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Op-Ed Contributor
"Well, the heart's a wonder," says Pegeen Mike in John Millington Synge's comedy "The Playboy of the Western World." It was a sentiment first articulated by Patrick's converts, who put down their weapons and took up their pens. They copied out the great Greco-Roman books, many of which they didn't really understand, thus saving in its purest form most of the classical library.

Brian Cronin

No doubt, several reasons could be proffered. But for me one answer stands out. Long, long ago the Irish pulled off a remarkable feat: They saved the books of the Western world and left them as gifts for all humanity.

True enough, the Irish were unlikely candidates for the job. Upon their entrance into Western history in the fifth century, they were the most barbaric of barbarians, practitioners of human sacrifice, cattle rustlers, traders in human beings (the children they captured along the Atlantic edge of Europe), insane warriors who entered battle stark naked. And yet it was the Irish who were around to pick up the pieces when the Roman Empire collapsed in the West under the increasing assaults of Germanic tribes.

more after the jump

Tenement Museum Reflects New York Irish Immigration

A wake was probably held on April 21, 1869, in a cramped walk-up at 97 Orchard Street. A 5-month-old girl, Agnes Moore, had died that morning of malnutrition. Her Irish immigrant parents, Joseph and Bridget, may have invited the German immigrant neighbors in the building and some co-workers from the saloons and restaurants where Mr. Moore worked to visit and mourn, as well as the Catholic priest who had baptized Agnes.

Librado Romero/The New York Times

The recreation of Joseph and Bridget Moore's 1869 bedroom and kitchen.

Librado Romero/The New York Times

A coffin for the Moores' 5-month-old daughter, Agnes.

There's more at the New York Times here