Achill & Cleveland: A Tale of Two Cities

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The History of the Achill Irish

Early Irish and Mayo based immigrants tended to settle on the base of the canal, primarily in three neighborhoods, that came to be known as Irish town, the Angle and Whiskey Island. The Irish quickly established themselves as a large and influential ethnic group who contributed enormously to the building of the city of Cleveland and the environs. They brought with them their catholic faith and organized the first Catholic Church in Cleveland in 1826 later known as St. Mary’s on the flats.
Old Dooagh Fishery
It is difficult to be exact as to when the first Achill immigrants came to Cleveland however some anecdotal evidence indicates that the 1880’s saw the first emigrants from Achill establish themselves as part of the Cleveland community.To understand, many of those individuals were left in a helpless situation whereby they had to make ends meat for their families and themselves and as such had to take whatever opportunities presented themselves including having to go overseas. These decisions were more than often tough and had profound and long lasting impacts which not just affected the individual but also their extended families.The Irish, many of whom came from these difficult and hopeless situations, helped establish an educational system in Cleveland primarily through the church. They contributed vastly to the business and legal industries of the city and continue to do so to this day.The ties between the Cleveland Irish and the Mayo Irish will never be broken. Our relationship continues to gain strength and no doubt the twinning of Cleveland with the parish of Achill will lead to an even stronger friendship and network.

The History of Cleveland & Irish Immigration

“…it is safe to say that the first Irish to settle in Cleveland were those who came in the early and middle 1820’s. There were only a handful of them and all had come from their labors on the Erie Canal, seeking a better way of life. They had been told that the life of a seaman was to be preferred to that of a canal digger. Only the most adventurous of them were willing to give up their steady work to go chasing such a rainbow, but some did, spurred on by thoughts of material gain, the quicker to get money to send home so relatives could join them here.

Some did manage to land berths on Great Lakes sailing vessels, but most had to settle for jobs on the docks. They didn’t complain; they were lucky to get them. This handful of men was given a little nod by the city.’s established citizens, for they were so few in number as to be of no consequence. They stayed in their place by the river’s mouth and few Clevelanders were even aware of their existence.

It was a different matter in the next few years, especially when the summer of 1825 rolled around. The Erie Canal had been completed and the Ohio about to get under way. The Irish began piling into the town in measurable numbers…”

by William F. Hickey

Read more about Irish emmigration to Cleveland from the Cleveland Memory Project -The Irish in Cleveland.

Achill Island before the bridge