowing that they would never see or talk to their mommy or daddy again.
What a sacrifice. Despite the hardships and the sacrifices, the Irish found joy in music and dance; we honor their memory; their sacrifices must never be forgotten. Tell me your stories, and never stop having hope for the future.
*Maury Collins is a Charter Member and past president of the John P. Kelly Division AOH and a proud first-generation Irish American. Contact him at [email protected]
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day
History, Traditions, and Activities
A Holiday Book for Kids
by John O’Brien, Jr.
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