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Retro Baltimore

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Raise a shot of Jameson or sip a Guinness in a nod to Baltimore’s Irish heritage today.

Today is the day for the wearin’ of the green to be sure, and for raising a shot of Jameson or a pint of Guinness in a celebratory nod to Baltimore’s Irish heritage or perhaps celebrating with a generous plate of corned beef and cabbage.

You can easily win a free drink today from your friendly publican if you ask a neighboring barfly the following: Did you know that we are not alone, that there are 15 other places across the world named Baltimore, and in addition to our Baltimore, there are six others in the United States alone, and can you say where?

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And here’s the answer. There’s a Baltimore to be found in Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and Vermont. And there are eight outside of the U.S., and one of them is Baltimore, Ireland.

The relationship between our Baltimore and Baltimore, Ireland, is historically a deep one. The name Baltimore, which derives from “Baile-an-ti-mor,” is Gaelic and means “Place of the Big House,” also is associated with the Calverts, the Barons of Baltimore, of whom George Calvert was the first.

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It was George Calvert who chose for his barony in 1625 the name Baltimore for his large estates in Ireland that were granted by King James I of England for his services.

“The first Lord Baltimore never occupied his seat but “some of his descendants visited the County Cork domain,” The Baltimore Sun observed in a 1928 article.

When it was suggested in 1928 that Mayor William F. Broening become the first Baltimore mayor to visit the other Baltimore in Ireland, he exhibited robust enthusiasm and extreme naiveté.

“That isn’t a bad idea,” the mayor told The Sun. “Where is this Baltimore, anyway. Never heard of it before.”

Our Celtic cousin is a picturesque fishing village on the southwest coast of Ireland facing Spain, some 60 miles or so from Cork and almost 240 miles from Dublin, that dates to Druidic times.

“This corner of Ireland has great natural beauty. The coast is not unlike that of Maine. Both have many bays and islands and the shores are rocky and steep,” the Sunday Sun Magazine reported. “The westernmost shores of Ireland are 400 feet high, yet winter winds bring the salty spray far inland.”

One Marylander who visited Baltimore, Ireland, was Frederick Douglass who arrived in 1845 after fleeing slavery, and while no trace exists of his time there, he did mention in a letter home: “I find myself regarded and treated at every turn with the kindness and deference paid to white people. When I go to church, I am met by no upturned nose and scornful lip to tell me, ‘We don’t allow n--s in here!’”

“The last time Baltimore, Ireland, really made the news was in 1958, when the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and the Emerald Island Club, operating under the name of the United Irish Societies of Baltimore, collected 10 tons of clothing as a ‘gift’ to the brethren in the old country,” reported The Sun in 1991.

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Frank Hennessy, a well-known Baltimore radio and public relations personality, was sent to Ireland to make the presentation in person, with Joseph R.L. Sterne, The Sun’s London bureau chief, there to report on the ceremony that was held on St. Patrick’s Day.

The village priest, the Rev. Edward J. Lambe, seemed to take umbrage at the generosity of the Baltimoreans across the sea, reported Sterne.

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“Look at these people,” the priest said. “There’s no sign of want. They are dressed as well as many of the people in Baltimore, Maryland. These people are industrious, intelligent and have a good standard of living. We don’t want to be beggars to anybody.”

For once, a flustered Hennessy tried to explain to the priest that this gift was about friendship and not charity.

After the ceremony, Lambe invited Sterne to his rectory, and while pressing a glass of Jameson into the newsman’s hand, explained he was upset because he had not been consulted about the arrival of the gift and of the unfair picture it painted of the Irish in Baltimore, Ireland.

He then asked Sterne, “Are you Catholic, me boy?” who answered, “No father, I’m a Jew.”

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“Ah,” Lambe answered, “we Catholics and we Jews have to stand together against the bloody Protestants.”

Sterne reported that they both broke “into gales of laughter” and clapped each other on the shoulder as they polished off the last of the Jameson.

“It was the most authentic St. Patrick’s Day I shall ever know,” wrote Sterne, who later became editor of the newspaper’s editorial page, and died last year.


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