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The remains of the Duffy's Cut workers are given a Christian burial at West Laurel Hill Cemetery. Photo by: The remains of the Duffy's Cut workers are given a Christian burial at West Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Murder in a time of cholera remembered as Duffy’s Cut Irish victims finally reburied

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The remains of the Duffy's Cut workers are given a Christian burial at West Laurel Hill Cemetery. Photo by: The remains of the Duffy's Cut workers are given a Christian burial at West Laurel Hill Cemetery.

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.

Since many of the victims are believed to buried beneath a section of live railroad at the site, their bodies may never be fully recovered. Their memory, however, was held in equal importance during the ceremonies today.

Following the luncheon, a public visitation allowed people to say a prayer before the remains were finally laid to rest in the cemetery. The visitation room was abuzz with those who had been involved from the start, as well as local community members who had kept a curious eye on the story. Members of local AOH groups and the 69th Pennsylvania Irish Brigade were all on hand at the visitation.

The burial itself saw the culmination of a decade worth’s of work and dedication to the victims of Duffy’s Cut. Led in by bagpipers, including the brothers Watson who led the project, the five coffins were carried by the student workers who aided in the dig.

Lending his talents to the ceremony, Irish tenor Tommy McCloskey sang both the Irish and American national anthems.

The service was opened by Sister R. Patricia Fadden, the president of Immaculata University. She noted how today was a “bittersweet day” having to bid a final farewell to the Duffy’s Cut workers, but allowing them to be finally laid at peace.

“Every life is deserving,” said Sister Fadden, reflecting on the crude burial the immigrants had received in 1832.

Drawing the connection between Ireland and America even closer, Irish Ambassador Michael Collins was intended to offer remarks at the ceremony as well today. Unfortunately, his mother had passed away in Ireland this week, leaving his deputy ambassador Kevin Conmy to offer words of respect for those lost at Duffy’s Cut.

Remarks were offered by both Dr. Frank Watson and Dr. William Watson during the ceremony. Both became visibly emotional during the burial. Asking Dr. Frank Watson after the ceremony whether or not he had expected to become so emotional, he said how this was a long journey for him and his brother and their team.

Calling their journey both a “pilgrimage” and a “spiritual journey,” the 10 year process was bittersweet for the brothers' team to finally put a respectful end to.

Over 130 years after having died while attempting to work on the 59th Mile at Duffy’s Cut in Malvern, Pennsylvania, the remains of several Irish immigrants have finally been laid to rest with the respect any human being deserved. A story that rises above and beyond that of one that belongs solely to the Irish community, the story of the Duffy’s Cut victims is a story of humanity and the respect we all share, deserve and owe to one another.

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