Final Diddicoy coverA short  story about Eamon Loingsigh’s introduction to Seamus Heaney, published in an anthology, Irish Studies South: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 9, on the one year anniversary of his death. Eamon is the author of the recently published Light of the Diddicoy, a riveting and immersive saga of Irish gangs on the Brooklyn waterfront in the early part of the 20th century.




I, for one, can’t wait. When the time longs into my soul and the creak in my knees cause gentle steps, I’ll grow long my eyebrows. I’ll let them loose on my face as I chase away the last days of my living.


Now I stand though. I have son and daughters rearing up on me. Smiling as they gain to overtake me.


Today is the day a great poet died. And nothing’s warmer in the throat than the poet that you have long smiled with in word. From the long life he gently stepped and with such great care. So thoughtful that it was oft he was for granted taken.


‘til now.


The sound of the subway sizzling in a whoosh through the long tunnels brings me back to my grandfather too. Another man of the gentle hand who so gives me the light of hope for my long eyebrowed salute to this life. He held my hand in the traincar for he knew the surroundings were new on me. Dark colors around, spray paint clicking sounds splayed upon each wall and passing train, ca-click-ca-click-ca-click went swooshing through my cotton-wool brain.


The author's grandfather as a young boy, far right
The author’s grandfather as a young boy, standing far right

My grandfather rarely talked. By trade, he was a listener. And there had been in this life nothing that once he had not heard sung by the throats of men whetted with liquor in the old west of Manhattan saloon in our family.


 “Who are the Mets playing today?” asked I.


“The Astros.”


“Houston Astros?”


He nodded in smile at me, tapped the top of my hand on my knee. “Jose Cruz is on the Astros. I like his stance.”


“Really? How so?”


“Uh, he just has a, uh, it looks cool.”




“Yeah, like it’s a fluid motion.”


“A fluid motion? That’s a wonderful way of explaining it.”


“Yeah, it’s just a fluid way of swinging. Like he has an artistic way of swinging and I can imagine him hitting the ball square while, um, before he has even swung yet. Do you know what I mean?”


“I do, I do. Much better now, I understand.”


The lights flick on and off and we speed through the click of the black tunnels as he smiles from above. His dear hands and the touch which became so familiar to me, I couldn’t see then, but was the touch of a poet who’d never once been named so. He’d not written much words in his long years and his work was that of hearing the spirits sway in his mind like the Latin prayers of his own youth, sweeping in Mass along the echo of another era long since left. 


Eamon Loingsigh
Eamon Loingsigh

I have a picture of him when he was yet a young soul. It’s dated 1919.


My grandfather on the right with his eldest sister’s hands on his shoulder.


I look upon it now and remember that train ride in 1979, when I was that age. “Haven’t you ever seen Jose Cruz play before?” I asked.


“I suppose I have, but never quite saw him as I do now.”


It was an afternoon game, warm on the skin. We sat in the sun and I looked over the expanse of the place and with the smell of the wind and the green of the grass on my nose, my mind was set on a pace. The grass now so welcome a smell with the clickety-clack of rust out of the way, yet the Met fans did not see it in such a way. 


“Ya bum!”


“Ya’re a friggin’ louse! Go back to da minors!”


And when Jose Cruz hit a long shot that swooped across my eyes in the sky, headed down with a reaching carry, I stood up with the rest of the crowd but for another reason. I was taken by the swing of him while the color of the blue and white uniforms, the yellow and orange uniforms, the green of the grass, the colorado of the infield left the place, overcome with a whooshing, resounding “BOOOOO!”


Darkening my thoughts, he stood by me and looked down, seeing too the color of my face leaving it. The sadness of the whole world rising in the chant of disgust and blasting down into me like a wave smacking my eyes and face.


“What a beautiful swing!” he yelled in my ears above the mad crowd. 


I kept my mouth closed and looked up at him with the smile of a child once understood. He who was a lifelong Brooklyn Dodgers fan turned New York Mets fan found my little thoughts truer than any loyalty to his team.


Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney

I had never heard him raise his voice before. And I never heard him raise his voice again. The only time worth doing so, was then, I suppose.


“In the gloom you cannot trace a wrinkle on their beeswax brow,” he said, after the crowd laid down their insults and we all sat back in our stadium pews.


I listened, then looked away. A few pitches later when the urgency of the words left us, I asked what he meant by them.


He smiled, “Could mean anything. That’s the beauty of poetry and of religion. It means what you make of it.”


“Can you say it again, I don’t remember it perfectly.”


“In the gloom you cannot trace a wrinkle on their beeswax brow.” “Who is ‘they’?”


“Poor women in a city church.”




“You can think about it long, but it only means what you make of it.”


The distant thud of ball in catcher’s mitt fell far away. The anger of the crowd too, many years away. Here I sit writing as I may of the death of a great poet that in my childhood found a way to open my thoughts to the many, many things they can possibly convey.


“What is the name of that person who wrote that?” I asked my grandfather.


He smiled and looked down at me again, tapping his familiar hand on the top of my own, “Seamus Heaney.”




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Part of the Celtic Studies Commons, and the Literature in English, British Isles Commons 


Irish Studies South: Vol. 1 Iss. 1, Article 9. Available at:









By Charles R. Hale


History is replete with stories of the wealthy, but the stories of the poor and dispossessed are rarely recorded.  The Keatings (my maternal grandmother’s grandparents) were poor Irish immigrants and finding material concerning their lives in newspapers or books was improbable.  I discovered, however, if the news wasn’t good, it was possible.


Pierce Keating Sr's Death
Pierce Keating Sr’s Death

The Keatings, mid-nineteenth century Irish immigrants, including Pierce Sr, his wife, Ella, their son, Pierce Jr, and several siblings, lived at 41 Raymond Street, Brooklyn in a neighborhood that was called Irish Town, now referred to as Fort Greene. The neighborhood was populated by poor Irish immigrants who lived in over-crowded, wood framed houses that were, more often than not, firetraps. My family experienced the consequences of these living conditions when Pierce Sr., my great great grandfather, died in a house fire on August 31, 1884. 


Crime was a common occurrence on the street and Pierce Jr was no stranger to trouble. I learned from articles in the Brooklyn Eagle, Brooklyn’s leading daily until it suspended publication in 1955, that Pierce was arrested twice for crimes committed on Raymond Street. He was arrested once on morals charge and once for assaulting his sister with a frying pan. He served time in the Raymond Street Prison, located one block from the family home. 


The neighborhood was wretched. Public drunkeness was a normal occurrence.  On the morning of November 8, 1886, James O’Brien, one of the Keatings’ neighbors living at 44 Raymond Street, while drunk on the street and right in front of the prison, amused himself by firing off a revolver.  He was promptly arrested, but soon escaped. He was re-arrested a day later and sent back to the Raymond Street Prison where he spent ten days for drunkeness and another ten days for firing the pistol. 


Pierce Keating Jr. Caged Again
Pierce Keating Jr. Caged Again

I thought I’d learned all I could of Pierce’s life until earlier this week when I conducted an online search. Might there be a new lead? And to my surprise there was. I found Pierce’s name in a story “Gangs of Brooklyn,” from the blog of Eamon Loingsigh, Artists Without Walls’ member and author of the recently published book Light of the Diddicoy.


It seems Pierce was a member of the “Myrtle Avenue Gang,” a group dedicated to crime and debauchery.  Here’s what Eamon wrote:


Myrtle Avenue Gang – (1872-1885) Known as simple hooligans who were charged with assaulting many police officers and drunken rowdyism. In 1883 one member interrupted a Civil War Veterans picnic at the old High Ground Park (no longer exists) at the corner of Myrtle and Throop. He was “put out” three times, the third time he punched the officer who clubbed and arrested him. The gang assaulted another police officer also that year by throwing paving stones and fighting him while “working the growler” and getting themselves drunk and loud by singing old songs. At one point the gang split in two, the “Dusters” supported by the much bigger Jackson Hollow Gang, and the “Barkers,” who clashed at a saloon at 254 Myrtle Avenue.
Neighborhoods they roamed: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick,
Some of the gang members were: Joe Grapes, Paddy Burns, Scabby McCloskey, Patrick Lally, PIERCE KEATING, Maggie McGrath, Dan Callahan, John McCann, John March.


Pierce Keating Jr. Arrested on Morals Charges

Pierce Keating Jr. Arrested on Morals Charge 

Pierce, Jr. lived a short life. He died at the age of 26, in 1888.  His cause of death is listed as mitral insufficiency. Exhaustion was a contributing factor. A short and fast life ended in fatigue and exhaustion, a not uncommon fate for a nineteenth century Irish immigrant.


I’ve often wondered what it must be like to live one’s entire life in a small town, surrounded by the same sights and sounds, day after day. Brooklyn was not a small town, however, most immigrant’s lives were not lived wandering through the borough. Their lives played out on the living theatre of each individual street, amongst the poverty, the fires and the crime, the horrors of prison, forever surrounded by the chaos of everyday life.


Eamon Loingsigh's "Light of the Diddicoy."
Eamon Loingsigh’s “Light of the Diddicoy.”

If you would like more information about the gangs of Brooklyn I highly recommend Eamon Loingsigh’s blog,  “Blog for the Auld Irishtown. ” The blog is the home of the Auld Irishtown trilogy, historical novels about Liam Garrity, a 14 year old Irish immigrant, and the White Hand Gang, a gang that called its home the docks and piers along the Brooklyn waterfront during the early part of the 20th Century. The first book in the trilogy is called, Light of the Diddicoy. (Click on the title to see reviews or to purchase.) 


Here is what author Malachy McCourt said about Eamon’s book: Light of the Diddicoy is an amazing series of literary leaps from terra firma into the stratosphere above. The writing embraces you, and his description of the savagery visited on poor people is offset by the humor and love of the traditional Irish community. Yes there is laughter here too and it is a grand read, leaving any reader fully sated. Don’t leave the store without this book.” 



Who is Eamon Loingsigh?

Final Diddicoy coverAuthor of fiction, including Light of the Diddicoy (Three Rooms Press) and Irish-American historian. With boots on the ground, telling the tales of those who have to fight from the very bottom of the social strata with dignity, humility and hard work as their only weapon. When there was not a system in place to help them, people still survived and fought as best they could to support their families and make a living. This poetry made from real life is the inspiration for my writing.  
What are you working on at the moment?
The second book of the Auld Irishtown trilogy (Light of the Diddicoy is the first). 
IMG_0718Do you have upcoming events you’d like people to attend?
On April 10, I will be reading with Terry Golway at the Cranford Community Center, Cranford, NJ. I will also be attending and reading at the April 22nd Artists Without Walls’ Showcase.     
Who are the writers, past and present, you admire?
I have so many writers that I admire and learned from. Some writers I emulated when I was younger, as many writers do, and others I studied. For a writer, establishing style and voice is of the greatest importance. It takes great soul searching and it takes a lot of missteps and mistakes. Over time, while reading others’ works, I learned that being myself was a great exploration and freed me from my own expectations.
signingName five things you’d like to do or accomplish in the next five years.
I’d like everyone to know how to pronounce “Loingsigh” as “Lynch.” Also, finish the Auld Irishtown trilogy and another book of poetry and maybe another novella. I would really like to establish myself not as an “Irish writer” but simply as a “writer.”  
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Reading, what else? Also love being with children.


mega 23x16_Pearl_Berg_am_liam-font2 80kbBrendan Connellan’s DEATH, PLEASE!, which is directed and produced by Brendan, is opening on Tuesday, March 11th at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd St., NYC. There will be six shows running through Sunday, March 16th. Evening shows on Tuesday at 7, Wed-Sat at 8. Afternoon matinees Wed and Sat at 2 and Sunday at 3. The cast (in alphabetical order) are Alessia Sushko, Amit Gupta, Brendan Connellan, and another AWoW member, John Moran. No intermission. 70 minutes


For AWOW, instead of the $21.25 cost via Telecharge, go to the ticket price is $17.25 with a lower service fee! Use the code TRAWOW.


Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 2.01.31 PMPeter Quinn, Honor Molloy  and others will be discussing “Dagger” John Hughes and the Rise of Irish New York at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220-1227 Fifth Avenue, Thursday, March 13pm, 6:30pm. Free for museum members, $12 students/seniors, $16 general public. 





March 12 Flyer 2


Eamon Loingsigh‘s new book “Light of the Diddicoy” will be released at Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St. in NYC’s Greenwich Village on March 12, 6pm. It’s a free event and books will be available. 



557589_10151295517547308_1310266587_nJoin IFNY, The Irish Film Board and Under the Milky Way for a screening of the critically acclaimed film Good Vibrations in cele
bration of the iTunes release of four Irish films this March. Where: Wythe Hotel Screening Room, Wythe Hotel, 80 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn. When: Friday, March 14th @ 7:30 pm. Tickets: $10.00 (available for purchase online


maxresdefault-2Artists Without Walls will be presenting the University College Dublin Choral Scholars in a fund raising event called Sailing Away: Songs of Farewell, a program filled with songs of love, loss, parting, immigration and the sea at St. Peter’s Church Chelsea, 346 West 20th St., New York City, Saturday, March 15th, 7:30pm. 

 Listen to “Parting Glass” 


Special guest, historian/author Peter Quinn, will share stories of his family’s immigrant experience.  “Peter Quinn is a poet and an historian and one of our finest storytellers,” said National Book Award winner Colum McCann.   Click here for tickets $20


1779117_10151987791284013_992647065_nHonor Finnegan will be performing in a tribute to Patty Griffin at Rockwood Music Hall, 196 Allen Street, NYC, on Saturday, March 15, 8pm.