CURRENT ISSUE:  OCTOBER 2023

Mayo Delegation’s Visit to Cleveland

By Yvonne Corcoran Loftus,
Curator, Michael Davitt Museum 

The Michael Davitt Museum in Straide, County Mayo had the great privilege of accompanying the Pat Chambers Civil War Collection to Cleveland from October 25th to the 30th. Pat, a sheep farmer from Newport in West Mayo, discovered important papers relating to the Irish Civil War, carefully concealed in a jar in the gable wall of an old barn he was renovating. He immediately transported this extraordinary find to the Michael Davitt Museum, where staff with relevant expertise advised on organisational, archival and conservation issues.

A second letter, written by John Chambers to Tom Mulchrone, Doontrusk, Newport, laments the death of Jim Moran on March 7th, 1923, by Pro-Treaty forces in Glenhest, Newport. It also reveals details of significant funding by the Cleveland Irish for the purposes of the Irish independence struggle in Ireland.

The remainder of the papers revealed details of a visit by Sean Lemass to West Mayo. Lemass would become Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland in 1959. Receipts and payments pertaining to the Newport Sinn Fein Club and tensions between local IRA Units and GHQ are also documented and form part of the collection.

The papers were exhibited at three separate locations in the city – Great Lakes Brewery, West Side Irish American Club, and Irish American Club East Side. This allowed the attendees, many of whom were from the West Mayo area, to reconnect with the Irish States independence struggle through their ancestors who played such pivotal roles before emigrating to Cleveland.

The events at Great Lakes Brewery and Irish American Club East Side were enhanced by a PowerPoint presentation, which provided further relevant information and context. Large, knowledgeable, enthusiastic crowds engaged with the exhibits at each location.

A superb itinerary was organised by the Secretary of the Greater Cleveland Mayo Society, Colleen Corrigan-Day. No task was too big, and no detail was too small, in her efforts to ensure that our trip to Cleveland was an unforgettable and momentous experience.

The itinerary included meetings with the Mayor of Cleveland, Justin Bibb, Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne, and Honorary Irish Consul General Mark Owens.

While positive engagement with a diverse range of cultural, business, and political leaders was enormously uplifting, what really shone through was the warmth, enthusiasm and justifiable pride displayed by a hard working yet gregarious Irish community. The kindness and the hospitality of the Cleveland Irish went way over and above what we could ever expect.

There is a long history of Irish settlement in Cleveland, many of whom eked out a living in the Irishtown Bend area of the city, an area that will be comprehensively developed in the coming years. It is to their great credit that the Irish community have achieved great success in their chosen fields of endeavour.

A particular connection exists between West Mayo, Achill Island in particular, and the city of Cleveland. The trip coincided with the 20th Anniversary of the Achill – Cleveland twinning relationship. The visiting contingent included members from the Michael Davitt Museum, The Pat Chambers Civil War Collection, Achill Development Company, Údarás Na Gaeltachta and Mayo County Council.

The Davitt Museum are grateful for support received from the Heritage Council’s Capacity Fund to assist with the collections archival and conservation needs. Mayo County Council also kindly supported costs involved relating to five-day visit to Cleveland.

A sincere thanks to Colleen Corrigan Day, Margaret Lynch, Gerry Quinn, John Myers, Sean Gallagher, John O Brien, Sr., John O Brien, Jr, Mayo Society of Greater Cleveland, Great Lakes Brewery, Westside Irish American Club and the Irish American Club East Side.

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