Murder in a time of cholera remembered as Duffy’s Cut Irish victims finally reburied
Remains of five victims laid to rest with dignity over 180 years after their murders
While there were representatives from several local groups, one of those most prominent was the Donegal Association. Donning their green blazers, they were present to pay respects to all of the Duffy’s Cut victims, many of whom hailed originally from Donegal. Most famous of the victims was 18 year old John Ruddy, who was the only victim positively identified after his skeletal remains were found in 2009. His family were located in Ireland, where he will be laid to rest.
Jimmy Meehan of the Donegal Association noted how with St. Patrick’s Day just over a week away, now was a perfect time to pay honor to the victims of Duffy’s Cut when so many Irish celebrations are being held.
Also in attendance at the luncheon were Waterford native Joe Devoy and Galway native Mairtin Lally from Tellus360. Together they are working on a touching remembrance project that utilizes a poplar tree that grew directly over the site of the grave at Duffy’s Cut. Their group cut down the tree, whose roots had become intertwined with some of the victims remains at the site, and will be transforming the bark of the tree into 57 musical instruments once the bark has dried out. Half of the instruments will be made in America, while the other half will be made in Ireland.
"My grandfather was born in 1895 and came over from Ireland when he was 17," Mary Murtagh, 54, of Newtown Square, told Philly.com "He worked for the railroad. This could have been him."
While new art will rise to commemorate Duffy’s Cut, many artifacts were also exhumed from the site. Laura Kennedy, who was a student at Immaculata College while she helped with the dig, spoke of one artifact that held particular significance.
A clay pipe bearing the inscription of “Erin go Bragh” was found at the site and is considered to be the oldest piece of Irish nationalism in North America, said Kennedy. She also noted that there was another artifact with “Derry” written on it, one of the several counties from where the immigrants hailed.
Kennedy, along with the other student workers from Immaculata University, served later as the pallbearers during the burial service. This group of students range in age but all had a special hands-on role with helping to exhume to victims at the site.
Immaculata University, nearby to the site at Duffy’s Cut, served as the home base for the entire project, and went to so far as to donate the beautiful memorial statue that now stands at the grave site at the West Laurel Cemetery. A Celtic cross, made in County Laois, bears the inscription:
“Here lie the remains of some of the 57 Irish railroad workers who died of violence and cholera while building the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad in East Whiteland, Penn. August 1832.”
A slab beneath it bears the names of those that were able to be traced through records of the area. The Majority of the victims, however, remain unnamed.
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