Thursday, January 31, 2008

Irish Immigrant Dies Alone in Boston

A toast to an Irishman, By Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe, January 31, 2008

Eddie Treacy lived in the shadows and died in his bed, the covers pulled up, his lungs full of fluid.

He was 33 years old, and there is no other way to say this: He died too young.

He came to Dorchester eight years ago from Athenry, in County Galway, part of what could be the last great wave of the young Irish to come here.

Boston is still Irish enough for a guy like Eddie Treacy to fit in. There's always enough work, and there are Gaelic games in Canton on the weekends and fresh brown bread every day at Greenhills Bakery in Adams Village.

Eddie was a master carpenter and made a decent living. For a young man, he was old school, using a simple tool called a square.

Eddie only needed one measurement for a job. Others would punch away at calculators, but Eddie would do the calculations in his head, and hand off the wood, cut precisely, like a diamond.

After a day's work, Eddie would make his way to the Eire Pub for a few jars. If the stool next to his great pal, Muldoon, was open, he would take it.

"How's Mul?" Eddie would ask.

"How's Eddie?" Muldoon would ask back.

And then they would silently watch the news on the TV set over the head of Martin Nicholson, the barman. With Eddie, there was no need for long yarns or running commentary.

Eddie was a rare Irishman, in that he was a great listener, not a great talker. If he agreed with you, he would nod, almost imperceptibly. If he thought you were full of it, he would raise an eyebrow, a silent indictment.

Like other illegal immigrants, he wanted to legalize his residency. He would have paid anything, done anything. But there was no way.

He thought about going home, as his brother Michael did, not long after Eddie first came here.

But Eddie liked it here, so he stayed on, kept his head down.

He didn't ask for much. Once, he told Muldoon he would be happy if he died in his own bed and they played "The Fields of Athenry" at his funeral. They both laughed, because young men don't think they will ever die.

Eddie died in his own bed. We will never know if it was stubborn pride or a fear of being deported that kept him from going to a hospital to treat the pneumonia that killed him. Maybe he just didn't realize how sick he was.

Gerry Treacy hadn't seen his brother in eight years, and when he finally did, Eddie was lying in a casket inside the Keaney Funeral Home on Dot Ave.

"He was a quiet lad," Gerry Treacy was saying, as he and Michael prepared to bring their brother home. "He liked the simple pleasures."

Brendan McCann, a senior at BC High, stood near the altar and played "The Fields of Athenry" on his fiddle as they wheeled Eddie Treacy's casket down the aisle of St. Brendan's Church.

All around the church, there were images of another carpenter who died at 33, nearly 2,000 years ago, another carpenter who some people dismissed as a criminal.

After Mass, about 200 people posed on the front steps of the church for a photo to send back to Eddie's mother, Ann, so she would know that Eddie mattered here. Many of the young men standing there had given up a day's wages to pay their respects.

Then everybody went to Sonny's, the pub that sponsored the Father Tom Burke hurling teams Eddie played for and managed.

Muldoon raised a glass to his friend.

"We'll never see the likes of him again," he said.

On Monday night, as President Bush told the nation that we need to find "a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally," Eddie Treacy's body was in the cargo hold of Aer Lingus Flight 132, somewhere over the Atlantic, heading home.

Eddie Treacy was buried today, where he wanted to be, in the fields of Athenry.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at


undocumented said...

Lord have mercy,on the poor lad, my heart goes out to his friends n family so sad thoughts are with them.

chris_ryan said...

I met eddie new years ,,, i stayed in the house for a week ,, he was a gentleman ,, nice guy .