Saturday, October 18, 2008

You know more than myself




It is close enough to St. Paddy’s day to relay the ancient Irish yarn of the old crow teaching the younger crow. I first heard the story as it was retold by Conrad Bladey from his Black Box of Irish stories and has its orgins in 18th century Ireland.
There was an old crow long ago, and he made a nest. After a time, only one of his brood remained with him.
One day the old crow took the young one out into the field to teach him how to fly.
When the young crow had learned how to fly and was able to go to any part of Ireland, the old crow said, “I think that you are able to fly anywhere now and make your living by yourself. Before you go, I want to give you a little advice that will protect you from danger, as it has protected myself.”
“Tell it to me,” said the young crow. “If you are ever in a potato field or cornfield and see a man coming toward you with something under his arm or in his hand, fly off immediately, fearing he may have a gun and may shoot you” “I understand,” said the young crow. “Another bit of advice to you,” said the old crow. “If you see a man bending down as he comes toward you in the field or on the road, fly off as fast as you can, for he will be picking up a stone to throw at you. If he has nothing under his arm and if he doesn’t bend down, you’re safe.” “That’s all very well,” said the young crow, “but what if he has a stone in his pocket?” “Off you go,” said the old crow.
 “You know more than myself!”
Such is true of the Irish in the mines of Colorado and particularly Teller County.
Somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of local residents claim Irish ancestry. Perhaps, some of them have their own stories to tell.
I can however relay a few stories with links to my own Celtic mining family.
As starter fuel, now the story of “Powder Keg Carrigan of the infamous, or depending on who you speak with, famous Molly Maguires. This story is from the Archives of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, by Cleveland Moffett, McClure's Magazine, 1894, pp. 90-100. This story relays how “Powder Keg” acquired his moniker, among other things.
“Some years before, while working in a mine at Beckville, he had come into the slope one cold morning when the men were crowding around a huge salamander heaped with burning coals. He carried on his shoulder a keg of powder, and, seeing that there was no place for him at the fire, he leaned over the circle formed by his comfortable comrades, and, placing the keg of powder on the red-hot coals, remarked coolly:
"As long as you boys won't move, I'll have to make a place for myself."
The men scattered in terror right and left, whereupon Carrigan coolly lifted the keg of powder off the salamander, sat down upon it, lit his pipe, and began smoking.”
According to Pinkerton Detective Agency records, "Powder Keg" himself was the man at whose instigation the murder of police officer Franklin B. Yost had been committed.
“Carrigan explained to him that they had killed the wrong man, his grievance having been not against Yost, but against another policeman, Bernard McCarron, who had aroused "Powder Keg's" enmity years before by frequently arresting him for disorderly conduct. Carrigan nursed the memory of this treatment, and when he had became a body-master at once proceeded to arrange for the killing of McCarron. Having applied to Alexander Campbell, the body-master of Landsford, Carbon County, as was customary, for two men to do a " clean job," he brought the men to a retired spot on McCarron's beat. Later in the night, when a policeman passed by, the two men shot him, according to orders, and then started for their homes. But on that night McCarron had exchanged beats with Yost, who accordingly came to a violent death, although neither the Mollys nor anyone else in the region had any but kind feelings toward him.
Carrigan showed detective James McParland, who under cover and using the assumed name McKenna, was told of the revolver, a weapon of thirty-two caliber, with which the policeman had been killed, and explained that it had been borrowed from a Molly named Roarity by the two men, Hugh McGehan and James Doyle, who with others had done the murder. McGehan was the man who-fired the fatal shot. McKenna (a.k.a. McParland ) secured the names of every man concerned in the crime, and ultimately, on his evidence, it was punished by the hanging, in Pottsville, of Hugh McGehan, Thomas Duffy, James Roarity, James Carl, and James Doyle.”
Carrigan somehow was able to escape the rope and as result, relayed his story to other Mollys.
But let’s get back to your own story. “Tell it to me.” said the young crow.
“Off you go,” said the old crow. “You know more than myself !”

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Photo Information: James McParland was born in Ireland in 1843 and worked as a stock clerk, farm worker and circus barker before leaving from Liverpool to New York in 1867.  He then lived in Chicago and ran a store selling alcohol. After a fire destroyed his business in 1871, he joined the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

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