The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut

I was naively thinking WIDE OPEN CHASM when I trampled the woods past the Malvern suburb in search of Duffy’s Cut- not a massive land wall where there ONCE was a cut.  Duffy’s Cut (www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duffy’s_Cut) is a historic area along the old Pennsylvania RR where 57 young Irish boys toiled and perished while building one of the most challenging stretches of RR.  They ALL died, claimed by illness, but historian and professor, Bill Watson at Immaculata University (www.duffyscut.immaculata.edu/ )knows differently.  For years he’s been organizing digs to recover their remains and what they have discovered is astounding and so incredibly sad. Duffy’s Cut was a monstrous gap in the topography which was completely filled in by Irish lads, 1809 years ago. They moved tremendous loads of fill to create a land bridge for the RR to travel across. In 6 weeks, they were all dead.  

I stood in the woods behind this Malvern suburb and just stared. At the tiny stream that passed through a culvert underneath this earthen wall. At the rise by its side where the boys camped. At the colossal stump of a popular tree which was cut down for one of the boy’s bones were intertwined in its fingery roots.

My friend by my side, Joe Devoy, owner of Lancaster’s innovative store, Tellus 36- Old Wood – New Stories (www.tellus360.com/,) is my guide here today. He organized the removal of the popular tree sections which were transported to his woodshop in Lancaster. In the Irish boys’ honor, the tree will be sawn, dried, and crafted into 57 musical instruments- guitars, fiddles, and mandolins, to sing out the Duffy Cut story. Joe will be blogging about this whole process and story over the next couple of years on his store’s website. On March 15th, there will be a fund raiser at Tellus, where a documentary on Duffy’s Cut will be shown, a talk by Dr. Bill Watson, and Irish music featuring teh folk song, “Duffy’s Cut,” will be played.
I came here to start to learn the Duffy Cut story so I too can write about it and assist after 180 years, to tell the god-awful story of what happened to these Irish lads.

Suddenty, a SEPTA train races by over the land bridge, transporting commuters into Philadelphia and I am snapped back. I’m sure they know nothing of the drama that occurred here.

2 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut

    • Hey Matt- great to meet you last night- what an event- Tellus360 and our boy, Joe certainly outdid themselves. But of course, the cause could not be a better one. Looking forward to workign with you in the future.

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