The Ancient Order of Hibernians is the oldest Irish Catholic Fraternal Organization and the largest Irish Catholic society in the world. Their mission is to promote Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity. When their history is understood, their relevance throughout their existence becomes clear. Which is why my good friend and business partner Paul always enlightened me on his heritage.

After the Normans invaded Ireland in 1171, the English forbade their subjects to adopt the Irish culture. This produced an English upper class and an Irish lower class society resulting in conflicts between the two classes for hundreds of years. In 1533, Henry VIII established the Church of England as the official national religion, and prohibited Catholicism. Irish land was confiscated using religion as justification. Violence followed as the Catholic Irish were targeted to minimize Rome’s power and wealth. Because their religion was outlawed and their culture was suppressed, the Irish were forced to practice and protect their religion and culture as an underground society. After centuries of persecution in their homeland, many Irish sailed to the New World where there was hope of religious freedom.

Unknown to those fleeing Ireland, religious freedom did not include Catholics because Colonial America was still a British colony. They tolerated various Protestant religions but Catholics were shunned because the colonists believed that the Irish were subject to a foreign head of state, namely, the Pope. After the Irish helped the Colonies to win independence from England, they were tolerated but still banned from holding public office unless they renounced the authority of the Pope. The Irish population increased as did antiCatholic sentiment. Racist actions, like the celebrating of Pope Day, where straw effigies of St. Patrick were burned and desecrated, caused violence between Irish-Americans and British descendants.

Extreme intolerance toward Irish Catholics in the 1800’s resulted in segregation, job discrimination, and the emergence of violent gangs claiming patriotism as a justification for their racist acts such as burning Catholic Churches and Irish owned homes and businesses. Eventually, Irish fraternal organizations began forming to care for each other and to protect their values and culture. Groups such as the Hibernian Friendship Society and the Society of St. Patrick became more defensive as a result of abusive discrimination, but secrecy became necessary. One of the secret societies of Ireland, the St. Patrick’s Fraternal Society (SPFS) established branches in America in 1836 in both NY and PA, which quickly grew. Two years later, the SPFS of America took the name of Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). During the 1850’s, some of the defensive Irish fraternities coalesced into the Irish AOH. A common misconception is the AOH was founded in Ireland and brought to America.

As the years went by, Catholic Churches and Irish neighborhoods continued to be threatened and torched. The AOH continued to protect property and people and also provided monetary assistance to members. During and after the Civil War, Irish discrimination diminished. When the Ku Klux Klan emerged as a force of society, the AOH opposed them, as they opposed all ethnic bias. AOH fraternities were later established in England, Wales, Scotland, Canada, Virgin Islands, and Australia. The Ladies Auxiliary, Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAAOH) was established in 1894 exemplifying the acceptance and value placed on Irish women to an American society that still considered women second class citizens. Benevolence towards their fellow Irishman has always been a key factor of the AOH. As the Irish became more successful throughout the years, they supported various Catholic Charities and institutions. The AOH has provided disaster relief for events such as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Hurricane Katrina floods. The Hiberian Hunger Project provides food for the hungry to honor those who starved in the potato famine in Ireland. The AOH promotes education by offering scholarship programs and essay competitions to encourage students to learn about the Irish contributions to literature, science, and the edification of the United States. Parades, dances, and musical events sponsored by the Order raise millions of dollars for charity.

To become a member, one must be a male of age 16 years or older, Catholic, Irish by birth or descent, citizens of the United States, or who have declared their intentions to become citizens of the United States. Members believe ‘To be Irish is a Blessing, to be a Hibernian is an Honor.

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Before the 1920s, the modern independent state of Ireland did not exist. While Ireland has ruled itself for most of the time since the first inhabitants, it was not until the twentieth century that Ireland became a single independent state.

The island has been inhabited for roughly 12,000 years. Unlike Britain, there is no evidence that the island had any inhabitants tens of thousands of years ago. It was not until the disappearance of the ice sheets in about 10,000 B.C. that the country could be inhabited. The island had no inhabitants in the paleolithic period. The mesolithic hunter-gatherer culture came to an end and was replaced by a neolithic culture with agriculture but mostly without metal in about 4000 B.C., followed by the widespread use of bronze. By 2600 years ago, there was a general use of iron technology on the island.

In the fourth century A.D., the literate and Christian history of the island began. While there were some literate people present in Ireland prior to the fourth century and the pagan culture coexisted with Christianity for a long time, the fourth century profoundly changed the island. The appearance of the Roman Catholic church that survived the fall of the western roman empire changed the culture of the island forever.

Pagan Europe did not go down without a fight, and in the eighth century A.D. the first Viking raids came to the island. The raids were fairly small in scale but effective at carrying away much wealth and inspiring terror. Christians at the time were often being defeated in war by people of other faiths. At the time, it did not seem inevitable that Christianity would remain the majority faith in Europe forever. Between the late eighth and early eleventh century, there were many wars between Irish and Scandinavian armies, with the battle of Clontarf being the beginning of the end of Viking power in Ireland. At no point were the Vikings able to conquer most of the country. Instead, they would at most occupy territory by fighting for one Irish state against another.

By the end of the eleventh century, the Christian religion had secured the dominance of the island. In the twelfth century, Ireland was still split into a number of different states and had rarely or never been united as a single kingdom. French Normans conquered most although not all of Ireland between 1100 and 1300, and there were the first English invasions as well. Norman and English rule did not last long, and by the end of the fifteenth century, Ireland was back under the control of a few Irish kings.

In the 1500s the English began to imagine a lasting conquest of Ireland. With the help of many Irish lords that opposed the Fitzgerald dynasty that controlled most of the island in 1500, the English were able to conquer the island. By the early 1600s, the entire island was under the control of a single government for the first time. This was the beginning of the conflict between the Catholic and Protestant faiths that continues today. The religious difference made it difficult for the Irish to accept English rule, and in the long run, prevented the English from ruling over the island forever.

The seventeenth century was a dark and violent part of Irish history. There were many revolts against English Protestant rule and much bloodshed that did not lead to a conclusive victory for either side. Wealthy Irish often had their land confiscated during this time, which led to many revolts and much violence. The eighteenth century was relatively peaceful but did involve a large famine that ensured continued hatred of protestant rule.

In the nineteenth century, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was established, and this would last until the war of Irish independence. The most destructive famines of Irish history occurred in the nineteenth century, leading to emigration as well as death, and the population of the country significantly declined during this time. Most of the agricultural land was owned by about 10,000 families who lived in England and rented it out to farmers who could not afford to buy their own farmland. Not all of the Irish were in favor of full independence, and the people split into Nationalists and Unionists. The Nationalists wanted a fully independent state, the Unionists, on the other hand, wanted Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.

By the end of the nineteenth century, it seemed likely that Ireland would be able to separate from Britain without war. The local government act of 1898 mostly broke the power of the landlords and gave local rule to democratically elected representatives. It seemed likely that Britain would let Ireland go without war. The government of Ireland act in 1914 would have resulted in the peaceful separation of the two states but was delayed by the beginning of the first world war. The inability of the Nationalists, Unionists, and British to agree on the terms of separation led to violence. Between 1916 and 1921 there was much political violence in Ireland. The Irish republican army, insisting on nothing less than full independence, waged a guerilla war against the British during these years. The war ended with 26 out of Ireland’s 32 counties becoming part of the new, independent Irish state, and the northernmost six remaining part of the United Kingdom.

1922 was the beginning of the Irish state as it exists today, encompassing most although not all of the island. In the short run, the state was troubled economically, and the population declined to less than three million in 1961, compared to a height of eight million more than a century before. However, the population finally began to increase again in the 1960s and has reached almost five million. Violence between Catholics and Protestants continued after the war. From the 1960s to the late 1990s an armed campaign intended to free Nothern Ireland from the United Kingdom took close to 2000 lives. Eventually, the moral support for this violence came to an end, and Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom. Political support for separating Northern Ireland from the U.K. remains, but no longer involves organized violence.

Today, the population of Ireland continues to grow, having increased by well over one and a half times since its low point in the early sixties. The days in which the population seemed to be shrinking away to nothing are long gone. While Ireland remains significantly more religious than the U.K., the power of the catholic church is less than it was before. The people have not abandoned Catholicism, but the church no longer has the power and influence it did in earlier times. Over the last few years, the economy of Ireland has been growing extremely fast, a few times more quickly than the economy of any other country in Europe. The future of the country seems very bright, with crime rates also falling in the last few years and political violence being nearly a thing of the past.

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Ireland might not be known for its fancy cuisine but it does have its fair share of tasty and hearty dishes. A lot of popular Irish food gets its origins from England. Most of the famous dishes involve potatoes in one form or another so you can expect to eat those if you are interested in trying popular Irish food. Because, well, Ireland is famous for potatoes. If you are ready for some good, hearty home cooking, Irish dished might be perfect for you!

Soda Bread

There isn’t a family in Ireland that doesn’t have a recipe for some good old fashioned soda bread. Some recipes are more on the sweet side by adding honey or dried fruit while others are of the saltier variety. Either way, all of the recipes involve the same main ingredients; baking soda, buttermilk, and flour. No matter what way you choose to make it, sweet or salty, you’re going to want to eat it the “traditional” way. With lots of butter! Soda bread is a popular Irish food that goes well with pretty much anything, especially with stew!

Irish Stew

Another popular Irish food is Irish stew! There’s nothing better than a nice hot bowl of stew to warm you up in the cold winter months. Irish stew is traditionally made with mutton, onions, and potatoes (of course). Some people add carrots or other vegetables to the stew. These days, most Irish stew is made with lamb instead of mutton because mutton is harder to come by. Either way, Irish stew is a popular Irish food that is simple to make, yet hearty and filling on a cold winter night

Boxty

Made with potatoes, boxty has also been called “potato bread”, “potato dumplings” or “potato pancakes”. It was also touted as “poor house bread” long ago when potatoes were the main ingredient in most Irish dishes. It is made by adding grated potatoes to mashed potatoes. You add this mixture to flour and salt and then boil it before you slice it and then fry it in butter. You can also add it to a pancake like batter and bake it in a pan before slicing it and frying it. Either way, it is a filling side dish that goes great with breakfast items such as bacon or eggs.

Black Pudding

It isn’t a sweet treat like you would expect. No, this popular Irish food is actually made with pork meat, pork fat, blood, and oatmeal. Basically it is a sausage and not a sweet dessert. White pudding is similarly made, just without the blood. Both of these puddings are a staple in Irish breakfast foods. There are even black pudding potato pancakes if you are missing the potatoes in your diet. Most popular Irish food includes very few ingredients but still manages to be hearty, flavorful, and filling. Potatoes are the corner stone to most of the dishes served but the Irish have also come up with other dishes that do not include their famous spuds. If you are looking for a nice filling meal, popular Irish food is the way to go.

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From the striking view of the Cliffs of Moher, to the green valleys and flowing streams of Glendalough County. Ireland has long been one of the most beautiful, and unique places to visit on planet Earth. Every year an average of 9,5 Million tourists from around the world travel to this beautiful little island across the Irish Sea.

You will never find yourself wanting for more beautiful things to see, taste, and experience in Ireland. But to some, the best place in the island to experience these things isn’t Dublin, or Cork, (Although they are stunning). Rather for many visitors, Galway is the place to be.

The city of Galway is located in the west of Ireland, in the County Galway. This small city is nestles on the beautiful river Corrib, right by the sea. And believe me, it is filled with everything a traveler could ever want from a quintessential Ireland trip. The City of Galway is home to a humble population of just 80,000 people. But itself sees over 1 million visitors each year! Making Galway one of the most popular, and exciting places to visit in Ireland year round. This city definitely doesn’t lack in Irish country charm!

In Galway, you will be able to find anything from the centuries old ancient neighborhood of The Claddagh on the western bank of the river Corrib, to the stunning Galway Cathedral. You won’t find yourself lacking in any of the traditional Irish stonework architecture we all dream of seeing.

Galway also offers plenty of modern shopping and museum options that can take you from the ancient times, to modern in a matter of minutes. Built around the 16th century Lynch’s Castle, you will find the bustling Shop Street. The main thoroughfare that runs down the middle of center city Galway. Here you will find any sort of shop, boutique, or restaurant you could ever want in your Irish adventure.

You will also find a multitude of interesting historic museums in Galway. The Galway City museum, or the Numerous attractions of the City University Museum will make sure that you are thoroughly educated on the history of this beautiful coastal city and it’s ancient heritage.

So whether you are seeking the stunning picturesque nature of an Irish postcard, or wishing to try an authentic pint of Guinness. The lovely little city of Galway will have everything you desire to make your trip to Ireland a time to remember!

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The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America is a Catholic, Irish-American Fraternal Organization founded in New York City in 1836. The Order can trace its roots back to a parent organization, of the same name, which has existed in Ireland for over 400 years. However, while the organizations share a common thread, the North American AOH is a separate and much larger organization. The Board of Erin and the Board of America cooperate on projects and had a joint Board meeting in Dundalk, Ireland in 1995. 

The Order evolved from a society formed in 1565 to protect the priests who risked immediate death to keep the Catholic Faith alive, in occupied Ireland, during the reign of England’s Tudor monarchs. In 1697, when England imposed its dreaded Penal Laws on Ireland, secret societies were formed across Ireland to aid and comfort the clergy and the people by whatever means available. Similarly, the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America was founded on May 4, 1836, at New York City’s St. James Church, to protect the clergy and church property from the likes of the “Know Nothings” and their followers. In the late 1840s, the vast influx of Irish immigrants fleeing The Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor) in Ireland prompted a growth of various social societies in the United States to aid these refugees, the largest of which was, and continues to be, the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Active across the United States today, the Order seeks to aid, socially and politically, both the newly arrived Irish and those Irish-Americans from generations removed. The many Divisions and club facilities located throughout the U.S. have traditionally have been among the first to welcome Irish immigrants and to preserve Irish Culture. Here, the Irish language, art, dance, music, and sports are fostered and preserved. Newcomers can meet some of “their own” and are introduced to the social atmosphere of the Irish-American community. The AOH has been at the forefront of Irish issues such as: economic incentives (both here and in Ireland); Peace with Justice in a United Ireland; the Human Rights issues addressed in the MacBride Principles Legislation; Genocide Curriculum Legislation; freedom of religion; and Respect for Life.

The Order has provided a continuing bridge with Ireland for those Irish-Americans who are generations removed from their country of origin. Many AOH Divisions host visiting children from the North of Ireland under Project Children or other programs. The Order sponsors many programs associated with promoting our Irish Heritage, such as one year overseas study scholarships at Irish Universities and the Irish Way Program. Irish Studies programs at American universities, and scholarships at universities such as Notre Dame, are also sponsored by the Order.

You are seeking admittance to the finest Irish Catholic Organization in the world – all we ask is for you to live our motto of “Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity”.