the house of the irish

October 5, 2009 § Leave a comment

i submitted a book proposal to mcgill-queens university press the other week.  i mailed it out monday, i got an email response on thursday.  i was astounded canada post could get something somewhere that fast, even if the proposal travelled no more than 3.5km from pointe-saint-charles to mcgill.  anyway, mqup liked what they read.  they are interested in publishing the book, once it becomes a book.

so now, i am beginning to ponder how to turn “the house of the irish”, the dissertation, into the house of the irish, the book.  i am cutting out the first substantive chapter, on the shamrock lacrosse club.  that will become an article or two.  and i am extending a chapter on nations and nationalism in griffintown, c. 1900-17 to at least 1922, with the establishment of the irish free state.  part of my argument is that once ireland gained something approximating independence, even if the north was left out (or, more properly stated, opted out), the irish of the diaspora more or less lost interest in ireland, at least that was, i think, the situation in montréal.  ireland was already an imagined nation by the early 20th century on account of there being hardly any irish-born irish in montréal by this time, immigration having dried up shortly after the famine.  but after the free state was established, the irish here turned even more inwards.  so that’s the first major revision or expansion.

the other is to correct the methodological issues in the last two chapters of the dissertation, which is too much reliance on the same set of sources.  to correct this, i am going to engage in some oral history.  but i am back to the same problem i had with the dissertation in a sense here.  i am not interested in talking to the professional griffintowners, the don pidgeons and denis delaneys of the world.  their thoughts and opinions on the griff are very well known, they are part of the commemorative process amongst the griffintown diaspora.  i want to talk to people who didn’t necessarily think that they grew up in shangri-la.  the ones who have an alternative view of the griff, or at least a more critical one.  one former griffintowner in burman’s film said something like it was a shame to see the griff go, as they had it all.  oh really?  despite the poverty, unemployment, insecurity of tenure, etc.?  of course, this is partly nostalgia, partly a child’s view of life in the 1940s.  but i want to talk to people who have a more critical memory.

and that’s the hard part.  where do i find these people?  they’re not the ones at all the various griff gatherings.  i have a few ideas, one of which is to make use of the parish of saint-gabriel, the historically irish church in the pointe (in fact, almost next door to us here).  i recognise old griffintowners standing outside of saint-gabriel’s every sunday morning, so i’m hoping i can start there, talk to a few of them, get references to their friends, and so on.

either way, i am excited about this, i’m excited to turn this story of griffintown into a book.  i think this is a story that has wider implications, not just for montréal, but for the irish diaspora, and even as an example of the acculturation of an ethnic group in a major metropolitan centre in north america.

as my favourite soccer blogger used to say at the end of each post: onwards!

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