Duffy’s Cut Memorial 2015

Bill and Frank Watson lead the procession.

Bill and Frank Watson lead the procession.

On the third anniversary of the burial of the victims of Duffy’s Cut, a crowd of local Irish and Irish-Americans showed that no one is about to forget the 57 Irish railroad workers who died in 1832 along Mile 59 of the Pennsylvania-Columbia Railroad in Malvern.

After a week of bad weather, the sun shone brightly on the procession of well-wishers last Sunday, as they made their way from the main building of the West Laurel Hill Cemetery to a tall monument—a stone Celtic cross engraved with elegant knotwork. They were led by brothers Bill and Frank Watson in full piping regalia.

It was a time for a brief period of reflection. Singer Charlie Zahm set the tone with a moving rendition of the classic “Four Green Fields.” Prayers were read by Frank Watson, a Lutheran minister, while others spoke words of remembrance.

Frank McDonnell, president of the Donegal Association of Philadelphia, paid tribute to the Watson brothers who, with their colleagues and volunteers, have led the effort to recover the remains from a mass grave along the tracks—and to help solve the mystery of how they came to die. Many of these lost souls succumbed to cholera, certainly, but at least some of them murdered.

“You talk about history, and you talk about recorded events,” said McDonnell. “Those events will become part of our history. They remain part of our heritage.”

In standing alongside the monument, McDonnell added, “we stand on the edge of history. And we would not be here if it were not for these two brothers.”

Brothers Frank and Bill WatsonThe processionPaying tribute with the pipesCharlie ZahmFour Green FieldsListening and reflectingBill WatsonA time for remembranceFrank McDonnell, president of the Donegal AssociationBill WatsonFinal tributeSilence in the snowGathering after the memorialPrayerPrayers for the lost soulsMembers of the Donegal Association

Author: Jeff Meade

Jeff is one of the founding editors of irishphiladelphia.com. More details.

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3 Comments

  1. Absolutely fantastic research work lads. A fitting permanent memorial for innocent people who came looking for work and a new life. God bless their souls.
    Perhaps a monument in Donegal May be the next step?

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  2. Is there any way you can post all of the Duffy’s Cut names that are cut into the stone? I have never seen their names published as a group.

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  3. Thank you for this. I am a native Philadelphian; my
    grandmother Anna McNamara Flynn is buried in Laurel
    Hills and it brought me memories of home – I live in
    North Carolina and wish I had been there for this
    memorial tribute. Always homesick. Kate

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