GOLDEN CLAN: The Murrays, the McDonnells, and the Irish American Aristocracy by John Corry

GOLDEN CLAN: The Murrays, the McDonnells, and the Irish American Aristocracy

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What made the rich Irish Catholics a unique and separate society in America? Corry muses over their virtues and peculiarities in this wry history of the Murrays, McDonnells, and Cuddihys unto the fourth generation. Beginning with the enormous energy and rectitude of the patriarch, Thomas Murray, an inventor and the godfather of Con Edison, the family established itself on wealth and propriety, taking a defensive pride in their non-contamination by the Protestants--""rejecting the WASPs before the WASPs could reject them."" Southhampton, where the clan set up an exclusive Catholic summer compound, the Sacred Heart convents where their daughters were polished, and Fordham and Georgetown where their sons were educated--these were the pinnacles of their world. Inevitably, Corry treads much of the same ground as Stephen Birmingham (Real Lace, 1973) but he is less smitten by the ballroom glitter, the sumptuous weddings, and the scandalous divorces, though these are not omitted. Ruefully, he notes that by the third generation--when Anne McDonnell married Henry Ford II and Jeanne Murray married Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt--too many of the golden clan began to stray, and the Church, ""the glue that had always held Irish Catholic society together, was in a hell of a shape."" Throughout Corry gently underscores the psychic cost of so much respectability and godliness as well as the Irish sense of ""being at once superior and inferior to everyone else."" Still, one comes away with a vague sense of loss at the erosion of a venerable tradition of family pride and fidelity. Despite the publication date, it's something more than a party favor for St. Paddy's Day.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1977
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin