Men Of Fire “Fir Na Tine” Irish Heritage in America. America has always had a love and a passion for its firefighters. Since the earliest days bucket brigades would form whenever a fire started and the need for help was called. Every person within screaming distance would race to get their bucket and locate a source of water and attack any threatening fire. The earliest immigrants arriving on American shores would soon take up the axe, hook and ladder and fight father fire on the streets of New York, Boston, Chicago and more. Many of these immigrants were Irish and they brought with them incredible values, hard work ethics and an overwhelming desire to be the best. These Irish American firefighters would rally around the Gaelic term “Fir Na Tine“, meaning Men Of Fire!
Fir Na Tine is More Than A Line!
As you may have already guessed there is a strong connection between firefighting and slogans. Tons of slogans and terms have been introduced into our lives by firefighters as well as those who possess funny and insightful jabs at the life and times of firefighters. Fir Na Tine is one of those slogans. There are American Irish firefighters and that means Gaelic and that means Fir Na Tine. The Irish have been a powerful force within the ranks of firefighting and with that said so has their traditions. Brotherhood, sisterhood, the clan of fire, the Thin Red Line and ultimately Fir Na Tine have become synonymous with terms like Men Of Fire.
On St. Patrick’s Day — A Salute to Irish-American Firefighters
With St. Patrick’s Day today, it is only proper to stand up and salute those who have helped in creating organized and fully working first response systems inside this great nation we call America. As Irish folklore states, St. Patrick once extinguished and removed the snakes on the green emerald isle; well, history reveals that the Irish in America have historically battled to extinguish many snakes in the “Land of the Free.” Today, those American “defenders” also deserve a salute.
As immigrants fleeing Ireland which historically was a land ripped apart by famine and tyrannical monarchs, stepping off seafaring vessels in New York among many eastern American cities and towns, the Irish were often immediately handed rifles to join the Union and fight down in Dixie during the Civil War. Many did not know the English language rather spoke in their Irish language, a variant of the Celtic language. Their actions and accomplishments in the civil war, fighting on both sides of the conflict go unnoticed even today as books have been written about the “Fighting Irish.” Their heroism and battle cry often observed in the 69th Regiment, fág an bealach (translated to “clear the way”), promoted much deserved respect among not only their fellow Union counterparts but the Confederate enemy who they so gallantly fought. They commanded the battlefield with their acts of heroism and their dedication to duty to a country that was brand new to them.
Life for the Irish living in the United States wasn’t easy. It was as difficult a time as any in the history of the United States. Having served and survived the Civil War many an Irishman was still treated as an outcast due to their different backgrounds, different language and lack of literacy. The display of deep hatred towards the Irish could be observed through the extremely accurate award winning 2002 movie “Gangs of New York.” But even with such hatred, the Irish eventually prevailed to live as respected citizens to this great nation.
With a plethora of signs saying “No Irish Need Apply,” they were often forced into low paying and extremely dangerous occupations performing such duties with respect and dignity. Their Irish heritage would not allow them to quit or fail. With often proclaimed sentiments like, “Let Negroes be servants, and if not Negroes, let Irishmen fill their place…,” the Irish settled into occupations such as coal mining, chamber maids, cooks, and civil service industries. They were often house servants and in some cases much worse.
With so few working positions available and with no one hiring Irish the only jobs left open were left to law enforcement and firefighting. The Irish desiring to be welcomed and find their place in America went there was work regardless of the danger, long hours, low pay and no benefits. It is often considered that if it had not been for the Irish we would not have the firefighting, departments performing at levels experienced today. By the twentieth century, not only did the Irish perform such duties, they often-times ran such organizations as Chiefs of Police and Fire Chiefs.
Enriched with history and traditions, Men Of Fire “Fir Na Tine” Irish Heritage in America was once the one-time despised Irish immigrants of American yesterday have prevailed today. America has witnessed Irish American military units recognition of heroism such as the Fighting 69th, famed performing artists such as Jackie Gleason, businessmen like Henry Ford from the Ford Motor Company,
Something quite special has developed over the decades there has been Irish in America: Emerald Societies. Today, local chapter Emerald Societies exists to promote and enhance the truest understandings of the contributions which the Irish defenders invoked. Virtually every major police and fire department from New York to Boston to Chicago and more inside the United States has its own Emerald Society. The Emerald Society was formed to help foster the spirit of the Irish heritage within its members and to promote and preserve their many accomplishments. On a larger scale at the federal level, the Emerald Society of the Federal Law Enforcement Agencies has also been established.
Today, its membership stems across the globe with American Irish descendants serving in Canada, Europe, Asia, and even war torn nations like Afghanistan and Iraq. These heroes’ will always be Americans first and their history displays a will and desire to continue such contributions of deterrence, detection, and detainment of those who seek to rid us from peace and prosperity. They have been at the heart of American and have stood with her from its earliest days till today.
While St. Patrick may or may not have truly extinguished all snakes on the green emerald isle, make no mistake about it, Irish Americans have surely done their part here inside the United States.
During the time when “every American becomes Irish for the day,” take a minute to think about the Irish and their contributions to this great nation. The Irish are proud and deserve to be. It is only right to present a salute of praise knowing their contributions as some of the first organized first responders and firefighters in the “Land of the Free;” embraced under the motto “In God We Trust.”
Preserving Irish Heritage In Firefighting
Where displayed as a firefighting tattoo, on a shirt, exchanged as a greeting and a handshake, served up on top of a birthday cake the one and most important fact about Fir Na Tine is that it carries a message. It is a message of time, dedication and ultimately it preserves traditions older than all of us that is needed for future generations to better understand where the roots of firefighting come from. It can be easy to say a few words in Gaelic and think you are part of the in group or that you know something about the profession you are in but Fir Na Tine means you are part of the heritage of firefighting. You are part of the Men Of Fire and its association with all the past firefighters that have volunteered. have sacrificed, who have heard the call and with whom have answered. You are part of an incredible brotherhood and Fir Na Dli solidifies the relationship you have with the history of firefighting and its heritage.
Fir Na Dli Carrying The Message In A Coin
Inspired by the incredible heroism of American firefighters and to help with the continuation of the traditions of firefighting and passing the baton from generation to generation 10-4Gear has created a Fir Na Dli firefighter challenge coin that takes the passion and calling for firefighting, its heritage, its connection to its Irish and Gaelic ancestry and has preserved it with a finely designed and professional coin.