The Ancient Order of Hibernians: From the Molly Maguires to Malachy McAllister
SOURCE: Carbon County Times-News (12-1-07)
[Jim Castagnera, formerly of Jim Thorpe, is the Associate Provost/Associate Counsel at Rider University. His new novel, Ned McAdoo and the Molly Maguires,” is available at www.lulu.com.]
“What do you know about the AOH?” I asked my pal Ned McAdoo during one of our regular Friday lunches, this one appropriately enough at Maggie O’Neil’s Pub in the Pilgrim Gardens Shopping Center in Drexel Hill.
“Say what?” Ned squinted at me. Being of Irish-American heritage, Ned, I had assumed, would be well-acquainted with the Ancient Order of Hibernians. A little bit of internet research had revealed more than 20 divisions in Greater Philadelphia, including the Dennis Kelly Division in Havertown, where I live and Ned maintains his law practice.
Realizing McAdoo was at a loss, I pulled from my coat pocket a page I’d printed from Wikipedia, unfolded it and read, “The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) is an Irish-Catholicfraternal organization. Members must be Catholic and either Irish born or of Irish descent. Its largest membership is now in the United States, where it was founded in New York in 1836. Its original purpose in the United States was to assist Irish Catholic immigrants, especially those who faced discrimination or harsh coal mining working conditions. Many members had a Molly Maguire background. Its mixture of religion and politics (similar to that of the Protestant Orange Order) has led its critics to accuse it of sectarianism and anti-Protestantism. In historical context, the Order may have emerged in America as a Catholic response to Freemasonry, which the Papacy forbade Catholics from joining.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Ned, before slurping the thin brown head from his pint of Guinness. “Now I remember. Some people claimed the AOH was the Molly Maguires. I ran across that when I helped my old man out with that case of his, when I was just a kid.” I knew Ned was referring to some work that his father Archie, also an attorney, had done to help win Black Jack Kehoe, the so-called King of the Molly Maguires, a pardon. I knew Ned had been only a teenager then. “I haven’t thought much about that in a long time. Why your sudden interest, Seamus?”
I explained that, while attending a funeral up in Schuylkill County last week, I’d run into one of my wife’s cousins. Jimmy Brennan was at the bar in the Middleport Inn, sporting a bright green AOH jacket. Together we’d taught the barmaid to make a White Russian. “I read your column every week,” attested the 76-year-old Jimmy. “Mention me in it sometime.”
“Thus my research into the AOH,” I concluded, as my own pint arrived and we sipped while reviewing the menu. After we’d ordered lunch, Ned picked up the thread. “So.” He asked, “Your research turn up anything interesting?”
I allowed that it had. “The organization is still in the thick of terrorist controversy, much as it was in the 1870s, when the Molly Maguires were arrested, tried and hanged for assorted acts of murder, arson and mayhem.”
“Alleged acts,” McAdoo cautioned me. “Some historians question whether the Mollies even existed or whether they were a concoction of the coal barons to nip Irish unionism and political power in the bud… not unlike the more recent claim that Saddam Hussein was in bed with Al Qaeda,” he added. “Hey, you’re not telling me the AOH is involved in the War on Terror, are you?”
No, I said. More predictably, the national organization, according to its web site [www.aoh.com], currently was championing the cause of a former IRA man, who fled Protestant death squads in 1988. “The Department of Homeland Security is apparently trying hard to deport one Malachy McAllister and his family from the U.S.” According to McAllister’s own web site [http://www.mcallistercampaign.com/about.htm], “The McAllisters are a Catholic family from the Lower Ormeau Road area of Belfast in the north of Ireland, who have been seeking political asylum in the United States. Malachy and Bernadette McAllister and their four children fled Belfast in 1988, after narrowly escaping an assassination attempt by pro-British Loyalists. Following weeks of evidence by some of the foremost authorities on the conflict in the north of Ireland, the trial judge found that the McAllisters had suffered severe persecution as a result of the attack on their home, ritual intimidation and abuse from the British security forces, public humiliation by those forces and a lifetime of discrimination. The judge awarded political asylum to Bernadette and the McAllister children, but ordered Malachy deported to face the same dangers, because he had served a prison sentence for fighting back against his persecutors.”
“So how does the AOH fit in?” queried Ned.
“For one thing,” I replied, “the web site supports a telephone campaign.” I pulled more paper from my pocket. The form I smoothed out on the table read, “Malachy McAllister and his two youngest children are facing deportation when the suspension of their order of removal expires in September. They have been advised that a private bill in the Senate would be their only hope to remain in New Jersey with the older McAllister children and their families.
Please call [Senator Frank Lautenberg’s] New Jersey Office at 973-639-8700 and his DC Office at 202-224-3224 and leave the following message:
My name is ________ I am calling from _________
I am calling to ask for Senator Lautenberg's support to prevent the deportation of Malachy McAllister and his children Sean and Nicola. Please, Senator Lautenberg introduce a private bill in the US Senate that would grant permanent resident status to this deserving family. Thank You.”
As Ned read, a bemused smile crossed his face. “Well,” he finally said, “Old Black Jack Kehoe, King of the Mollies, would be proud.”
Carbon County Times-News