Foreword: Portland, Maine’s Longshore Legacy
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Foreword Portland, Maine’s Longshore Legacy When my father, John J. Brennan, arrived on the shores of America from Ireland in the late nineteenth century, he was able to secure a job loading and unloading ships on the Portland waterfront. He was among friends. Many of his fellow longshoremen were, like both my father and mother, Irish (Gaelic) speakers from the same region of County Galway, Ireland, that they had only reluctantly abandoned. They were all in search of work, security, religious and political freedom, and ultimately the chance for a new life and a place to realize their dream of raising a family. My mother, Catherine Mulkerrin, was from Callowfeenish (Calibhfuinse) in the heart of its Gaeltacht or Irish-speaking region and quite near my father’s birthplace . Although they arrived in America separately, they married in Portland and eventually raised a family of eight children, of which I was the fifth child born. Life in Portland in the late nineteenth century was not easy. My parents , however, had been well prepared for hardships by the nature of their childhood and early life in Ireland. Portland, Maine, must have seemed like a dream to them because it gave my parents the opportunities that were lacking in their ancestral homeland, and they were eager to take advantage of these new opportunities. They embraced their new lives and they worked hard, as did nearly all of their fellow immigrant families in this new home. Here they found institutions that understood their needs and supported them in their search for security and fulfillment in work, religion, and eventually even in politics. This city provided a sound educational and cultural base for their children. I attended local schools on and around our Munjoy Hill home on Kellogg Street, and I eventually graduated from Cheverus High School in 1952. In 1958, after two years in the Army, I graduated from Boston College and then proceeded on to the University of Maine Law School from which I xiv Foreword graduated in 1963. My career since then has included many honors and public service, including Cumberland County District Attorney; Maine House of Representatives (1965–1971); Maine Senate (1973–1975); Maine Attorney General (1975–1978); Governor of Maine (1979–1987); U.S. House of Representatives (1987–1991); and two terms as Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission (1999–present). My story, although perhaps unusual in some of its details and highlights, is really the story of the immigrant families in Maine and in America. It is the story of almost unbelievable mobility and opportunity for those who came and are still coming to these shores. The details of my individual life’s accomplishments are perhaps being lived out at this very moment by some other son or daughter of an immigrant family in Portland, or Maine, or beyond in this great country of possibilities for those who dream and work hard to fulfill those dreams. I am happy to support Mike Connolly in promoting his book, Seated by the Sea: The Maritime History of Portland, Maine, and Its Irish Longshoremen . I do this because I can see my own family experience in the lives of these predominantly first- and second-generation Irish dock laborers. This is not only the story of dreamers but also of hard workers and realists who labored to find a way to put food on the table for their growing families. It is the story of sacrifice by those who had recently come to America for the benefit of those who would be born here. Their children would identify themselves as Americans, even if they might add a prefix to proudly proclaim their ethnic background as Irish Americans. My work these last eight years on the Federal Maritime Commission has only increased my appreciation for my parents’ efforts on my behalf. I am proud of their hard work. I am also proud to lend my name to the effort of this book to analyze and remember the labor of Portland’s Irish longshoremen over one and one-half centuries. I hope that this book may help to preserve this aspect of the maritime history of Maine as a strong and vibrant legacy, and to memorialize the labor of these longshoremen who helped to keep the commerce of this country flowing rapidly, smoothly, and predictably. I hope all who read Seated by the Sea will share a sense of appreciation even if they have no direct connection with these laborers because , in the final...


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