When word came to them that the father of the noted Irish poet William Butler Yeats had squelched an English journalist, they repeated his words in every bar in Irishtown. For the record, the English newspaperman had asked Yeats Pere if the "Irish problem" would ever be settled? The reply was swift and rather devastating. Said the elder Yeats: "No, it's insoluble. How can the dullest people in the world rule the cleverest?" So much for Irish coup counting in the 19th Century.
Service Occupations and Some Community Problems
One plus factor that resulted from the on-going Irish "criminality" was that the Yankee community decided that there was something in the adage about fighting fire with fire. Irishmen were invited to be official upholders of the law -- to become policemen. A goodly number of them, weary of the work on the docks or some other less than commodious place, responded to the call and most of them did a creditable job. In fact, within a few decades, especially around the turn of the century, it seemed to America that every policeman in every large city in this country spoke with a brogue.
An almost equal number of Irishmen joined the fire-fighting brigades when they came to be formed, work every bit as hazardous as the policeman's. In a city still largely consisting of wooden frame buildings, fire was a constant threat. Sometimes the Irish made the work doubly hazardous by making mad dashes to the scenes of fires just to get there faster than a rival firehouse. There .....
was a spectacular fire in 1870 that engulfed a large section of the Flats, gutting warehouses, foundries and numerous Irish shanties. A pumper, manned by four Irishman, went careening down the Superior Road hill and into the river with all lives lost, including that of the two horses pulling it. No caution among the Irish once an alarm sounded.
If that weren't enough for the Irish to handle, a short time later they were visited by an earthquake, one of the few measurable ones recorded in this area. Fortunately, it took no Irish lives, but it toppled their chimneys, rattled their shanties and caused them to wonder what could possibly come next. They didn't have long to wait. The city fathers thought that the Flats would make an ideal location for a burning shed for the garbage that was collected daily. The refuse from the surrounding hotels, groceries and better homes was deposited in great piles on the river bank for observation by the Irish.
Though it was burned daily, the garbage did little to enhance the beauty of the neighborhood or improve the health of the people who lived nearby. The Irish took umbrage at this display of Yankee high-handedness and created such a furor that the city fathers finally discontinued the practice, opting to hire independent haulers to cart the unwanted decaying matter to less populous places on the outskirts of the city.