Thursday, September 20, 2012

Irish Perception

The Irishman in Canada was written in 1877; my Irish Powers family was living in Canada then.  Michael and Mary (McGovern) Powers were born in Ireland (1801 and 1812 respectively) and moved to Canada circa 1834. What was their perception of their ethnicity?  Was it different for their son John who was born in Canada*?

" somebody has said whenever an Irishman is to be roasted another is always at hand to turn the spit.

'My grandmother,' says the Earl of Beaconsfield, 'the beautiful daughter of a family who had suffered much from persecution had imbibed that dislike for her race which the vain are apt to adopt when they find they are born to public contempt.  The indignant feeling which should be reserved for the persecutor in the mortification of their disturbed sensibility is too often visited on the victim.'"

"Something like this process has taken place in the minds of Irishmen of a certain class.  But let any Irishman who reads these lines ponder what I say. You can never lose your own respect and keep the respect of others; you can never be happy and dress yourself solely in the glass of other men's approval--you may as well seek to fly from your shadow as to escape from your nationality. If you find any men mistaken or low down in type or in popular esteem, it is your duty to raise them, especially if they have on you national or family claims... ."

John and Mary Agnes (Kennedy) Powers

Whether or not they embraced their ethnicity is something I cannot answer.  The "Irish" identity was diluted; John Powers married Mary Agnes Kennedy (perhaps of Scots or English heritage).  Their son, William, married Addie More, whose father was native born Scots and whose mother was a Mayflower descendant.  My grandfather Ralph, son of William and Addie, married Beatrice Cameron, whose ethnicity was Scots except for one Irish interloper into those clannish Camerons.  

*According to this piece of Powers family lore, John was born in Ireland instead of Canada, which would strengthen rather than diminish our "Irish-ness."

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