Cleveland Irish: A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day

Cleveland Irish: Not Every Day
By Francis McGarry

I started to learn things from My Uncle before he started to teach them to me. He was adamant in reference to a handful of his personal interpretations and displayed willful detachment for all other things. “I don’t think about things like that,” he would spout.

My Uncle taught me the finer points of haberdashery, and history will judge him for that.

His rules were that your tie must match your socks and boxers. Your shoes must match your belt and watch.

You cannot wear black shoes with a blue suit. It was easy for him, as he applied Occam’s razor, entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily, to his suit choices. This manifestation of the simplest explanation was a navy blue suit, navy blue tie and socks, brown shoes, belt and gold watch. His belt buckle was gold, of course. I took his word on the boxers.

As I arrived at the age when I was a Christmas gift-giver and not just a present-opener, I bought him a pair of paisley socks. The St. Jude Christmas Bazaar was my level of gift obtainment.

When he opened my present, he gave me look of bewilderment. It was as if I were Galileo discussing Copernican heliocentrism, and he was Urban VIII. That was the last pope to take the name Urban. He was educated by the Jesuits, and like Mr. Byrne, my uncle was not a fan.

 Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuits with his Dominus ac Redemptor on July 21st, 1773. They had been expelled from Portugal, France and Spain. Galileo just got house arrest, for life.

The Greek Pythagorean Philolaus was one of the first scientists to postulate the movement of the Earth as a spherical globe that was not stationary, but rather a component of the Solar System with the sun at its center. That was the 4th Century, Before the Common Era.

That theory was advanced by various Islamic astronomers, including Abu Sa’id al-Sijzi. He invented the astrolabe, a model of how the Earth rotates. That was the 10th century when myrrh was still a gift.

We went to 11 o’clock Mass after the presents were shared. My Uncle always participated in Mass. In my early days I was impressed that he knew all the hymns and never needed a hymnal. I shared that with him after Christmas Mass in the Year of the Paisley Socks.

It was later that I read up on Attachment Theory. “Francis, I don’t know all the words. I mouth A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day during every hymn.” Well, kiss my astrolabe goodbye.

The Cleveland Irish Census
The United States Census Bureau allows you to sign up for online sessions that provide training for processing all of the data they have available. It was very informational and if you want, just go to to have fun with numbers. The primary interest of this article is historical, but the current data is interesting as well.

The American Community Survey provides data in “1-year estimates” and “5-year estimates,” which allows us to document where the NEO Irish are today. The 2020 5-year data for those reporting some Irish ancestry (and those reporting single Irish ancestry) is as follows: Ashtabula County reports 23.2% or 12,900 adults (2,727); Cuyahoga reports 11.8% or 146,457 adults (30,905); Geauga reports 13.6% or 12,691 adults (2,453); Lake reports 17.7% or 40,780 adults (7,918); Lorain reports 14.2% or 43,926 adults (9,356); Medina reports 16.6% or 29,764 adults (6,198); Portage reports 16.7% or 27,187 adults (4,866); Summit reports 13.2% or 71,532 adults (14,328).

The number of inhabitants who reported single ancestry was impressive to me as were the tables on “Crowding.” In 1940 Ohio had 1,880,099 citizens of which 379,277, or 15.2%, lived in a “crowded unit.” A “crowded unit” is more than 1.01 persons per room. “Severely crowded” is more than 1.51 persons per room.

There were 79,132, or 4.2%, of those folks in Ohio. That put Ohio only behind Texas and tied with Illinois and Pennsylvania in terms of crowding for states with a population over one million

In 1950 Ohio’s population was 2,284,265. Of that 248,404, 10.9%, lived in a crowded unit, 10.9%, and 80,507, 3.5%, lived in a severely crowded situation. More people combined with less crowding equals more adequate housing. In all states combined, the crowded percentage decreased 5% and the severely crowded percentage decreased almost 3% from 1940 to 1950. That corresponds with the movement in Cleveland to the suburbs, depending on where you were in the Cleveland area.  

In 2000, those claiming Irish ancestry numbered 15,033 in Akron, 1,310 in Ashtabula, 24,393 in Cleveland, 3,563 in Cleveland Heights, 2,642 in Eastlake, 4,238 in Euclid, 8,972 in Lakewood, 5,326 in North Olmsted, 2,098 in South Euclid, 5,153 in Westlake and 2,559 in Willoughby. That is a semi-random selection.

Déjà vu Irish
Those data sets, collectively, provide the numbers that begin to give a more complete understanding of migration within NEO. It would appear that one of the factors involved was adequate housing. If the Cleveland Irish lived in areas with adequate housing, they had one less variable in the migration equation. Those who lived near St. Aloysius, as we have discussed, were in an area that was overpopulated. The location of Irish then contributes to the location of the Irish now.

It was almost the 30th anniversary of the Year of the Paisley Socks when I was opening my present from my son, who had just entered the age of the St. Jude Christmas Bazaar. The Bazaar was now Christmas Village, same quality of goods. He thought he had purchased me swim trunks. M&M boxer shorts was his gift to me. My mind was racing with visions of M&M socks and ties, as I gave him a look of bewilderment.

We went to 11 o’clock Mass after the exchange of gifts. As we stood and began to sing Joy to the World, I muttered, “So be easy and free, when you’re drinking with me, I’m a man you don’t meet every day.”

*Francis McGarry holds undergraduate degrees from Indiana University in Anthropology, Education and History and a Masters in Social Science from the University of Chicago. He is the Executive Director of Bluestone Hibernian Charities and proprietor of McGarry Consulting. Francis is the founder and a past president of the Bluestone Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and a past president of the Irish American Club East Side.  

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