The first Europeans to settle in Pittsburgh in large numbers were Scots-Irish. Later, the Irish were a major part of the wave of immigrants who came to the Steel City for the promise of a job. These jobs often turned out be laborious and low-paying.
Jim Lamb, President of the Irish Institute of Pittsburgh, has a vast knowledge of Irish heritage in Pittsburgh. He says a major turning point for the population of Pittsburgh and many other northeastern cities was the Irish immigration. But he says Pittsburgh also had a successful Irish community as the mass immigration occurred.
“Thomas Mellon who came from Omagh, in Northern Ireland, way back in the early 1800s started a bank, or his sons did, and that certainly created the opportunity for other businesses to operate and as a result a lot of people came. And certainly in Ireland in the mid-1800s, during what was called ‘The Famine’ or ‘The Great Starvation’ depending on who you ask, a lot of people came from Ireland into the United States and many came to Pittsburgh.”
Pittsburgh Hopes to Make more Irish History with the St. Patrick's Day Donnybrook Ambassador's Cup
With the hopes of maintaining a connection to Pittsburgh's Irish roots, Lamb and the Irish Institute of Pittsburgh have started a new St. Patrick’s Day tradition, the Pittsburgh Donnybrook amateur boxing event. A Pittsburgh Team will go toe-to-toe with Team Ireland each St. Patrick's Day for the Ambassador's Cup Trophy.
The event was developed as a way to get youth involved with boxing, which has had a strong history in Pittsburgh and Ireland.
Team Ireland’s coach for the event is Irish Olympian and 1992 welterweight gold medal winner Michael Carruth. Lamb says because of Carruth’s involvement the event has taken off.