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Making an American Institution

How do you go from this

Irish heading to America

To this

Saratoga Racecourse

It’s hard for our generation to imagine the physical and mental effort to move across the world with no possessions and no idea of the life that was to follow. This is the story of a man who mastered everything that came his way. He was a winner. Taken from an article we wrote previously, this was inspired from a recent trip through Templemore, Co Tipperary. An inspiration for when you get knocked down and have to start again.

What do Saratoga Racecourse in New York and the film Gangs of New York have in common? John Morrissey.

John Morrissey was born in Templemore, Co. Tipperary in 1831 and his family moved to America in 1833. By the time he was 18 he was working for the Irish gangs and got a reputation as a fighter. As leader of the Dead Rabbitts he came across William Poole (Bill the Butcher) and the Bowery Boys when given the task of stopping them from rigging an election, something he achieved. 

He also taught himself to read and write. During a lifetime of adventure, he was involved in the gold rush in California, fought for the heavyweight boxing title and became a state Congressman. He then set up a casino in Saratoga and then founded the famous racecourse. 

John Morrissey died in 1878, aged just 47. From a small town in Ireland to becoming one of the most famous achievers in America.


Rex Ingram Hollywood director

Rex Ingram was born in Dublin, lived in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary (see my previous post), and went onto take Hollywood by storm and discover one the biggest stars, Rudolph Valentino. He was an unknown actor cast by Ingram in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and the rest is history.

Rex Ingram was one of the most influential film directors at the start of the golden era of Hollywood-and he was Irish. He was born in 1892 in Dublin, then moved to Nenagh, Co. Tipperary in 1897 when Rex was 5 years old. When Clearys Circus came to town, Rex had his first encounter with moving image. He described seeing grainy, black and white images of men running a race and a train.
He moved to America in 1911. By 1914 he was directing his first film ( a short), then a full feature film in 1916.
Most famous for his film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921). He left Hollywood to start a mini studio in Nice, France. After ‘talkies’ became the norm, he decided to retire from film making and take up his first love, art (he studied at Yale when first in America), just 16 years after directing his first film. He died in 1950 in Hollywood.
He influenced many directors, including David Lean, and was mentioned in James Joyces’. Finnegan’s Wake (1939) which contains the line: “his scaffold is there set up, as to edify, by Rex Ingram, pageant-master.

Rex Ingram
Rex Ingram