As we begin our Labor Day around the US, it’s proper for us to reflect upon the Irish American and the AOH influence on labor in the US. The Father of Labor Day, Peter J McGuire, parents were Irish Immigrants. The list of great Irish American labor leaders is a long one and includes many Hibernians. Michael McGovern, the Puddler Poet was one such Hibernian. McGovern who was born in the townland of Castlefield Galway was an IRB man who ended up in Youngstown Ohio. McGovern role in the IRB forced him to leave his home, first fleeing to England and on to the US. His travels eventually landed him in Youngstown Ohio.
McGovern quickly became active in the AOH Youngstown where he wrote the poem, Welcome AOH Men.
For Ireland’s triumphs and her woes:
For virtues that enhance her glory;
For wrongs inflicted by her foes
That go to make the blackest story.
For love of Freedom, – always her’s;
Which love, may yet its crown accord her
Céad Mile fáilte –Visitors –
True members of her Ancient Order.
A collection of McGovern’s poems,” Labor Lyrics and Other Poems” can be found at: https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p267401coll36/id/12363/
Friends of the AOH from County Galway, Jim Fahy and Leo Finnegan members of the Williamstown Heritage Society are currently working on McGovern’s biography.
I personally have been blessed by influence and mentoring from two great Irish American Labor Leaders. One, my father, Martin John O’Connell (known as Jack) and the other, past AOH National President Seamus Boyle. Dad served in numerous labor capacities beginning with his role as Business Manage for the Plumbers and Steamfitter local 87. He went on to serve as Executive Secretary of the Western Reserve Building Trades Council and became the first non-steel worker to serve as President of the local AFL-CIO. Seamus was born in Newry, County Armagh and immigrated to the US in 1971. He served as Business Agent for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 122. These two men, great Labor Leaders in America, helped me develop into the man I am today.
I’m sure that each of our lives has been influence in same way by the efforts of Irish American Labor Leaders. I also know that the USA is a better place today because of them. Thank you to all the great Irish American Labor Leaders on this Labor Day.
– Daniel J O’Connell