Jeremiah
        by Bill O'Connor, c. 1980

This song combines a bit of my family history from both sides of my family.  It is principally a song about Grandpa O'Connor.  But he wasn't an immigrant, while my Mom's parents were.  So I stretched things a bit.  And Grandpa O'Connor said he didn't mind and that he actually liked the idea.  Although both Nana and Daddle Hennessy were immigrants, neither entered the country through Ellis Island.  But the rest of the song is based upon stories I'd hear Grandpa tell.  And I thought they'd make a good song.

Album: Traditional and Original/Theiss & O'Connor

My name is Jeremiah and I crossed the ocean wide
To come to America in nineteen hundred and nine.
When I saw the grand old lady, a tear came to my eye.
She was saying "Ever onward, but conduct yourself with pride."
And all through Ellis Island I remembered what she'd said.
Through the pushing and the questions and the shouting I held my head
I held it high.

Well I hunted for employment in the shops both low and high
But the sign were grim reminders that "No Irish Need Apply."
So I traveled ever onward, to the west found cowhand chores.
And I entered boxing derbies till my hands and head were sore.
Then I married Jenny Dillon and I found a job for me.
Yes, there among the railroad hands I saw what had to be,
What they needed from me.

Soon the country I'd adopted wasn't sure it wanted me.
I was labeled as ungrateful, told that unions shouldn't be.
No the bosses they weren't happy, nor the government too pleased
With the unions I'd helped organize to raise our salaries.
And though they tried to break us in the courts and on the lines
We'd our dignity and friendship to see us through hard times.
The times were hard.

Well, they say that time will heal all and I guess that must be true
For within a score of years my thoughts became accepted views.
And I raised five sons and daughters in whom I take great pride.
And I worked those railroad lines until I had to say good bye.
And though I am not wealthy, I'm rich in things that count
I've my happiness and peace of mind, that's all that I could want.
What more could I want?

My name is Jeremiah and I crossed the ocean wide
To come to America in nineteen hundred and nine.
When I saw the grand old lady, a tear came to my eye.
She was saying "Ever onward, but conduct yourself with pride."
And though the years weren't easy, I remembered what she'd said
I look back on all the things I've done and know I can hold my head,
I can hold my head up high.