Glucksman Ireland House, NYU

The Fifth Province: County Societies in Irish America

The emblem of the United Irish Counties Association.

Program cover, United Irish Counties Association Ball, 1931. AIA NYU/County Societies Collection.

A historical photo of men and women in formal attire, with four children in front. A boy is dressed as Uncle Sam.

Leitrim St. Patrick’s Day Ball, 1946. AIA NYU/Joe McManus.

A historical photo of men and women in formal attire filling a large hall.

Wexford and Wicklow Ball, 1958. George Long.

If ever there were a fifth Irish province – dated by some to the Celtic past – the diaspora may have been its modern manifestation. There were certainly more men and women from Munster, Connacht, Leinster, and Ulster in the United States than in Ireland by 1900. There, organizations based on place of origin, especially Ireland’s 32 counties, encouraged strong relationships built around a common roots. The familiar and personal ways of such associational networks eased the transition from rural to urban life for many Irish immigrants.

New York can claim the largest cluster of county societies, with the greatest longevity, but the impulse to recreate a sense of home through social, cultural and sporting events can be documented wherever the Irish have settled in the world. These dynamic societies have provided benevolent, protective, and fraternal sustenance for Irish immigrants since the late 1840s. At the same time, a strong county connection has nurtured and helped preserve identity for the next generation. As Senator John F. Kennedy remarked at the Irish Institute in New York in January 1957, “Whether we live in Cork or in Boston, in New York or in Sydney, we are all members of a great family which is linked together by that strongest of chains, a common past.”

This exhibition celebrates the lifetime commitment many Irish men and women made to their heritage through membership in a county society. Just as the mythic Fifth Province is said to have been the place where the four Irish provinces settled disputes, this exhibition also acknowledges the pragmatic efforts towards cooperation made by all county societies and most clearly by the United Irish Counties Association, which helped transcend division since 1904.

The generosity of the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme and the United Irish Counties Association of New York, Inc. is gratefully acknowledged, as is the support of Glucksman Ireland House and the Archives of Irish America at New York University.

Exhibition Team

  • Curators:
    Dr. Marion R. Casey & Dr. Miriam A. Nyhan, Glucksman Ireland House, NYU
  • Assistant Curator:
    Virginia Ferris, Glucksman Ireland House, NYU
  • Archivist:
    Rebecca Altermatt, Archives of Irish America, NYU
  • Alan Farrelly, Consulate General of Ireland
  • John Garvey, UICA/Mayo
  • Maurice Landers, UICA/Limerick
  • Mary McMullen, UICA/Antrim
  • Joe McManus, UICA/Leitrim
  • Dr. Maureen Murphy, Hofstra University
  • Mae O’Driscoll, UICA/Cork
  • John T. Ridge, New York Irish History Roundtable

Special thanks to

Martin Brett (Sligo), Maurice Brick (Kerry), Melitte Buchman, Margaret Callaghan (Armagh), Chris Cawley (Sligo), William D. Cobert (Limerick), Ray Conlon (UICA/Sligo), Julia Connolly, Terri Connolly Cook (Monaghan), Anthony Creaney (Antrim), Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy (Offaly), Elizabeth David (Wexford), Brendan Dolan, Anne Dunlop (Donegal), Michael Dunphy (Laois), John Feighery (Offaly), Brian Fitzpatrick (Mayo), Rosina Gallagher (Donegal), Bríd Gallagher Halter (Donegal), Geraldine O’Reilly Johnson (Dublin), Brenda Kearns (Louth), Eddie Kenny (Wicklow), Pamela Lacey (Dumblin), Professor Joe Lee, George, Joe and Christine Long (Wicklow), Kathleen V. Mattessich (UICA/Armagh), Seán McGovern (UICA/Donegal), the McGrath Family (Cork), Betty McLoughlin (Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk, and Queens), Sinéad Noonan (Derry), Patricia Young O’Connor (Cork), Eileen Reilly, Brigid Connolly Sullivan, Mary Thomas (Wicklow), Eileen Houlihan Zurell (Limerick).

Design Team

  • Carole Erger-Fass, BugDesign, Westport, CT
  • Frank Ergle, Graphicimaging, Pipersville, PA
  • Melitte Buchman, Division of Libraries, NYU
  • Anne Solari & Andrew Wilson, Glucksman Ireland House, NYU
  • Web Exhibit by Andrew Wilson

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