Troy, NY snubbed in two Irish documentaries

Twice in a few days Irish television has snubbed Troy, NY. Twice! And, let's face it, Troy doesn't exactly get a lot of opportunities to be featured in the media outside of newspaper and television reports in and around Albany.

Early 20th Century Irish revolutionary James Connolly was the topic of both programs. In each case the producers traveled to New York cover the time Connolly lived and worked in America. Connolly spent about seven years in America, mostly in and around New York, but he lived in Troy from 1903 to 1905.

I wasn't too surprised that the TG4 program skipped the trip to Troy, but I hoped that RTE with its bigger budget would have made the journey to the Collar City, birthplace of Uncle Sam. The RTE documentary is one of a highly-promoted RTE series, Ireland's Greatest. Given the importance of this series in RTE's calendar I actually presumed last night's installment would include something about Troy. I mean, come on, cut Troy a break.

I know a mention in an Irish documentary is hardly the stuff that a city's tourism and commercial authorities dream of, but it would have been nice for Troy to get the acknowledgment it deserves as having been home to Connolly for two years.

Yet, there's more to the omission than simple sentiment on my part. I'm genuinely interested in what Connolly did in Troy. I had always believed he had helped organize meat-packers in the city, but when I searched online all I could find was that he had sold insurance there, hardly the kind of work you associate with a socialist agitator. He lost his job when his employer went bust and he then moved down to Newark.

I was really hoping RTE's program would shed some light on Connolly in Troy for me. Did he continue his work for socialism and labor? Or was the plan that he would give that up, sell insurance and take care of his family - he had a wife and five children - in Troy only to be drawn back to those efforts for organized labor after the insurance company folded? Is it possible that one of the key leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising may never have returned to Ireland if his job as insurance salesman had worked out?

Unfortunately RTE left me with this gap in the Connolly life story, one that I'll have to fill in on my own.


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