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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Sinners and saints of the Irish

March 09. 2014 9:51PM

Having a couple of weeks between Saint Patrick's Day and Manchester's Saint Patrick's Parade gives revelers two occasions to take to Elm Street and celebrate their Irish heritage.

I just hope no one ends up like Mary O'Melia.

"She was discovered in Elm back street, reclining with graceful abandon upon a soft couch of mud, with a cabbage stump tucked under her head for a pillow. She was, in fact, dead drunk, clear gone, so entirely oblivious to passing events that it took till this morning for her to come to anything like consciousness," reported an unidentified newspaper clipping from 1866.

The clipping is one of hundreds gathered and reprinted by amateur Manchester historian John Patrick Jordan in his new book "Saints & Sinners, The Pioneer Irish of Manchester, NH 1835-1900."

Jordan, a lifelong Manchester resident and retired ironworker, said the book, " with early immigrants and their trials and tribulations."

While many of the clippings made me chuckle, many more made me sad about the very difficult and dangerous life the first Irish immigrants had in Manchester. With chapters titled: "Amoskeag Mills Accidents And Deaths," "Suicides and Attempted Suicides in Amoskeag Canal," and "Killed & Dismembered by Trains," it doesn't paint a pretty picture.

Tonight at 6:30, Jordan will give a lecture and sign copies of his book at Manchester's Carpenter Memorial Library. On Saturday, he will be at the Millyard Museum to celebrate the book's release from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. There will be free admission, and copies of the book for sale at $18.95 each.

I am in awe of the way newspaper stories were written in the 19th century, and wonder if circulation would be up if journalists still reported with such speculation and hyperbole.

One 1904 Manchester Mirror account about a woman brought into court for drunkenness read: "Mrs. Leonard's hair was white with the snows of many winters, and a single tooth loomed from her bare gums as a lonely reminder of teeth that had gone before ..."

While the sensational stories held most of my attention, "Saints & Sinners" also devotes sections to the many accomplishments of Manchester's first Irish, including Father William McDonald, whom Jordan refers to as the "St. Patrick of Manchester," for his work founding the city's first Catholic Parish, Saint Anne, in 1848.

Jordan, who is historian for the local Ancient Order of Hibernians chapter, is having a Mass said in McDonald's honor at 7 a.m. next Monday, Saint Patrick's Day, and he hopes everyone out celebrating will start their day at Saint Joseph Cathedral Chapel.

"I think it would be nice for people to show up to honor him, especially on Saint Patrick's Day," Jordan said.

Seems like a perfect way to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day to me.

Time for safe sports

Last year I wrote about the great work of Dr. James Vailas, Laura Decoster and their team at the Safe Sports Network, a nonprofit that provides free sports physicals and injury care for young athletes in Greater Manchester as well as certified athletic trainers for local high schools.

The first of two annual free sports physical clinics is Thursday, March 20, at the New Hampshire Orthopedic Center at 9 Washington Place in Bedford.

Physicals are given on a first-come, first-served basis to athletes 11 years old and above. Pre-registration is suggested and available by filling out a form at

Of course it costs money to provide all the free services offered by the Safe Sports Network, and last year the organization held its first Safe Sports Social, an awareness builder and fundraiser for the work it does. This year's Safe Sports Social is scheduled for Wednesday, March 26, at the Derryfield Country Club beginning at 5:15 p.m.

Decoster said a new program called Athletes Saving Athletes, which started in California, will be announced at the social and then launched the next day, Thursday, March 27.

About 50 Central High School athletes will take part in the Athletes Saving Athletes program designed to teach students how to recognize the signs and symptoms of sports-related injuries and medical conditions so they can help their fellow athletes.

The three-hour program will cover concussion, head and neck injuries, heat illness, sudden cardiac arrest, diabetes and asthma. It stresses the importance of notifying a coach or other adult immediately when a teammate is in trouble. They will also learn CPR and how to use an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).

For more information on the Safe Sports Network and the upcoming fundraiser, contact Decoster at 627-9728 or

NH365.ORG Event of the Week

Tomorrow's Science on Tap at the Shaskeen Pub may have attendees thinking twice about sipping from their pint glasses. This month's topic is "The War Against Viruses and Bacteria," focusing on the way scientists have been paying attention and battling the microbes we all live with.

Panelists include Patricia Halpin, associate professor of biology at UNH Manchester and Tim Soucy, public health director for the City of Manchester.

The Science on Tap series is a program of the SEE Science Center, held the second Tuesday of each month.

Tomorrow's free event will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. A portion of the Shaskeen's food and beverage sales will be donated to SEE.

For more information on this and other events around our city and state, visit

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