skip to main content
  • Familia2010article
  • Familia2010article
  • Also available to buy as:

‘Dancing Jimmy’ – Pinkerton Agent James McParland and the Molly Maguires

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 26, 2010


List Price


Please note this is available in electronic format only. It will be sent to you via email when your order is complete.

by Barry Kelly

"The latter half of the nineteenth century was a time of tremendous upheaval in Ireland. The Famine and its associated economic consequences forced hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women to leave Ireland and seek prosperity, or at least secure survival, abroad. Large numbers of this diaspora made their way to the United States. Often the immigrant would be simply swapping one form of insecurity for another, as he again found himself at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.

One such place was the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania where a conspiracy of events had led to little more than a form of serfdom for the trapped population, eking out their scant existence in appalling circumstances. Arising from this iniquity came an organisation named the Molly Maguires. Its genesis had been in Ireland, and its legitimate base was the Ancient Order of Hibernians. This organisation, variously described as a ruthless terrorist group, social security organisation, or labour union, adopted a programme of subversive activities that did indeed amount to a campaign of terror."

This article examines 'Dancing Jimmy' - James McParland, an Irish immigrant, who would play a central role in the infiltration and eventual dismantling of the Molly Maguires.