When I was a young lad growing up I developed a keen interest in my ethnicity. Rhode Island is one of those areas of America where people can maintain their ethnic character and culture while carry with it a sense of pride, all the while treating others of different ethnic backgrounds as family.
I was quite often told I was “mostly Irish with some Swamp Yankee and a bit of Scottish”. So I’ve always felt a certain sense of pride in this.
The shanty Irish were those early poor immigrants that came over during the potato famine and settled into the great cities of the Northeast and Midwest, changing the cultural face of America permanently. Likely, I would hazard a guess, the same way Latinos are changing American these days.
Swamp Yankees were considered to be hard-working industrious rural folk, honest to the core. Plainspoken, thrifty, and uncomplicated.
So tonight, after chatting on Facebook with a women who knew my parents, I decided to Google “shanty Irish” and “Swamp Yankee”. Here’s what I came up with…
For the Shanty Irish, it was
“poor or disreputable People of Irish decent”
“also known as brick-throwing Irish”"Irish descended people who live in filthy dwelling slums. They have a culture that consists of getting drunk until the room spins, surviving off of T.V. dinners,and counting their freckles”
Then a quote to describe them…
“Regular hooligans in their neighborhood bar…They smell like old baloney.”
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!! What horseshit I thought…who writes this stuff??
I then began to think back of the stories that I heard about my great-grandfather’s drinking exploits, along with that fact that his brother was banned from the city of Providence for some reason. How do you get banned from an entire city?
I then realized that those stories that I was told about my great-grandfather – that he spent half his money on booze, the his family (with eleven kids) were so poor that t hey had, um, baloney sandwiches for Christmas, that my own grandfather had to quit school after four grade to help support the family, that it was quite clear that there were many freckles counted at the Trenn household 100 years ago.
So I then looked up the term “Swamp Yankee”. Here ya go
“New England trailer trash or northern redneck.”
“Someone whose family has been in America for generations (several of which may actually reside together) but has never gotten off the ground, couch, or smack long enough to build a functional family or become a redeeming member of society.”
Followed by a quote to describe them…
“I immediately noticed the unmistakable scent of pot after the Swamp Yankee drove by me in his rusty Dodge Monaco with a rotting muffler.”
Couldn’t get any worse. We smell like pot and baloney.
I’m still proud though.